|Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz|
(Indianapolis, Ind.) - A review of Indiana’s A-F school grading system shows that it was manipulated, perhaps by former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.
Current state superintendent Glenda Ritz announced the findings of an Indiana Department of Education review Wednesday. The department had concerns starting in February when inconsistencies in the 2011-2012 grading were reported by schools.
“In light of recent developments, the Department began a probe into the A-F data system. Upon our preliminary examination, the Department has verified that there was manipulation of calculation categories and the Department has also determined that there are broader issues that need to be examined,” said Ritz.
The IDOE investigation comes after a scandal was uncovered last week showing Bennett, a Republican, changed the grading system to benefit a GOP donor’s charter school, Christel House Academy in Indianapolis, by raising its grade from a C to an A.
Bennett resigned as Florida’s education commissioner last week over the allegations first published in an Associated Press report which cited emails he had sent to IDOE staffers. He denied that the system had been altered to benefit Christel House Academy and has insisted that reviews would prove he did not unfairly alter the system.
The academy’s founder Christel DeHaan has been quoted in reports stating that the school never asked for special treatment.
Ritz cautioned that no specific findings from the department’s review would be discussed until external reviews ordered by State President David Long (R-Fort Wayne) and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis). She said there is a potential investigation from the Indiana Inspector General.
What to do with the state’s 2012-2013 school grades is a troublesome problem, Ritz said. No decision has been made on how to handle those pending the examination of the 2011-2012 data.
Ritz, a Democrat, said the department is already working to develop a new A-F grading system for the 2013-2014 school year. The Republican-led state legislature passed a law, House Enrolled Act 1427, earlier this year directing the department to do so.
“In order to build confidence in a new system, the process will need to involve experts, key constituencies, members of the Department of Education, members of the Board, and, of course, members of the Legislature. The Department has already begun this process, but there are questions regarding what must be completed according to HEA 1427 by November 15,” Ritz said.
The 2012-2013 school grades will likely be delayed because of a statewide issue with ISTEP+ testing this past spring. Thousands of students’ testing was interrupted when computer servers crashed at the company contracted to administer the online standardized test, CTB McGraw-Hill.
A CTB McGraw-Hill representative addressed the Indiana Board of Education Wednesday promising no interruptions on next year’s test.