INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's top lawmakers are creating a task force to
review the state's "A-F" school grading system following the revelation
former state schools superintendent Tony Bennett changed the grading
formula for a Republican donor's charter school.
Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long and Republican House
Speaker Brian Bosma announced Friday the creation of an independent task
force to review the school grading system. They noted their previous
concerns with the school grading system, but Bennett's efforts detailed in
emails obtained by The Associated Press raised new concerns for them.
"Since then, the issue has been brought to the forefront in negative ways
and our concerns about the previous assessment system are increasing,"
Bosma and Long wrote in a letter Friday.
The two enlisted John Grew, a former aide to then-Democratic Gov. Frank
O'Bannon, and Bill Sheldrake, the former head of the Indiana Fiscal Policy
Institute, to review the grading system. The pair is expected to complete
that before Labor Day.
The pair will evaluate the A-F formula, determine the validity of the
grades awarded and make recommendations to the state Board of Education
and General Assembly.
Bennett resigned from his job as Florida's schools chief Thursday, a few
days after emails were published about his efforts to change the
school-grading formula for the Christel House charter school in
Bennett attributed the revelation about the grades to political attacks
from opponents and has maintained he did not grant special treatment to
Christel House. The school's founder, Christel DeHaan, has also said she
did not seek special treatment and the emails show no request on her part.
Democratic state schools superintendent Glenda Ritz says her office is
conducting an internal review. Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, said he is
waiting to see what Ritz's assessment uncovers before making any
"The most important thing we can do moving forward is to have an
independent and fair assessment of the A-F school grading process," Long
said in a statement Friday.
Indiana's school grades are used to determine how much money schools get
and whether "failing" schools are taken over by private operators, like
Charter Schools USA. They also have become critical economic development
tools in recent years, used in part by homebuyers picking locations based
on the quality of their schools.
Indiana teacher unions and local school superintendents called for the
immediate suspension of the grades Bennett's office issued last year. But
Statehouse leaders from Ritz to Long and Bosma have hesitated to make any
Bosma said state lawmakers already had decided earlier this year to scrap
Bennett's A-F formula and return to the drawing board. Local
superintendents frequently complained last year about an inability to get
straight answers from the Department of Education on the formula used to
determine their grades.
Bennett's emails fill in some of those answers, although it's still
unclear exactly how he changed the grading formula last year.