INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The bipartisan panel tasked with overhauling the school
grading formula at the center of Indiana’s grade-changing scandal submitted
recommendations Thursday with a new focus on how individual students perform
on state tests.
If adopted by the State Board of Education, the new formula would grade
schools on a 100-point scale based in part on how their students perform on
standardized tests year-to-year. It would also expand testing to first and
second grades while potentially lowering the number of overall tests
students take throughout their schooling.
Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, and Southwest Allen County
Schools Superintendent Steven Yager, who was appointed Senate President Pro
Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, praised the work of the group they co-chaired
through seven intensive meetings over the past six weeks.
“Because of this group’s work, for the first time, we have moved a major
step closer to a system that measures our schools based on individual
student learning,” Ritz said in a statement Thursday.
The new formula, according to the report, should calculate school grades
differently for grades one to eight and grades nine to 12, balance raw
performance on tests against student improvement, and judge students based
on expectations on how much they should improve annually or “targeted
The school grades play a crucial role in determining teacher pay, school
funding and whether “failing” schools are turned over to private operators
by the state. The existing grading formula became the center of controversy
after The Associated Press reported former Schools Superintendent Tony
Bennett had altered it last year to benefit a donor’s Indianapolis charter
State lawmakers had already approved a rewrite of the formula earlier this
year, amid widespread criticism about the Bennett scandal. Elected officials
picked a 17-member group to create a transparent and easier to understand
The “A-F” panel’s 38-page report now heads to the state board, which must
sign off on a new grading formula by Nov. 15. Tensions have been running
high on the board after Ritz, the chairwoman, sued the other 10 members for
seeking to move the grade calculations from her agency.
The panel also recommended the state spend a year testing any new formula
before applying it after the 2014-15 school year. The pair of legislative
investigators tasked with uncovering the changes Bennett made to the formula
said the former superintendent and his team rushed the grades out too fast
last year and lacked the technical skills needed to properly vet the new
The pair of investigators also recommended more transparency in the crafting
of the new formula.
The report comes as Ritz is telling local school superintendents that school
grades for the 2012-13 school year will be delivered Nov. 22. The 10 other
state board members targeted by Ritz in the lawsuit, all appointees made by
Republican governors, accused Ritz of dragging her feet on the grades in a
letter two weeks ago.
That letter, which asked the General Assembly’s bill-drafting agency to
calculate the school grades instead of Ritz, sparked the lawsuit, which is
scheduled for its first hearing Tuesday in Marion County civil court.