StateImpact Florida
10:03 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Tony Bennett's Last-Minute School Grade Changes Benefited 165 Indiana Schools

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 11:58 am

Our colleagues at StateImpact Indiana have crunched the numbers and found that 165 schools benefited from changes to the school grading formula former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett made in 2012 while the elected leaders of Hoosier State schools.

Much of the focus has been on emails between Bennett and staff which revealed Bennett’s concern that a prominent charter school had failed to earn an A grade.

But StateImpact Indiana’s Kyle Stokes found the changes Bennett sought had a much broader effect:

After studying last year’s A-F rating data, a StateImpact analysis has identified 165 schools across the state — including Christel House — that saw higher final grades than they would have if Bennett’s staff hadn’t tweaked the formula roughly six weeks before releasing 2012′s results.

But it’s unclear whether what the finding could mean for Bennett’s legacy in Indiana or for the future of the state’s system for issuing performance ratings to schools — a system now undergoing its second re-write in as many years.

Does the finding support the case against Bennett, suggesting he manipulated the grading system to make these changes? Or does it bolster his defense, showing Bennett’s staff made a sincere effort to fix problems with the system that extend beyond Christel House’s grade?

StateImpact Indiana has mapped the affected schools and put together a searchable chart.

Bennett has insisted he did nothing wrong and asked the Indiana Inspector General to investigate. Current Indiana state superintendent Glenda Ritz is also investigating and said her agency has found “verified manipulation,” but has not released further details.

Copyright 2013 StateImpact Florida. To see more, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/.