INDIANAPOLIS — Before the scandal erupted over allegations that former state schools chief Tony Bennett manipulated the grades of a Republican donor’s charter school, the A to F grading system for schools was already gutted by legislators who saw it as flawed.
Earlier this year, the Indiana General Assembly ordered state education officials to undertake a massive re-write of the controversial grading system that rates schools using a complex formula that lawmakers – and local school officials – found confusing and unfair.
Among the toughest critics of the grading system was Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, a Republican who generally backed Bennett’s efforts to identify the state’s best- and worst-performing schools.
Kenley said he pushed for the rewrite because the grades too often “didn’t jibe with reality.”
His concern at the time wasn’t that some grades were being manipulated, as now alleged. Instead, he believed that a single grade, based on a series of student test scores, didn’t give an accurate picture of how schools were truly performing. He objected for example, to the complex formula that combined a student’s academic growth and performance on standardized tests to come up with one grade.
“I never felt you could combine those and come up with a system that was credible with people,” Kenley said.
Now Kenley, who also sits on the Senate Education Committee, fears the entire A-F grading system may be at risk, due to a quickly unfolding story involving allegations that Bennett rigged the grading system to benefit an Indianapolis charter school.
On Thursday, Bennett resigned as Florida’s education commissioner, a post he took after losing his bid for re-election last November as Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction. His resignation follows reports by The Associated Press that last year Bennett pushed his staff at the Indiana Department of Education to raise the school grade, from a C to an A, for a charter school in Indianapolis founded by a Bennett campaign donor. Bennett has denied wrongdoing.