Widespread problems with CTB/McGraw-Hill's administration of the online ISTEP standardized test delayed the release of test scores central to the school grades by months. Meanwhile, the scandal surrounding former School Superintendent Tony Bennett's decision to alter the grading formula to benefit a donor's charter school forced legislative leaders to seek a month-long investigation of the formula itself.
The board members' request to move the grading to the Legislative Service Agency was quickly approved last Friday by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. Ritz staffers said they did not find out about the request until last Friday.
"Let me be clear, the letter that the members of the Board sent to Republican Legislative Leadership asking that LSA take over A-F grading was done without public notice, approval or even public opportunity to comment," Ritz said at a news conference Thursday, as she read from a prepared statement outside her Statehouse office.
School board members have said they were caught off guard. Tony Walker, a Gary Democrat and board member, asked the court Wednesday to throw out the lawsuit.
"I am shocked and disappointed that Superintendent Ritz reaffirmed her commitment to pushing a frivolous lawsuit against her colleagues. I hoped that she would be sensitive to the atmosphere of division her action has created," Walker said in a statement.
Ritz also addressed a video clip of her saying earlier this month that she would welcome LSA help that has been circulated by Republican staffers and former Bennett aides. She said board members went a step further than what she wanted by pushing control of the grading to the legislative agency.
The letter from Bosma and Long directed LSA to "provide the A-F calculations to the board (of education) as soon as possible, so that the board can review them and prepare to issue grades expeditiously." But Pence aides, who recently took over day-to-day operations of the school board from Ritz, have said they only wanted LSA to calculate grades in addition to Ritz's Department of Education.