165 Indiana Schools Saw a Boost From Bennett’s Grade Formula Change

Schools that benefited from Tony Bennett’s last-minute tinkering with the A-F grading system weren’t limited to the now-infamous Christel House, Kyle Stokes of NPR’s State Impact blog reports. In total, 165 Indiana schools got a higher grade than they would have, had Bennett, who was the state’s school chief at the time, not made any tweaks to the formula approximately 6 weeks before the 2012 data was released.

One of the questions that arose after the Associated Press published emails that indicated that Bennett called for his subordinates to change the formula in order for Christel House – a charter operated by GOP donor Christel Hahn – would get an A instead of a C, was what means the staffers used to make sure that the schools received an A grade. After all, using a loophole to exclude data from its high school grades only would have bumped it from a C to a B.

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According to Steve Hinnefeld, a blogger for School Matters, shorty after the initial grades for Christel House were calculated, a revision was posted on Indiana DOE’s website which allowed more of the bonus points to be counted towards the school’s final grade. This allowed not only Christel House to benefit, but 164 additional schools to get a bump, too.

Of the affected schools, most saw their B grades turned into A’s, while others saw their C grades bumped up to B’s. Stokes writes that no D-rated schools benefited from the change.

Leaders of the Indiana General Assembly and current schools chief Glenda Ritz have launched parallel investigations into the 2012 grades. While Ritz would only say last week her staff had found “manipulation” of those grades, she said the investigation would cause “great delays” in the release of this year’s A-F ratings.

“There’s just a cloud of doubt and skepticism” surrounding A-F grading now, says IU’s Terry Spradlin.

However, Indiana’s Governor Mike Spence remains committed to an A-F system, although the current rewrite – the second in two years – means that when the schools get their grades, they will be determined by a new set of metrics.