Bennett 'vincdicated' by clean Indiana report card

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauSeptember 10, 2013 

Indiana School Grades

FILE - In this July 10, 2012, file photo then Indiana school Superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett speaks in Indianapolis. Bennett built his national star by promising to hold "failing" schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett's education team frantically overhauled his signature "A-F" school grading system to improve the school's marks from at "C" to and "A". (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

MICHAEL CONROY — AP

TALLAHASSEE -- Former state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said he felt "vindicated" by a new report on a grade-changing flap in Indiana that led to his resignation in Florida.

The independent review, commissioned by the Indiana Legislature, found "it was necessary" for Bennett to tweak Indiana's school grading formula while serving as the state's top education official.

Bennett drew heavy criticism for the changes, which became the subject of media reports after he lost reelection in Indiana and was named education commissioner in Florida. E-mails showed Bennett scrambled to change the grade for Christel House Academy, an Indianapolis charter school run by an influential Republican Party donor.

But Bennett said he was addressing a flaw in Indiana's new school grading model and the change helped at least a dozen other schools.

Policy Analytics, the firm hired to do the review, found the Indiana Department of Education had "underestimated the administrative and technical challenges" associated with developing a new school accountability system.

"In the end, the authors found that the two adjustments administered to determine Christel House Academy's final grade were plausible and the treatment afforded to the school was consistently applied to other schools with similar circumstances," they wrote.

The authors also suggested Indiana state leaders move forward with this year's school grades -- and be transparent and collaborative as they work to modify the school accountability rules in the future.

Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida's Future and a Bennett supporter, was pleased by the report's findings.

"Good report for Indiana's A-F system andendattr val="ctrack"/>

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