The co-chairs of a panel working on a new school grading formula for Indiana promised Thursday that their work will be "fair and transparent."
Democratic School Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Southwest Allen County School Superintendent Steven Yager said they plan to meet weekly in order to recommend a new scoring system to the State Board of Education ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline. The two are leading a 17-member group assessing Indiana's school grading system.
"That's our ultimate goal: to make sure we have a transparent system that patrons and teachers, staff members, taxpayers business folks can read and understand and make sense of," Yager said.
Yager would not say whether he considered the current grading system to be "fair and transparent", but a legislative review raised concerns about the formula written by former School Superintendent Tony Bennett. Bennett resigned as Florida's schools chief last month, shortly after The Associated Press published emails showing he changed the formula for a charter school founded by a prolific Republican donor.
The legislative review of Bennett's changes found they were done to benefit the charter school but applied equally to other schools. The authors also found that educators complained about a lack of transparency from the Bennett administration.
School grades were a sensitive topic across the state well before the publication of the Bennett emails, however. Lawmakers sought the overhaul of Bennett's formula earlier this year, amid complaints from local school leaders that his grades made little and were hard to follow.
Ritz, Gov. Mike Pence, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long appointed the members of the new panel that will advise the state's school board on what the new grading formula should look like. The group met Thursday for the first of many meetings over the coming weeks.
The state board has to sign off on a new formula Nov. 15. The Bennett formula, however, will stay in place through the coming school year, while Ritz and others run tests on the new formula that's approved.
The scoring panel, formally called the Accountability System Review Panel, will also take a look at whether last year's grades should be changed, Ritz said.
Indiana's school assessments have existed for more than a decade, but Bennett changed the labels to scores of "A-F" and Republican leaders have placed more emphasis on those scores in recent years.
Author: TOM LoBIANCO, Associated Press