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August 4, 2013

Independent review in store after grades scandal

Democrat and GOP data experts tasked with taking look at A-F system.

INDIANAPOLIS – Two data experts, one Republican and the other Democrat, will lead an independent review of Indiana’s new controversial A to F school grading system following allegations that former state schools superintendent Tony Bennett manipulated the grades to favor some schools over others.

The review by a task force appointed by legislative leaders will focus not just on the allegations against Bennett, but on the validity of the complicated assessment tool used by the state Department of Education to grade every school in Indiana.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, who along with Republican Senate President David Long called for the independent review, said the allegations against Bennett only heightened their long-standing concerns that the A to F metric put into place last year was fundamentally flawed.

“I’m committed to having an accountable tool for schools,” Bosma said Friday. “It’s a fundamental management principle: if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. But having said that, the measuring tool must be fair, it must be accurate, and it must be uniformly applied in a transparent fashion.”

Bosma said the current A-F metric doesn’t fit those criteria, which is why the Legislature passed a law earlier this year mandating it be changed. That law gives the State Board of Education, which approved the current A-F metric, until November to come up with another new formula to grade schools.

The independent task force conducting the A-F review will be lead by Democrat John Grew, executive director of state relations and policy analysis at Indiana University, and Republican Bill Sheldrake, president and founder of Indianapolis-based research firm Policy Analytics.

“They’re both extremely intelligent and well respected data analysts,” Bosma said.

Democrat Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane of Anderson echoed Bosma, saying Grew and Sheldrake are both reputable analysts who can handle the work.

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