Review: Christel House grade change appropriately applied

Report delves into A-F grading system

INDIANAPOLIS - A review of Indiana's A-F school accountability system found that a changed grade for a charter school was "plausible" and was also applied to other schools in similar situations.

Some had questioned the grading of Christel House and the actions of former Indiana Department of Education leader Tony Bennett.

"It was necessary for the IDOE to make certain interpretations, including the decision to eliminate … scores from the Christel House Academy's grade," part of the report read. "The authors found that this interpretation was consistently applied to 16 other schools which had analogous situation."

An Associated Press story last month examined emails from Bennett to staff members about Christel House's grade, which was an "A."

Some had alleged favoritism because Christel House is run by a prominent Republican donor. The school's initial grade was a "C."

"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 the other schools with similar circumstances," part of the report read.

However, the review also found there were broader problems in the development of Indiana's "A-F" school grades.

The report indicated that Bennett's technical staff was overburdened developing the grades. They also reported widespread distrust in Bennett's system among the education community and that the system didn't account for widespread differences in school configurations, with charters adding grade levels they didn't previously have.

"We have a variety of configurations, and with the current model that we have and how we're using the testing data at both the second and the elementary level and combining those in some way to come up with a single grade accounts for a lot of the complications and what I consider to be flaws in the current system," said Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. 

Some schools that received "F" grades might be reconsidered, including four schools in Indianapolis.

The report was put together by John Grew, an aide to former Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon, and Bill Sheldrake, the former head of the Indiana Fiscal Police Institute.

Bennett resigned from his job as Florida's schools chief last month, a few days after AP published emails about his efforts last year to change the school-grading formula for Christel House.

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