What is clear, however, is that Bennett and his team made their changes in secret, and that more transparency will be needed in writing a new formula.
“The process of development of a new system should be based on: 1. Extensive involvement by experts and practitioners from the education community. 2. Transparency in all decision-making by the SBOE and IDOE throughout the development process and final adoption of the revised rule,” Sheldrake and Grew wrote.
SBOE is the State Board of Education, and IDOE, the Indiana Department of Education.
Jeff Butts, superintendent of the Wayne Township schools in Indianapolis, said school leaders have always welcomed accountability, but that oversight should be transparent and easy to understand.
“For me the discussion has never been about conviction or exoneration,” Butts said. “I believe the concern is the transparency of the development and the reporting of the scores. The model needs to be able to effectively facilitate conversations that improve the education of our children. The current model has not been effective in accomplishing that to date.”
Lost in the mix, somewhat, has been the fact Indiana has had a school grading system since O’Bannon signed it into law in 1999. There were no letter grades in the old system, but it still assessed schools based on testing and graduation rates and, more controversially, allowed the state to take over schools deemed to be “failing.”
Bennett and his team were rushing to rewrite that system last year. They already had won approval of new rules from the State Board of Education and, clearly, had determined Christel House charter school was an “A’’ school from the start. Uncovered in last week’s report is news Bennett and his team felt intense pressure to protect urban charter schools like Christel House and didn’t have the time or staff to handle the complexities of writing a grading formula for all Indiana schools.