Ritz: Initial investigation shows ‘manipulation’ of state’s A-F grading system

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INDIANAPOLIS – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz says an initial investigation by the Department of Education shows the state’s A-F grading system had been manipulated.

The DOE has launched an investigation that Ritz hopes will wrap up by September.

“In light of recent developments, the Department began a probe into the A-F data system,” Ritz said in a statement. “Upon our preliminary examination, the Department has verified that there was manipulation of calculation categories and the Department has also determined that there are broader issues that need to be examined. “

Ritz succeeded former Superintendent Tony Bennett, who resigned his post last week as Florida’s top educator after emails were released showing that he and his staff changed the system to benefit Christel House Academy. Bennett wanted to make sure the charter school scored an A grade even though it earned a C. The emails showed Bennett working to alter the grading system so the school would get an A. Bennett said his staff found a “statistical anomaly” that necessitated changes in the formula.

“At this time, it is premature to discuss any findings in light of the external review of the A-F accountability system ordered by Senator Long and Speaker Bosma and in consideration of other potential investigations, including the Indiana Inspector General, mentioned in press reports,” Ritz said.

Ritz said the DOE is working on a new A-F accountability system for the 2013-2014 school year. She said the department has been tasked with developing a system that’s “fair, transparent and credible.” The process will involve consultation with experts, key constituencies, members of the DOE and legislators, she said.

Ritz said questions about the validity of the A-F grading system and a delay in ISTEP test results caused by computer disruptions would delay school grades. Ritz said schools and parents should receive ISTEP results by the end of the month.