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September 9, 2013

Bennett reacts after report clears him

Bipartisan report calls Bennett’s actions ‘fair,’ ‘plausible’

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

Bennett did come back to Indiana shortly after he resigned to meet with the report’s authors, who were commissioned by legislative leaders to examine the allegations made against Bennett and his staff. Bennett said he spent almost two hours meeting with 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. 

Over the next month, as Grew and Sheldrake were conducting their investigation, Bennett and some of his former staff spent countless hours back in Florida putting together their own data to show the analysts how and why changes were made to the A-F grading formula. Bennett needed to dispel allegations that he changed the A-F formula to benefit a favorite charter school, Christel House Academy in Indianapolis. 

It was a difficult time, Bennett said, as he continued to see subsequent news reports centered on what became known as the “Tony Bennett scandal.” 

 “Waking up in the morning and seeing some of the things that would come my way, it made for some pretty long days,” Bennett said.

The report was posted Friday morning on the Indiana General Assembly’s website as it was being released to the media. That’s where Bennett read the report, which included an executive summary that found problems with the A-F grading system as administered by Bennett, but dismissed the notion that he’d unfairly fixed the grade for Christel House.

Among the report’s conclusions is that Bennett may have rushed the rollout of the new A-F grading system, which ranks schools by letter grade based on a complicated formula that includes standardized test scores. The report found there was a shortage of technical staff at the Department of Education and not enough time to test whether the new grading formula worked. 

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