Indiana grading system left in doubt
Tony Bennett, a lightning rod as Indiana’s former superintendent of public instruction, went down swinging Thursday as he resigned as Florida’s education chief.
Bennett was voted out of Indiana office in 2012 after a term that cast him as the charging bull for all sorts of education reform, from private school vouchers to structured teacher evaluations to A-to-F grades for schools. Rejected by Hoosier voters in his re-election bid, Bennett wound up in Florida, where like-minded politicians wanted him to replicate reform measures he guided through the Indiana General Assembly.
His undoing in Florida came this week, thanks to a series of emails uncovered by The Associated Press that showed Bennett and his staff working double-time behind the scenes to save an Indianapolis charter school — one run by a well-placed donor to his campaign — from a C grade in 2012.
As Bennett announced his resignation, he questioned the aim of releasing emails that showed his staff trying to refigure the school grading formula to push Christel House Academy to a grade of A.
“It’s obviously politically motivated,” Bennett said. “Maybe I shouldn’t say that.”
Yeah, maybe not.
Even if we say for the sake of arguing that the public records revelation was politically motivated, the emails speak for themselves.
An administration built around the power of metrics to spur school improvements should understand that accountability cuts both ways.
Bennett says he’s fearless of a state review of the A-to-F system — he claims that the formula needed to be tweaked, because there’s no way Christel House should have come in so low. He claims he will be vindicated.
There are ways he could have been justified under the scenario, had the public school critic done contortions for a public school in a similar position.
Hypothetical: Had a West Lafayette or another district with a legacy of top performance come in with C grades, it might have been time to ask whether that could possibly be correct.
But then here’s a real-life opportunity Bennett apparently rejected. According to reporting by The Indianapolis Star’s Scott Elliott, Bennett rejected similar adjustments when two Indianapolis Public Schools buildings came in with failing grades.
Bennett’s gone — gone from Indiana and gone from Florida. But what he did to twist the system leaves the A-to-F system with doubts — if not in doubt.
Gov. Mike Pence says he has no plans to call to get rid of school grades. That’s fair. But until the state shores up the high stakes A-to-F grades and what goes into them, the governor shouldn’t expect Hoosiers to put much faith in them.
— Journal & Courier, Lafayette
House finally passes student loan bill
It’s a catch-22 for many Americans. They can’t afford a college education because they don’t have enough money. And they can’t make more money because they don’t have a college education.
The answer for many is student loans. They borrow money from the federal government, banking on gaining the near-future earning power to pay down their debt.
Some compile so much debt that they can’t pay their way out and finally have to file for bankruptcy. But many who borrow heavily for a college education do land better jobs with better pay and eventually pay off their loans and continue on to a financially rewarding career.
Traditionally, student loans have been offered at reasonable rates. That is, before a faux pas by the federal government nearly forced interest rates so high that it would have meant almost certain financial ruin for loan-dependent college students from low-income families.
Six years ago, Congress lowered the interest rate on student loans to 3.4 percent. That rate was set to expire last year, but lawmakers delayed action on re-establishing a rate in 2012, so that it wouldn’t become a presidential election-year issue. The trouble started this year, when legislators failed to establish a new rate. Beginning July 1, the interest rates on federal student loans automatically doubled from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.
On Wednesday, after months of partisan bickering, the House of Representatives finally got it right, passing a bill that will establish the interest rate this year at 3.86 percent for undergraduate loans and 5.42 percent for graduate student loans. The bill, already approved by the U.S. Senate, will also grant relief to those who would have owed the exorbitantly high interest rates on loans taken out after July 1.
More importantly, the bill, which President Obama is expected to sign into law, prescribes a new method for setting the interest rate. Instead of Congress reviewing and modifying the rate yearly, it will be figured by a formula based on market interest rates. The bill also includes a provision for protecting student loans from spikes in the market.
A recent report issued by student loan giant Sallie Mae shows that students are increasingly dependent on loans to get a college education. With tuition rates and other college costs spiraling higher and higher, the new law will offer at least a measure of protection against further gouging of students.
— The Herald Bulletin, Anderson