TALLAHASSEE -- Former state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said he felt vindicated by a new report on a grade-changing flap in Indiana that led to his resignation in Florida.
The independent review, commissioned by the Indiana Legislature, found it was necessary for Bennett to tweak Indianas school grading formula while serving as the states top education official.
Bennett drew heavy criticism for the changes, which became the subject of media reports after he lost reelection in Indiana and was named education commissioner in Florida. Emails showed that Bennett had scrambled to change the grade for Christel House Academy, an Indianapolis charter school run by an influential Republican Party donor.
But Bennett said he was addressing a flaw in Indianas new school grading model, and that the change helped at least a dozen other schools.
Policy Analytics, the firm hired to do the review, found that the Indiana Department of Education had underestimated the administrative and technical challenges associated with developing a new school accountability system.
In the end, the authors found that the two adjustments administered to determine Christel House Academys final grade were plausible and the treatment afforded to the school was consistently applied to other schools with similar circumstances, they wrote.
The authors also suggested Indiana state leaders move forward with this years school grades and be transparent and collaborative as they work to modify the school accountability rules in the future.
Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Floridas Future and a Bennett supporter, was pleased by the reports findings.
Good report for Indianas A-F system and @Tony_Bennett, she posted on Twitter.
Bennett said he had no regrets about stepping down from his job in Florida.
I dont say that because I dont miss my job, because I do, he said. But Gov. [Rick] Scott deserved more in an education commissioner than I could have given the last 30 days.
The Florida Board of Education has yet to name a permanent successor for Bennett. Former Chancellor Pam Stewart is serving as interim commissioner.
The education board meets on Sept. 17.
Kathleen McGrory can be reached at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.S