Ritz confirms manipulation of school grading system

The Tony Bennett scandal will lead to a new school accountability system if State Superintendent Glenda Ritz gets her way.  Ritz spoke out publicly Wednesday for the first time since the scandal broke.  She is promising to create a new system to replace the A to F system, but she may not get her way.  And that’s why she was treading lightly during a State Board of Education meeting.

Following the board meeting Ritz would make only brief comments about the school grading scandal that broke last week.  She confirmed the report, however, that former Superintendent Tony Bennett changed the grade for Christel House Academy.  “The department has already determined that there was a manipulation of the categories with the calculations,” she said.

During the 5-hour meeting that produced a standing room only audience she was vague about what happens next.  “As superintendent,” she told the board, “I am committed to a strong accountability system that is fair and transparent.”

There to testify were two opponents of the A to F system who called it unfair.  “The parents did not start this A to F system,” said parent Cathy Fuentes-Rowher, “and we don’t need it to know what’s going on.  We would rather that our schools be graded on something other than test scores.”

“If I’m in a C school and I’m valedictorian, what does that mean about my score?” asked Phyllis Bush of the Network for Public Education, “Does that mean that I am devalued?”

But the board will take no action on school accountability matters until at least September.  In the meantime Ritz is looking for an alternative to the A to F system.  “As Superintendent I don’t think we need to be labeling our schools in that particular manner,” she said.  “We do have to assign categories.”

There was little reaction from members of the State Board of Education who clearly expected to hear more from Ritz both about the investigation into Tony Bennett’s actions and her plans for the future.  Board member David Shane seemed to sum it up when he said to Ritz, “I think you just said you’ll get back to us.”

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