IBJNews

Review, resignation urged in Indiana grading flap

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana education leaders on Tuesday pledged a thorough review of the state's system for evaluating schools after The Associated Press reported a former official who now serves as Florida's education commissioner worked to alter a grade for a school founded by a top Republican donor.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said the Department of Education is examining the current A-F grade calculations "to ensure that every school has the grade they earned in 2012; nothing more, nothing less."

Tony Bennett, who was appointed Florida's top education official in December, denies any wrongdoing. He says the changes to Indiana's grading formula weren't solely directed at Christel House Academy. But emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's school received an "A," despite poor 10th grade algebra scores that initially earned it a "C."

Jim Stergios, executive director of the conservative-leaning Pioneer Institute in Boston, said Bennett needs to resign his Florida position for violating the trust of Indiana students and parents.

"All you have as an official is your credibility. And that people trust you to do the right thing," Stergios told The Associated Press. "He has been entrusted with the hopes of parents and the aspirations of children. That's a sacred trust."

But in Florida, at least one member of the State Board of Education, which hired Bennett, said she remains confident in the job he is doing.

"If true, it is troubling," said Sally Bradshaw, a board member and former chief of staff under former Gov. Jeb Bush. "But Florida has had to adjust our own school grading system to ensure that the grading formula is applied uniformly, and my sense is that that may be what happened in Indiana in this case."

Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive. A low grade also can detract from a neighborhood and drive homebuyers elsewhere.

After Bennett learned about a likely low grade for Christel House, he fired off a Sept. 12 email to his chief of staff.

"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote. "They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work."

Ritz, a Democrat who defeated Bennett in his re-election bid last November, said the department also will work to create a new accountability system based on individual student academic performance and growth.

"Accountability only works when the people making decisions are both fair and transparent," she said in a statement.

Republican Senate Pro Tem David Long called for annual third-party audits of the A-F grades to restore public confidence in the ratings.

"The big issue is the fact that it would appear one or more school's grade was manipulated. That's completely unacceptable," Long said. "The system has to be one that all the schools, parents and kids can count on as being fair and impartial. If there's one thing that can't be allowed, it's that any school grades can ever be allowed to be manipulated again."

Bennett, who now is reworking Florida's grading system as that state's education commissioner, denied that DeHaan's Christel House Academy school received special treatment. He said discovering that the charter would receive a low grade raised broader concerns with grades for other "combined" schools — those that included multiple grade levels — across the state.

Bennett downplayed the emails on Tuesday, repeating his assertion that he took action because he was concerned there was a flaw in the formula.

"It is absurd that anyone would believe that I would change the grade of a school based on a political donor or trying to hide schools from accountability," Bennett said. "That's fictitious at best and it's totally unfounded."

He acknowledged that the problem was identified and fixed prior to the release of school grades but maintained the change affected as many as 13 schools.

"We did nothing wrong. We did nothing covert. We did nothing secretive," Bennett said.

The revelations that Bennett and Indiana officials scrambled to change the grade of one school come amid a strong debate over Florida's grading system.

Bennett earlier this month pushed the Florida board that oversees education policy to adopt a "safety net" provision that prevented the grades of more than 500 schools from dropping more than one grade this year.

That provision was adopted by a 4-3 vote amid much debate and criticism that the move would "mask" the true performance of schools. Bennett's plan was even opposed by the education foundation set up by Bush. The grades released last week still showed a sharp drop in the number of A-rated schools and a jump in the number of F-rated ones.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • IN Wins; FL Loses
    Too bad he's been appointed - not elected - to disband the public schools in another state and do further damage to education and the children.
  • Read his emails!!!!
    To DRT: Did you actually read Bennett's emails? Let me remind you of one particularly egregious one: ""I am more than a little miffed about this," Bennett wrote. "I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months."" There is no left wing fabrication going on here, he clearly never envisioned his emails making the light of day.
  • wow oh wow...
    I can hardly believe that ANOTHER Republicon in Indiana is guilty of corruption by their political donors, and here I thought Tony 'Soprano' Bennett really CARED about the children of Indiana!
  • Hit Piece
    Why does the IBJ continue to publish this hit piece? It is factually inaccurate to say that worked to alter a grade for a school founded by a top Republican donor. The change affected EVERY school. It was clear from the emails that the low grade received prompted them to review the whole system. Perhaps there should have been more transparency involved but this story is nothing but circumstantial evidence and hearsay. The AP author clearly has an agenda and this is journalistic integrity at its worst.
  • Is the IBJ concerned, does not seem so
    So now Mitch dances away to Purdue with the States School System in shambles and now THIS! ....MITCH ! MITCH ! are you there? We have not heard from you on this deception(Some say FRAUD) that occurred on your watch. Are you there MITCH?

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

    2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

    3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

    4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

    5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!

    ADVERTISEMENT