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Flanner House charter school to close after cheating allegations

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The Flanner House Elementary charter school will close on Sept. 11 after allegations of cheating on the state standardized ISTEP test, Indianapolis Greg Ballard’s office announced Thursday.

The board of the K-6 school voted Wednesday night to close, and Ballard’s office, which authorized the school to operate, supported that decision. Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter would not say if the mayor’s office had requested that the board close the school.

“We made the school and the board aware that the Mayor’s office does not tolerate these violations of academic integrity,” Lotter said.

It is the second time in the past two years that a charter school overseen by Ballard’s office has closed at the beginning of a new school year. In 2012, it forced The Project School to close due to poor finances and poor academic results, sparking bitter complaints from Project School parents.

“It’s definitely not the ideal situation,” Lotter said. He said the school and the Mayor’s office will host information sessions for parents at the school on both Thursday and Friday evenings. Next week, they intend to stage a school fair to help families choose a new school for their children.

Flanner House, located at 2424 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St., has 176 students enrolled this school year. The school was among the first charter schools in Indanapolis to open, in 2002.

A phone message left for Flanner House principal Latika Warthaw was not immediately returned on Thursday morning. The school’s web site was no longer functioning Thursday morning.

Flanner House Elementary is a separate organization from Flanner House Inc., a community center, from which Flanner House Elementary school rents space.

Flanner House’s ISTEP scores in 2013 improved significantly over previous years’ results, which prompted the Ballard administration to scrutinize its tests. The Ballard administration then asked the Indiana Department of Education to investigate. The department released its findings on Aug. 18, sparking Wednesday’s vote.

On Flanner House’s 2013 ISTEP test booklets, the Education Department found a high number of test answers changed from wrong to right, with some of the changes appearing to be made by adults rather than students. The Education Department also found adult handwriting mixed in with students’ handwriting on the written portions of the tests.

The proportion of Flanner House students passing both the math and reading portions of the ISTEP test rose from 53 percent in 2012 to 95 percent in 2013. In 2014, the pass rate fell back down to 57 percent.

In 2014, the Education Department found that Flanner House teachers had used portions of the ISTEP test materials to prepare students in advance of taking the test.

Those findings, combined with the lack of an alternate explanation for Flanner House’s sudden rise in scores, led the Education Department to invalidate Flanner House’s 2013 and 2014 test results. However, the Education Department did not recommend that the school be closed.

“Flanner House staff members were unable to articulate the specific reasons and instructional practices that led to a dramatic increase in scores,” wrote Michele Walker, the director of the office of student assessment at the Education Department, in a memo to the Ballard administration.
 

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  • FHES is not FHI
    Flanner House Inc (FHI) is a 116 year old organization that has a wonderful track record of serving the community. Flanner House Elementary School (FHES) is a completely separate organization with a different board of directors.
  • IPS is Waaaay Better...
    Too bad Tony Bennett could not "fix" Flanner House like he did Christel House, lol. Stay AWAY from any school with the word "House" in its title.
  • Captain Obvious
    I would think that an improvement from 53% passing to 97% passing in one year would be a RED FLAG.... Que up the Bart Simpson sound effects! DOH!!!
  • Pre-K plan would help
    One of the reasons we have such a problem with our primary education, as the mayor has pointed out, is that kids who don't get pre-K learning start off behind the 8 ball ... and that starts dominos falling that inevitably leads to people trying to work the system when the outcome was partially baked years earlier.
  • Don't stop testing or evaluating
    "Frustrated parent", I don't at all agree that we should stop testing kids or tying teacher evaluations to test performance just because this group cheated. It seems the people involved should be severely punished - if it's not a criminal offense, surely they should have their teaching licenses suspended for a year or more. I'd never hire a teacher that helped kids cheat on a test. It's outrageous.
  • Hurting public schools and our kids
    Situations like this hurt the children most of all. This also goes to show that the emphasis on testing and tying it to teacher pay (and if they get to keep their jobs) is not getting the results we need. We are destroying our public education system and systematically hurting our children and their future. Considering a mess like this, why on earth does Mayor Ballard think we should fund pre-K education when we have such big problems in our primary education. Let's fix our schools before we go adding on extras.
  • Disservice to the kids
    This is very sad for the kids. Teaching them incorrect way to get through life by cheating or using the test to practice with so they know the answers. We all would excel if could do that in life. Questionable morals on the Director and her staff. PO that my tax dollars get used for this. That is not thefoundation that Flanner House was founded on. Shame on the adults at the school.
  • LOL
    Now show us how much taxpayer $ helped Flanner House (?!) get these excellent (and bad) ISTEP scores. Our public schools can't be as bad as this charter crap school.

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