08/01/13 Only one day after the Associated Press released information pointing the finger at how the IDOE (Indiana Department of Education) under former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, allegedly manipulated scores for a charter school, current Superintendent Glenda Ritz released a statement on the matter. Ritz won her position after defeating Bennett’s bid for reelection last November.
During Bennett’s time at the top post in Indiana, he initiated an A-F grading system for schools and school corporations. Emails sent in September, 2012 between Bennett and staff members indicate that the grading system needed to be revamped to give the Indianapolis charter school, Christal House Academy, an “A”, when in fact the grade would have been a “C”. The “C” grade was based on a poor test scores in algebra.
It remains unclear as to if or how the school formula to obtain the grade was changed or whether additional schools received a better rating under a formula change.
Christel House Academy is the school founded by Christel DeHaan in 2002. Reportedly, DeHaan contributed $130,000 to Bennett’s election campaign, more than $2.8 million to the Republican Party since 1998, and reportedly thousands more to state legislators’ campaigns.
The grading system can result in serious actions against school systems that don’t measure up. The state can take over the operation of a school if they continue to pull a failing grade and the grades are a part of the equation used to fund individual schools.
On Tuesday, Ritz said, “As the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, I am committed to strengthening our school accountability system. However, accountability only works when the people making decisions are both fair and transparent. That is why I worked with the General Assembly to include language in a new state law that will allow us to create a stronger accountability system.”
Ritz had openly objected to the A-F system. She said, “In my first public testimony as Superintendent, I spoke about the problems in our accountability system. Yesterday’s report by the Associated Press demonstrates the seriousness of these problems.”
In her press release on July 30, Ritz outlined what steps are being taken concerning the system. She said, “The Department of Education is doing two things. First, there is an ongoing thorough examination of the current A-F model calculations to ensure that every school has the grade they earned in 2012, nothing more, nothing less.” “Second, Indiana is creating a new accountability system that will be both fair and transparent based on individual student academic performance and growth. This ensures that all Hoosiers can know exactly how their school is truly performing and what they need to do to improve.” Ritz said. “I look forward to the State Board of Education’s support as we improve our accountability system.”
Bennett moved on in December, 2012 and is now Florida’s education commissioner. He reportedly has denied that Christel House Academy received any special treatment.
Carol Anders Correspondent