Monday, July 29, 2013

Former State Superintendent Tony Bennett's Staff Rigged Grading To Bump Christel House Academy's Grade From "C" To An "A"

The AP's Tom Lobianco uncovers more damaging e-mails from the office of former State School Supt. Tony Bennett. The latest e-mails disclose that Bennett became apoplectic upon learning that a charter school founded by multi-millionaire GOP contributor Christel DeHaan was about to receive a state-graded scored of a "C" rather than the "A" school officials expected to earn. The e-mails don't suggest that DeHaan, who had contributed $130,000 to Bennett's campaign, exerted any influence on Bennett's office to alter the school's grade, but they clearly indicate a concerted effort on the part of his staff to ensure the school's final grade made the "A" grade.
. . . Though Indiana had had a school ranking system since 1999, Bennett switched to the A-F system and made it a signature item of his education agenda, raising the stakes for schools statewide.
Bennett consistently cited Christel House as a top-performing school as he secured support for the measure from business groups and lawmakers, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.
But trouble loomed when Indiana's then-grading director, Jon Gubera, first alerted Bennett on Sept. 12 that the Christel House Academy had scored less than an A.
"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012 email to Neal.
Neal fired back a few minutes later, "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."
By Sept. 13, Gubera unveiled it was a 2.9, or a "C."
A weeklong behind-the-scenes scramble ensued among Bennett, assistant superintendent Dale Chu, Gubera, Neal and other top staff at the Indiana Department of Education. They examined ways to lift Christel House from a "C" to an "A," including adjusting the presentation of color charts to make a high "B" look like an "A" and changing the grade just for Christel House.
It's not clear from the emails exactly how Gubera changed the grading formula, but they do show DeHaan's grade jumping twice.
"That's like parting the Red Sea to get numbers to move that significantly," Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township schools in Indianapolis, said in an interview with The Associated Press . . .  
Bennett said Monday he felt no special pressure to deliver an "A" for DeHaan. Instead, he argued, if he had paid more attention to politics he would have won re-election in Indiana. 
Yet Bennett wrote to staff twice in four days, directly inquiring about DeHaan's status. Gubera broke the news after the second note that "terrible" 10th grade algebra results had "dragged down their entire school." 
Bennett called the situation "very frustrating and disappointing" in an email that day.
"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." . . .
This whole charter school business in Indiana is turning into nothing but a way of using the state's education system as a means of raising political bucks from private individuals and the businesses that stand to gain from the establishment of charter schools. By the time it's all done and said, people will come to realize that charter schools aren't the panacea for a better education system they've been made out to be by their proponents.


varangianguard said...

You're right, Gary. Privatizing schools is just a shift of tax monies to the private sector. Charter schools are just another profit mill for the politically connected. The Republican party's cry today is, "Thar's MONEY to be made in them thar public goods!"

Anonymous said...

There is another issue with Charter Schools and that is that the state pays less money per pupil for Charter students. Compare what the state pays IPS per student to any charter school.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Varan, I would point out that charter schools are public, not private schools. There are problems though such as those pointed out by this article.

Gary R. Welsh said...

They are publicly-funded, Paul, but they are privately-run. They aren't a part of a school district where the voters of a district get to elect their board members.

varangianguard said...

And, they are "for profit", one way, or the other.

Flogger said...

This situation with Bennett reads like a play being reviewed in the NFL. The play was reviewed and it appears from what I have read the rules were changed during the review.

It will be interesting to see if there is any follow-up by the Press. How exactly did Bennett have the changes made??? Were these changes applied to other schools or just one School.

The associated issue is the Privatized Charter School System clique. I would hazard a guess, that we will see more of these efforts to make the Charter-Privatized Schools look good.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Much praise again goes to AP's Tom Lobianco for his investigative journalism in this matter, and others. In the plan to deliberate dumb down America and train students, not educate them to be independent thinkers, school boards are to be eliminated. The whistleblower from the Reagon administration, Charlotte T. Iserbyt, is to be commended for all she has revealed re this treachery.

Anonymous said...

Look, it's the same Heather Neal that Daniels put in charge of public records to make sure the public never got to see any of their records.

No wonder she rejected so many complaints filed with her office.

She's an attorney, right? If this story is true, she falsified a public record, right? Falsifying public records is actually a real violation of the Indiana lawyer rules, right, and not some sort of made-up free speech attack like Ogden is getting, right?

Will the Indiana Bar take a look at her for falsifying public records?

varangianguard said...


you are cracking me up! Somehow, I don't think that the Disciplinary Commission would find this kind of (alleged) behavior as falling under their purview. That is just a wild guess, of course.