Education — August 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Indiana Republican donor’s charter school has poor state rating changed to an “A”


They love them some school accountability … until they don’t

[CC photo by albertogp123 | Flickr]

A couple of weeks ago, the Associated Press broke the story of an Indiana charter school run by a big Republican donor having its state-assigned grade, basically a measure of the quality of the school’s education, from a “C” to and “A” after he appealed to the state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett (not the crooner, the cheater) for help. Bennett lost his reelection bid in Indiana last fall and, until this past week, worked as the Florida Education Commissioner.

Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.

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 test scores in algebra that initially earned it a “C.”

“They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist. […]

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.

It’s a remarkable testament to the lengths charter school proponents will go to make themselves appear to be better than our public schools. The fact that this Republican donor was able to get their grade changed after appealing to state officials is appalling.

Bennett, a close associate of Jeb Bush in their efforts to destroy public schools, first defended his actions. He has now resigned. The F-A grading system was a key part of his education reform agenda.

Bennett and his supporters are all saying he did nothing wrong and that they just fixed the system for ALL schools. One wonders, though, if these changes would have been contemplated much less implemented if his big Republican donor pal hadn’t been the owner of the school. The only reason that he got busted was that he neglected to delete the emails from his computer.

You can find links to the emails in this Daily Kos post.