Bennett’s Indiana School Grade Changes Never Made Sense to Begin With

More revelations are emerging about the grade changes that Tony Bennett feverishly put in place last fall to protect one of a major political donor. This from Karen Francisco of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

The scramble to inflate Christel House’s grade also was successful in pushing more than half of the state’s charter schools to a letter grade of C or better, a claim Bennett couldn’t make before the formula was massaged.

The disclosure settles the question why educators well-versed in test scores and evaluation systems couldn’t make sense of it.

“(I)t is not criterion based, it does not statistically make sense, it does not account for standard measure of error, it is unexplainable and difficult to understand, and it fails to comply with current law and administrative code,” Superintendent Chris Himsel of Northwest Allen County Schools told legislators in a letter last November.

No, but it did plenty more. The jury-rigged formula maintained the goodwill of a generous campaign donor, preserved the illusion of sound accountability and justified the continuing legislative push.

Indiana lawmakers, however, had enough misgivings about the A-F grading system to pass legislation this spring directing the State Board of Education to create a new system based on individual student academic performance and growth. The catch is that the state board is controlled by Bennett loyalists, and the new system isn’t due until Nov. 15. Until a new system is in effect, the current grading formula – disclosed as a sham – holds high stakes for Indiana schools and education dollars.

While Bennett and his allies are saying otherwise, his own emails reveal that he was primarily interested in protecting charter schools in general and Christel DeHaan’s school, Christel House in particular . The subject of the email which clearly discloses Bennett’s state of mind is “RE: Christel House.” This first paragraph further illustrates Bennett’s priorities:

I need to get this off my chest. I never blame anyone except myself for anything that is said and done by this department. I must say that this situation is very frustrated and disappointing to me. I cannot count the number of times we have been in meetings with Christel, The Chamber, Brian Dosma, David Long and others when I have said that we count Christel House and an A school. I have repeatedly said to all of them that we checked their data and given the 162 day calculation we were certain they are an A school. We specifically cited Christel House, Herron, Signature an Tindley as A schools, and everyone sat around and nodding their heads in agreement as I defended our system with that argument.

All the embolden schools are charter schools and Bennett clearly emphasizes Chistel House in the email. If Superintendent Himsel’s assertion that Bennett’s changes were”not criterion based,”  do “not statistically make sense, do “not account for standard measure of error,” are “unexplainable and difficult to understand,”  and “fails to comply with current law and administrative code” are accurate, Bennett and his allies have real problems that won’t be going away with denials and spin.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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2 Responses to Bennett’s Indiana School Grade Changes Never Made Sense to Begin With

  1. JupiterMom says:

    Good catch!

  2. This better explains the FLDOE’s glowing charter school review…

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