Bennett’s Break to Charter Schools Could Have Saved Two Public Schools From Takeover

UPDATES after the bump.

From reporter Scott Elliott:

Two Indianapolis Public Schools might never have been taken over by the state if then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett had offered the district the same flexibility he granted a year later to the Christel House Academy charter school.

The issue was similar in both cases. Christel House had recently added ninth and 10th grades, and IPS’ Howe and Arlington had added middle school grades.  The students who filled those  seats posted poor enough scores to drag down the schools’ overall ratings.

In the case of Christel House, emails unearthed by The Associated Press show Bennett’s staff sprung into action in 2012 when it appeared scores from the recently added grades could sink the highly regarded school’s rating from an A to a C. Ultimately, the high school scores were excluded and the school’s grade remained an A.

But in 2011, after IPS’ then-Superintendent Eugene White demanded Bennett consider the test scores of high school students separately from those of middle school students so the high schools could avoid state takeover, Bennett was unmoved.

Neither Bennett, a Republican champion of charter schools who is now Florida’s education commissioner, nor White, who left IPS this year, could be reached for comment for this story. But one IPS School Board member expressed concern about potential unequal treatment.

“Wow,” said  board member Michael Brown after he was briefed on the accommodations made for Christel House. “It looks like everyone wasn’t playing by the same rules

Read the rest here.

Was Bennett only concerned about charter school grades? According to the list of schools provided in Allison Nielsen’s Sunshine State News report, the answer appears to be Yes.

AP blamed poor algebra grades on the school’s fall from an “A” to a “C.”

It was then that Bennett and the Department of Education took a closer look and decided to make adjustments. The adjustments were not special for Christel House — 12 other schools also had similar issues which were then corrected.

The following schools also fell prey to the flaw in the system:

1.  Richmond Academy

2..  Hammond Academy of Science and Tech

3.  Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School

4.  Hoosier Academy Virtual Charter School

5.  Gary Lighthouse Charter School

6.  West Gary Lighthouse

7.  LEAD College Prep

8.  Anderson Preparatory Academy

9.  Indiana Math and Science Academy

10.  Indiana Connections Academy

11.  International School of Columbus

12.  Eman Schools.

All of the schools on the list – except Indiana Connections Academy which is an online school – are indeed charter schools. Some noteworthy tidbits on a few of the schools are as follows:

* LEAD College Prep is a KIPP school.

*Eman Schools is an Islamic focus charter school.

* Hammond Academy of Science and Technology was founded by Hammond mayor Thomas McDermott, who tells a far different story on the grade changes than Bennett’s people are spinning.

UPDATE: Tampa Bay Times education reporter, Jeffrey Solochek,  has more.


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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