Here’s a follow-up story in the Miami Herald from Tom LoBianco, the investigative reporter who broke the Tony Bennett grade change scandal:
INDIANAPOLIS — In algebra, students are required to show the steps taken to come to their answer, in part because teachers need to see whether they grasp the concepts.
Indiana’s former state superintendent Tony Bennett hid his calculations when coming up with the school-grading formula last year, working backward to make the equation fit a predetermined answer: an “A” for Republican donor Christel DeHaan’s charter school. His staff was quietly asked to figure out the rest.
The only reason the grade-changing scandal was unveiled was because it was detailed in emails he never deleted from his computer.
The fallout has cost Bennett his seven-month tenure as education commissioner in Florida and launched a pair of state reviews into the validity of a school-grading system that’s at the center of a national education overhaul movement.
Bennett called the reports last week “malicious and unfounded” as he resigned in Florida, but school superintendents in Indiana said the emails finally began to give them the answers they so desperately searched for last year from Bennett and his team.
In Indiana, the state protects emails as public records. Jim Corridan, state archivist and director of the Indiana Commission on Public Records, points out that substantive emails — including any dealing with policy — must be saved for three years……..
But official documents only provide the neatly prepared version of the story. And many times, they leave out critical information.
Local school superintendents who had their schools assessed by Bennett and his team last year, with the possibility of being taken over by the state or losing funding, found it incredibly hard to get straight answers. The widespread confusion over how the grades were calculated led Republican legislative leaders to send the “A-F” grading system back to the drawing board during the 2013 session.
While the Bennett emails begin to answer some of the confusion — and raise new questions — it still isn’t clear exactly what Bennett and his staff changed in the formula. That will take answers from a pair of state-level reviews.
And probably some more emails
But isn’t it disturbing that Bennett and his supporter feel justified in changing the grades and that the emails were leaked for political motivation? Maybe this is why he didn’t delete them. If so, the episode confirms the fears which opponents of education reform’s rock stars. They feel entitled to operate in a manner which is not above board.