Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What They're Saying About Tony Bennett & School Letter Grades

State superintendent Tony Bennett presides over Wednesday's State Board of Education meeting. He spoke afterwards with reporters about his application to be Florida's education commissioner and about his expectations for Glenda Ritz's tenure.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Tony Bennett lost his re-election bid to Democrat Glenda Ritz. Under the guidance of Bennett and then-Governor Mitch Daniels, state lawmakers approved a package of education reforms that included a statewide accountability system, teacher effectiveness legislation and an expansive voucher law.

The Associated Press released emails Monday that indicate former state schools chief Tony Bennett asked his staff to make tweaks to the statewide accountability system when it looked like Indianapolis charter school Christel House Academy would receive a C.

Bennett defended his actions as state superintendent, telling StateImpact the problem was “combined” schools that house both elementary/middle school and high school students. Scores for different types of schools are calculated using different scales.

“One of the criticisms we actually had was that our system was being  too harsh on charter schools,” says Bennett.

He noted that of four charters had regularly held up as exemplary — Tindley, Signature, Herron and Christel House — only Christel House had not received an A when calculations were finalized.

“First, I either lied or twisted the truth in order to get what we want,” writes Bennett in an email. “Regardless, neither of those are things I do. Our second problem is that legislative leadership as well as our critics of A-F are going to use this against us to undo our accountability metrics through legislation.”

In total, 13 charter schools saw their letter grades change as a result of the department’s tinkering. But it was Christel House — run by a prominent Republican donor — jumping from a C to an A that drew ire on social media Monday when the story broke:


  • Mouse Rat

    The fact that formulas used to calculate A-F are not readily accessible to the public for scrutiny is shameful enough. How is anyone able to judge or try to improve when the metrics are not only different for different types of schools, but secret, as well?

    • Mouse Rat

      Okay, I found this:

      But it is legislative gobbledygook that I challenge anyone to make sense of or justify…

      Besides, Bennett ignored Indiana Code as written and changed the formula, didn’t he? Violated the very law he pushed through?

      • Jorfer88

        This was the much easier version given to student that explains in a nutshell: . Still convoluted and all the data being used to actually calculate it was not public. And the graduation rate was subjective. While they were busy doing this, they were also busy giving certain high poverty schools a hard time over those counted for the graduation numbers part and using the previous year’s numbers (disadvantageous to those with historically low numbers) because of the 5 year graduation points instead of issuing a preliminary grade.

  • taxman

    Indeed, he did lie and twist the truth. What a jerk. Keep coaches out of administrative positions!!!

  • Jolie Lindley

    My combined junior-senior high would have loved the chance to have our rating separated too. What a jerk! Bottom line on this is that no amount of spin he puts on it makes him looks good or justifies his actions. Mentioning in the emails how the results will put him in bad standing with Pence, Bosma, the almighty Indiana Chamber of Commerce, etc. just proves it’s all about the politics and all about the money. Teachers have been screaming for three years that this kind of stuff was going on, and no one wanted to listen.

  • N Lee

    He’s a man with a large ego that refuses to be wrong. He lied. He manipulated. He has no business telling anyone he’s got “kids first”. I downloaded one of his emails. In it he talks about how he doesn’t change the truth to get what he wants. No, he just changes the numbers to get what he wants. His whole system is a scam.

    • Gary

      I feel that Mitch Daniels name needs to mentioned synonomous with Bennett. Bennett was Daniel’s sidekick in this whole mess of educational reform. Mitch Daniels legacy as governor is his effort to destroy public education

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