Indiana

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:

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