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:
I guess the secret to Tony Bennett’s “accountability system” was to hold no one accountable. https://t.co/mO8vlION5h
— Eric Bradner (@ericbradner) July 29, 2013
We knew from school officials that Tony Bennett recalculated A-F rankings multiple times last year. Now we know why: https://t.co/vlaExT5NnV
— Niki Kelly (@nkellyatJG) July 29, 2013
This probably isn’t the kind of change Chief 4 Change Tony Bennett wants to be known for: https://t.co/B5Xyw65v0F
— Politics K-12 (@PoliticsK12) July 30, 2013
In email Tony Bennett worried Mike Pence, not yet Gov, wouldnt support his metrics if charter grade less than “A” https://t.co/6wQeIQwgBP
— Eric Weddle (@ericweddle) July 29, 2013
— Keith Clock (@keithclock) July 30, 2013
@ellemoxley As a teacher from an IPS takeover school, it’s frustrating that no tweaks were made regarding the combined grade levels for us.
— Tina Ahlgren ⚾ (@MaimerOfHearts) July 29, 2013