INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Gary and Indianapolis school officials questioned the
state’s year-old takeover of their schools Thursday amid revelations that
Indiana’s former schools chief manipulated the grade of a top Republican
donor’s charter school.
Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the actions of Tony Bennett had
possibly compromised and tainted the integrity of the Indiana A-F rating
system that he introduced and led to the state’s decision to take over Gary
Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy Roosevelt and four Indianapolis
Pruitt called for Roosevelt’s takeover to be scrutinized and reversed.
“Public education is the equalizer and represents a tremendous opportunity
for all students to succeed. The fact that this great equalizer has possibly
been tampered with causes great concerns for the Gary Community School
Corporation,” Pruitt told the Post-Tribune.
Bennett, who resigned Thursday as Florida’s top education official amid
allegations he changed the grade of Indianapolis’ Christel House Academy,
had denied Indianapolis Public Schools’ 2011 request for more flexibility in
the grading of Howe and Arlington high schools, which both were also taken
over last year, The Indianapolis Star reported.
IPS board member Michael Brown said the Indiana Department of Education owes
the district some answers about the two schools. He said it was “totally
unfair” that the state’s school-grading calculation incorporated seventh-
and eighth-grade ISTEP-Plus scores into the schools’ grades.
“I think they need to take a look at it,” Brown said. “If the system was
skewed to benefit Christel House Academy, then was it skewed to hurt IPS?
That concerns me more than anything else.”
Former IPS Superintendent Eugene White had argued that Arlington and Howe
had made sufficient gains in ninth through 12th grades to earn at least a
“D” if the scores of middle school students weren’t considered. They faced
the threat of state takeover after six consecutive years of “F” ratings.
During a news conference in July 2011 - a month before Indiana took over the
two schools - White called Bennett’s school-grading approach
“I don’t believe anyone would look at this and say that it was fair,” White
said at that time.
Emails published by The Associated Press this week show Bennett and his
Indiana staff scrambled last fall to ensure GOP donor Christel DeHaan’s
school received an A, despite poor 10th-grade algebra scores that initially
earned it a C.
The emails obtained by the AP began after Bennett learned the latest run of
calculations had resulted in a C for Christel House.
“Anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all our
accountability work,” Bennett wrote to his chief of staff on Sept. 12,
asking for action.
In Gary, private school operator EdisonLearning Inc. has a four-year
contract with the state to run Roosevelt. The company donated $1,000 to
Bennett’s unsuccessful re-election campaign last year.
“Private businesses and companies have been allowed to get public money to
make a profit while children have been left to fend for themselves,” Pruitt