Grade tampering irritates educators

Herald Staff Writers

Local educators are disappointed after an investigation revealed that former Indiana superintendent of public instruction Tony Bennett tampered with the 2012 A-F accountability grades.

Dubois County superintendents are calling for a review of the system.

The Associated Press obtained emails that show Bennett and his staff worked quickly last fall to make sure influential Republican Party donor Christel DeHaan’s charter school, Christel House of Indianapolis, received an A grade on the scale. Low math test scores would have earned the school a C.

The grades — which have been given to Indiana school corporations and each of their individual school buildings since 2010 — help determine which schools must implement extra remediation programming and how much state funding they receive.

In 2012, Jasper High School, Jasper Middle School and Ireland Elementary School all received A grades, but Tenth Street and Fifth Street schools both got D’s. The low scores came when students at Tenth Street failed to improve enough on their Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress exams from the previous year.

Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools Superintendent Tracy Lorey said the information that is used to make the grade calculations should be consistent, and if it isn’t, there should a review.

“It’s unfortunate if that is truly how that was carried out,” Lorey said of the evidence that Bennett discussed the legality of raising the Christel House grade with his staff. “We always hope that our leaders have integrity. If there are inconsistencies in that, then that makes us question the validity of that grade.”

Southridge Middle School and Huntingburg Elementary School received A’s last year while Southridge High School improved from a C to a B and Holland Elementary School improved from a B to an A. The corporation was in probation status until the 2011-12 school year, meaning it had to pay for supplemental tutoring programs.

Southwest Dubois School Corp. Superintendent Mike Eineman said he thinks the entire grading system should be reviewed but added that the tampering was probably an isolated incident.

“I’m not really sure what to think about all of it,” Eineman said. “You hope that things like that aren’t happening, but you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s a fiasco.”

At the Southeast Dubois School Corp., Ferdinand and Pine Ridge elementary schools and Cedar Crest Intermediate School received A’s last year and Forest Park Junior-Senior High School received a B.

Superintendent Rick Allen pointed out that Christel House is a combined school like Forest Park Junior-Senior High School, so it is possible that all schools of that type may have benefited from the grade changes.

Even if Forest Park’s grade was raised, Allen said he still doesn’t approve.

“Why would one charter school be the stimulus for changing the formula? That’s troubling,” Allen said. “The whole thing need to be reviewed.”

Northeast Dubois High School, Dubois Middle School and Celestine Elementary School all received A’s while Dubois Elementary School received a C, a slight decrease from its B grade in 2011.
Northeast Dubois School Superintendent Bill Hochgesang wants to see new Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz overhaul the evaluation system to set goals for improvement for struggling schools instead of labeling them as failures.

“I just think it’s wrong to call any school an F school, because they’re working as hard as the school next to them. They may be doing their best with what they’ve got to work with,” Hochgesang said. “It’s a shame that politics entered into it, and that’s what happened here. That’s wrong for our children.”

Heritage Hills High School and Chrisney, Nancy Hanks and Lincoln Trail elementary schools along with David Turnham Educational Center all received A’s as well, but Heritage Hills Middle School received a C. North Spencer School Corp. Superintendent Dan Scherry was unavailable for comment this morning.

The two parochial schools in Jasper as well as Otwell Elementary School earned A’s. "In the wake of the AP story about the alleged tampering with the accountability grades, Ritz said the Department of Education is examining the current A-F grade calculations “to ensure that every school has the grade they earned in 2012; nothing more, nothing less.”

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