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Indiana Superintendents Don't Want Tainted Accountability System

From guest blogger Alyssa Morones

A number of district leaders across Indiana are asking some tough questions about whether the state's school grading system unfairly or inaccurately impacted the standing of some of their schools in the wake of revelations that former state schools chief Tony Bennett changed the grade of one Indianapolis charter school.

Most notably, district leaders in Gary and Indianapolis say the allegations against Bennett—who yesterday resigned as the education commissioner in Florida—may completely undermine the state's move to take over struggling schools in their cities in decisions that were driven by the A-F grading system.

The uproar over the state's grading system began earlier this week when the Associated Press published emails that showed that Bennett and some of his staff members scrambled last fall to make sure an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent donor to Republican politicians received an A grade even though weak high school math scores had earned it a C. The charter's founder, Christel DeHaan, donated roughly $130,000 to Mr. Bennett's political campaigns between 2008 and 2012.

Cheryl Pruitt, the superintendent in Gary, has called for a review and reversal of the state's takeover of a high school in her district, according to AP. That high school is being operated by EdisonLearning Inc., under a four-year contract with the state.

Former Indianapolis school board member Eugene White is also demanding answers from the state education department about the takeover of four schools in his city.

Other district leaders in the state are voicing concerns about even broader ripples from the school grading controversy.

Wendy Robinson, the superintendent in Fort Wayne, said in an interview with the AP News-Sentinel that Bennett's actions may irreversibly damage the whole notion of school accountability in the public's view.

"We don't want it to be so connected with corruption and manipulation," she told the newspaper.

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