Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett stands by his decision to boost the grade of an Indiana charter schools in 2012, when Bennett was the Hoosier State’s elected superintendent.
The Associated Press published emails Monday which showed Bennett and his staff discussed ways to boost the grade of Christel House charter school after learning the school’s initial grade was a C according to the Indiana school grading formula.
Our colleagues at StateImpact Indiana spoke with Bennett. He said Christel House’s performance was similar to that of three other premier charter schools:
Bennett says his department ran into problems when initial calculations indicated the school would receive a C under the statewide accountability system, which didn’t sit well with the then-superintendent.
“So when we looked at our data and saw that three of those schools were A’s and Christel House was not, that told me that there was a nuance in our data,” says Bennett. “Frankly, my emails portrayed correctly my frustrations with the fact that there was a nuance in the system that did not lend itself to face validity.”
At issue were the school’s low scores on statewide algebra tests. Bennett says the problem stemmed from how combined schools — that is, those that include multiple grade levels — are counted under the state’s accountability system. He says the tweaks his department made benefited a number of schools, not just Christel House, which is run by a prominent Republican donor.
The news has prompted critics of Florida’s school grading and accountability system to call for Bennett’s resignation.
“If the Florida Board of Education and Governor Scott have any integrity, Superintendent Tony Bennett must be summarily dismissed,” Bob Schaeffer, the public education director for FairTest said in a statement.