Charter school to close after ISTEP cheating

INDIANAPOLIS - Flanner House Elementary, an Indianapolis charter school, will close in September amid cheating allegations, Mayor Greg Ballard announced Thursday.

An investigation into high jumps in ISTEP+ test scores revealed a list of issues with the school's testing in 2013 and 2014.

The Indiana Department of Education released its findings to the mayor's office Monday, and it was decided the school would surrender its charter and close effective Sept. 11.

Here's what the investigation found:

  • An "unusually high" number of wrong answers were changed to right answers on the 2013 ISTEP test
  • Adult handwriting was found in student answers on the 2013 test
  • Students were given test questions before taking the 2014 test, and teachers revised and edited students' answers to the questions before the test was administered
  • The school didn't follow several testing security procedures

PDF: More details from IDOE's investigation

"Cheating simply will not be tolerated in our schools," Ballard said in a Thursday news release. "I support the decision by the Flanner House Elementary Charter School Board of Directors to close this school. Our team is now squarely focused on helping the students and families at Flanner House Elementary quickly find another high-quality public, private or charter school."

At Flanner House, third grade teacher's aide Maria Hyde said she was "shocked" to hear the news.

"I hope and pray it's not true, because I've been here for almost nine years," Hyde said.

Ballard, who sponsored the charter school, says he is "beyond disappointed," but confident that this is an isolated incident.

"Actually, there's tremendous oversight on the charter schools," Ballard said. "Literally I think it was within a day or a few days after the ISTEP+ scores came in the first time in 2013 that we were looking into this," Ballard said. "It was very, very fast. But the investigations always take some time."

One parent, who asked not to be named, said they were hurt by the news.

"I feel hurt because these are our children and now we have to find somewhere for them to go and wonder if they're prepared to go to these other schools," the parent said. "Were they preparing our kids or are they going to be behind? It's not fair to our children."

The school and its board of directors have yet to release a comment, but the Flanner House did release a statement saying the United Way agency has no affiliation with the charter school – it simply rents space to it.

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