Indy schools seek records on state takeovers

Review comes after Bennett email flap

INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis Public Schools leaders are seeking state records on the 2011 takeover of four schools amid questions about the integrity of the state's A-F school grading formula.

IPS Board of Commissioners President Diane Arnold called Thursday for a review of the decisions that led the state to hand control of the schools to charter operators after they were consistently found to be "failing."

The grading system has been under fire since The Associated Press published emails last month showing former schools chief Tony Bennett oversaw changes to the formula to ensure a top Republican donor's school received an A. Bennett subsequently resigned as Florida's education commissioner.

Arnold said the review isn't an attempt to regain control of the four schools. But depending on what information the board gets from the Freedom of Information request, it could wind up going in that direction.

Bennett refused to separate the test scores of IPS high schools and middle schools sharing a building, which might have kept some of the four from getting F's and being taken over, Arnold said.
"We had made a request in 2011 to have schools separated from the junior highs and the high schools. And we were told by Dr. Bennett that he would not compromise the integrity of the accountability system," Arnold said. "And then indeed it appears that's exactly what happened in 2012."
The charter school run by Republican campaign donor Christel DeHaan was allowed to separate the scores, increasing its grade from a C to an A.

Fort Wayne school leaders have ruled the grading system invalid and will stop recognizing the school grades it said were based on "shenanigans."

Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday blamed the media for "anxiety" over the school grades and refused to endorse a one-year hiatus from the A-F grading system.

"I don't think we should take a time-out on accountability," Pence said. "We've got too many kids in this state that find themselves in underperforming and, in some cases, failing schools. And high standards and high accountability is and has been an important aspect of how we've made progress in Indiana."

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