Drip, drip……

The Daniels Administration may now be in the rear-view mirror, but sometimes, a rear-view image allows us to see things we missed when the view was head-on.

Yesterday, more embarrassing emails emerged--this time, from the Superintendent of Public Education’s office. It seems that Mr. Bennett was perfectly willing to play games with his beloved “A-F” grading system for schools when a GOP donor’s charter school failed to make the grade. The emails disclose that the system was manipulated so that Christel Academy–a charter established by major donor Christel DeHaan–would not get the “C” grade it deserved, but would instead be awarded an A.

Bennett is frantically trying to spin the emails, but–like those issued by Daniels in the Zinn controversy–they are hard to re-interpret. ¬†Superintendent Bennett blew plenty of smoke during his tenure in office, but these messages are anything but ambiguous.

There are a number of observations one might make over these latest disclosures. At the very least, the emails indicate a willingness to overlook deficiencies of favored charter operators that the administration was unwilling to extend to public schools. They confirm a widespread belief that Bennett was a political operative charged with furthering Daniels’ ideological agenda, not an educator. (Sue Ellen Reed, Bennett’s Republican predecessor,¬†was¬†an educator, and Daniels forced her out of that office.)

It’s also hard to understand why either Daniels or Bennett felt they could express themselves so clearly when using official email. Did they not realize that these messages would be maintained and discoverable?

Of course, the sixty-four thousand dollar question, as we used to say, is: who is leaking these delectable morsels? How has the AP known to ask for them?

And what other disclosures await?


  1. Turn over a rock and all the once hidden vermin runs in all directions. Daniels’ and Bennett’s egos are greater than their IQ’s so they naturally believed all unsavory words and actions would remain hidden. But; is there any indication these newly spotlighted underhanded issues will result in halting their continued rising careers in the public eye…or lower their financial status? GOP in both states have total control so I see them continuing to flourish in the education field while students at all levels lose quality leaders and educational advantages.

  2. Public, private, and charter school educators, school boards, and parents had noted SERIOUS FLAWS in the proposed A-F system of grading schools for 3 years. The legislature thankfully refused Supt. Bennett’s and Rep. Bob Behning’s push also to consider D schools as “failing” and to expedite the state takeover process to 2 years. Bennett seemed undeterred.

    A school principal in Lafayette, where 80% of the students qualified for free and reduced lunches yet nearly 90% of the students passed I-STEP, was outraged when her school could not
    earn a good school grade from DOE because her students didn’t improve enough BEYOND I-STEP. I-STEP already accounts for a year’s growth in a year’s time. Many students can exceed that growth, but expecting it and punishing students and schools for failure to reach it is developmentally inappropriate, unfair, and downright cruel to all those working so hard
    to reach the state standard.

    The state DOE also designed a system for rating teachers. This same principal repeatedly
    praised her teachers for their extraordinary efforts to help students achieve. The principal and her teachers often worked at school til after midnight to design plans to help students achieve, and achieve they did. Yet the state’s system – had the principal decided to use it – rated NONE of her school’s teachers “effective”. The principal said under this system, Jesus Christ would have been rated ‘ineffective’ in caring for the poor.

    Bennett’s push to ‘fail’ more schools, enable state takeovers, and turn the ‘failing’ schools over to out-of-state , for-profit charter school networks mislabeled charters too (which more often than not score lower than public schools despite enrolling fewer special ed. and non-English speaking students than traditonal public schools). But even that didn’t deter Bennett until the Christel House was caught in the flawed grading net too.

    The grading systems still need considerable attention or abandonment. More than one staffer left the DOE disillusioned under Bennett’s leadership. You are right to suggest that this is likely the tip of a huge iceberg.

  3. Throughout the hideous ordeal with Bennett and Daniels, and their regular abuse of teachers, the schools and their students, it’s amazing how the response to that outrage was regularly measured and professional. Now the data are showing that Bennett was engaged in skullduggery all that time. It was like having a calm therapeutic discussion with a crazed axe murderer. The identity of the corpse is predetermined. It would have worked out much better had the teachers and superintendents not tried to work things out calmly in good faith, but screamed, demonstrated, organized and let the public know–not so nicely– that this was injustice and a wrong being perpetrated by rigid ideologues out to do-in teachers and children for the money. This evil continues, and teachers still must appeal to the parents for supplies because the State has outright failed to fund the schools, despite all the talk that sounds more conciliatory. But that’s just the same old disingenuous hypocrites selling snake oil. Good people will list Indiana as the place NOT to go, doing their art in neighboring states instead, and our children will suffer. Our legislature and governor are totally complicit in this entire affair. Daniels and Bennett live on.

  4. Look deeper into this matter. Look who is pushing for the Charter schools. It the Bush family! They own major stocks in charter schools, and serve on the board. Remember that Daniels was a budget director for George W. Bush, and he has done things to favor them. Tony Bennett was just a puppet in Daniels’ administration. When charter schools get a contract and if they fail when the contract is up, they just pack up and move onto another district or operate under different name. Most school systems provide a building for the school, since it would sit empty anyway. Charter schools are for profit, and they could not survive if they had to pay for the things public schools pay. Also, they hire teachers at almost a minimum wage. It has been proven that charter schools for profit does not work, but the Republican Governors keep pushing for them despite there is no savings for the state.

  5. ” When charter schools get a contract and if they fail when the contract is up, they just pack up and move onto another district or operate under different name.”

    Very interesting idea. Assuming that’s true, I want to see a publication that follows the trail of the various “Con” families and see the destruction that they leave in their wake, along with the false hopes and ruined dreams. Talk about victimizing poor people. Now THAT would be something for the public to read as a series in a newspaper.

  6. If he is willing to change a school’s grade, is/was he willing to stack ISTEP or any other state assessment again a particular group. For example many school systems use Acuity (A bank of questions that Indiana also uses for ISTEP) to test the their students for various reasons. The results of each question can be broken down by the students’ demographics. These statistics could be use to improve one group’s results over another.

  7. Ronald, if a person lacks integrity over the big stuff, the small stuff comes easy, providing that the need is there. But it is probably harder to twist the data against a public school when so many depend on the data, and are actually following them. Many schools break down the scores, kid by kid, and tend to take assessments very seriously. They are probably too busy to examine what’s happening with some Indianapolis charter. The reporters need to look at those areas where there is room to cheat, and you can bet that Bennett knew those areas. I think we can expect more to follow.

  8. Thank you Stuart, I didn’t explain myself. What I was trying to say that Bennett could twist the state assessments, by using the questions/items that favors or hinders one group or another. He didn’t have to twist the data/results.

    For example, how you phrase a test item, will/can have an impact on the students answers that item. Data is not being impacted or twisted, but the collection of that data would be.

    Thanks again, I’m sorry for the confusion.

  9. My grandson has Alienation Disorder which means he is extremely shy, doesn’t make friends easily or join group activities. This caused much bullying at the charter school he attended grades 1-3 with no intervention from teachers or principal. My daughter-in-law did report it, they were aware but did nothing. He is extremely smart and makes consistently good grades. Her younger son started 1st grade in the same school and was also bullied due to being the brother of my shy grandson. She pulled them out of that charter school and enrolled them in a private religious school, paying full tuition; this is also a charter school with many voucher students. Not only did the bullying continue with no intervention from school authorities but my shy grandson’s teacher tried to prevent him from taking ISTEP with his 4th grade class. She stated he was not intelligent enough and would bring down the average of her class grades even though he made consistently good grades. Naturally my daughter-in-law demanded a meeting with teacher, principal and priest. He was allowed to take the test with his class and his grades were higher than almost everyone else in the class. The ignored bullying was bad enough but, is/was this action sanctioned under Bennett to raise scores of some schools? The article in the Star again this morning makes me believe this was part of Bennett and Daniels endeavor to push charter schools and increase voucher students. My daughter-in-law pulled both boys from the school and has home-schooled them for two years.

  10. Meanwhile, Glenda Ritz is in the catbird seat, watching (and maybe enabling) the nasty revelations which may pour forth, now that the pump is primed. I hope she is political enough to take full advantage of these events, because she could make them into the start of something big. The governor and legislature were certainly nice enough to free her up for those activities.

    The pent-up frustration that replaced Bennett is still there, because the legislature still hasn’t adequately funded the schools, and the evil they have done has not gone away. The governor (who doesn’t seem to be able to learn anything) and legislature don’t fully comprehend that the worst way to anger teachers and parents is to intentionally deprive them of important resources for kids and demean their worth in the eyes of the public. Mr. Bennett learned that one the hard way, and some others may be in line for that lesson.

  11. It looks like Kwang Casey was dead right: the Bushes are in back of it, with their Foundation for Excellence in Education, corporations that see an opportunity to grab our money (lack of evidence notwithstanding) and a number of school chiefs, working to promote test-driven teacher evaluations, A-F schemes, charter schools, everything. A right wing agenda–“conspiracy” if you will. And you can read the smoking gun emails that include our beloved Tony Bennett. The story was in today’s Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/30/e-mails-link-bush-foundation-corporations-and-education-officials/ The emails are in: http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/node/2741.

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