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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Bennett continues to defend himself against grade change report



Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett continued to defend himself Tuesday against an Associated Press story that said he changed the grade of an Indiana charter school for political reasons. See the original AP story here.

Bennett told the Times/Herald Monday that he changed the grade for Christel House Academy last fall because it had earned a C - a sure sign that the new grading calculations were off. The A grade it ended up with better reflected its academic prowess. He said few in Indianapolis would disagree that the charter school is one of the best schools in the area. 

He called it "absurd" that anyone would believe the change was politically motivated.

"That's fictitious at best and it's totally unfounded," he said Tuesday during a media call with reporters.

Bennett repeatedly said Tuesday that he and his staff members were simply trying to correct a clear problem with a new formula. Indiana, while it had a school grading system for years, was using a new calculation last year in its switch from a numeric system to one with the A to F grades. 

"We did nothing wrong, we did nothing covert, we did nothing secretive," he said.

What was unclear from Bennett's comments was how much Christel DeHaan, the founder of the charter school, was involved in the discussions about the school's grade. Bennett seemed to indicate that a staff member within the Indiana Department of Education had first flagged the school's grade. Later, he said the school had been in touch with the department.

It wouldn't be unusual for a school to reach out to the department about its grade, he said. That happens in Florida, he said, and was one of the reasons for a task force that met earlier this month to make recommendations about the 2013 grades. The task force, however, was the result of concerns from multiple superintendents about school grades as a whole, not a particular school.

Florida's State Board of Education, too, expressed concerns about how complex the state's system has become. 

The Bennett story has picked up a lot of traction nationwide. See what Michael Petrilli wrote here for the Thomas Fordham Institute. Here's what Diane Ravitch wrote.  

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 3:18pm]


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