GUEST COMMENTARY: Bennett scandal threatens school accountability reforms

2013-08-25T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Bennett scandal threatens school accountability reformsBy the Northwest Indiana Public School Study Council

After Associated Press reporter Tom LoBianco's story about Tony Bennett’s manipulation of the A-F school grading system concerning Christel House Academy and another 12 charter schools, school accountability measures enacted during the past four years came under scrutiny.

Bennett’s penchant to always be in control by worrying and finally manipulating the score of one, and later 12 other charter schools, has opened the door to a review of all school reform: A-F school grading system, teacher evaluation, Common Core standards, national assessments, etc.

On Sept. 12, Bennett wrote to his chief of staff, Heather Neal: “They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House Academy compromises all of our accountability work.”

The same holds true for all the traditional public schools that did not receive the same consideration.

The second question to be asked is: Whose accountability work did it compromise? The few or the many, the rich or the poor, those whose political power was more important than the children who are taught?

The importance of accountability work is that everyone is accountable all the time for the education of children in every school.

School districts during the past four years have worked diligently to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, ISTEP+ performance and growth benchmarks, developing new teacher evaluation tools to fulfill the requirements of Race to the Top, and finally meeting the lengthy and complex A-F grading system which Bennett, with little or no input from educators, forced on administrators, teachers, parents and students of Indiana.

We have persevered in the face of great challenges by those who appeared to be seeking to undermine public education.

The issue now is how this incident will influence existing and further practices of educators in the future.

The pause in Common Core standards complicate the job of educators, many of whom have spent the better part of the past two years getting ready for the change in the state accountability test and are back to using the standards they thought were going to be transitioned from.

Even though the one-year delay, enacted by the state Legislature and supported by Glenda Ritz, came before the Bennett fiasco, the changing of the Christel House Academy’s grade has overtones in this debate.

Educators are once again looked upon as not being trustworthy and, worse yet, anyone who has never set foot in a classroom to teach students of various abilities and backgrounds, who has never run a school or a school district, can make the decision to delay the implementation of the common core state standards for one year.

We encourage the State Board of Education to stand behind educators and not find themselves stuck in a philosophical or political bind.

A-F could serve a purpose, if the formula wasn’t so complicated that no one can explain how a school gets its grade and if it truly reflected the educational worth of the school.

The opinions are those of the Northwest Indiana Public School Study Council.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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