The Herald Bulletin

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Editorials

August 7, 2013

Editorial: Bennett's work tarnished by grade change

Students make pleas to change their school grades so that they look better to their parents, prospective colleges or potential employers.

But when the former superintendent of public schools, Tony Bennett, changed grades, it was to impress a Republican campaign donor, state legislators and a doubting public.

Is there a difference? Aren’t both trying to mislead someone by altering the appearance of success? The answer’s as simple as A-B-C and D and F.

While in office, Bennett realigned the state’s education system by assigning “A-F” grades to schools. The grades were based on a school’s performance.

However, when Bennett learned that Christel House Academy — a charter school founded by a top GOP donor, Christel DeHaan — was going to receive less than an “A” rating, he sent an email to his chief of staff. On Sept. 12, 2012, he wrote, “This will be a HUGE problem for us ... They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work.”

DeHaan has donated $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett.

Despite poor 10th grade algebra scores that initially earned Christel House a “C,” the school ultimately received an “A.”

Where a middle school student might feel embarrassed to ask a teacher for a grade change, Bennett saw no shame in fitting the rules to his agenda. Where a high school senior might see a grade alteration as a last-ditch effort to get into a good college, Bennett saw his move as a way to conduct Statehouse business.

Jump to November 2012, when Bennett lost to Democrat Glenda Ritz; he received 47 percent of the vote, she earned 53 percent in an upset.

Sometimes voters believe that casting a ballot is like giving a grade to a candidate. Once the votes are counted, the candidate gets a passing or failing grade. Rarely are the results altered. A majority of voters gave Bennett a failing grade — and they didn’t even know of his Christel House connection. Instead, Hoosier voters questioned Bennett’s direction, philosophy and motives.

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