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Blinded by science

Remember Michael Klentschy? The former California educator who helped kick off Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett's "Year for Science Education Reform" ?

Klentschy was one of the so-called "experts" pushing a reform product – one that turned out to be propped up by phony test scores. He was sentenced Monday to 10 months in federal prison.

(I)n pleading guilty in San Diego federal court to wire fraud charges, Klentschy — who headed the El Centro district from 1994 to his abrupt retirement in 2007 — acknowledged test scores from district students for the 2004-05 school year that he submitted as part of a federal grant were false and inaccurate.

As a result, an official who oversaw the grant said that the data supporting Klentschy's approach, which the superintendent persuaded districts nationwide to adopt, was now "useless."

The Indiana Department of Education referenced Klentschy in numerous mailings after his 2010 appearance here, including a pitch from the superintendent's office for teachers to attend a $140 workshop at the Wabash Valley Education Science Center.

Klentschy also was a budget partner in an unsuccessful $18.4 million proposal for the federal Investing in Innovation grant competition. PurdueUniversity was lead partner in the request for an Indiana Science Initiative program to "validate a statewide K-9 science education reform based on scaffolded guided inquiry" – the instructional method promoted by Klentschy and backed by his falsified test scores.

The same state agency that hailed Klentschy's skills continues to partner with for-profit providers it cites as experts in school turnarounds, virtual education and more. Taxpayers should be wary; voters should be wary.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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