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Learning Curve

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    Indiana Inspector General David Thomas and the state ethics commission dispensed with the Tony Bennett mess as quietly as possible, but making something disappear doesn't mean it never happened or that it should have happened in the first place.
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    Stand for Children, a political advocacy group closely aligned with education privatization efforts, issued a report Tuesday critical of Indiana's teacher evaluation models.
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How much for an 'A'?

Tom LoBianco of the Associated Press has found a gold mine in the email correspondence behind Indiana's shape-shifting A-F grading system. I never doubted that the grading rubric was changed to make some schools look better, but I wouldn't have guessed it was all about making one charter school look good.

Christel DeHaan's Christel House isn't just any charter school, however. DeHaan, who made her fortune from timeshare-giant Resort Condominiums International, may have good intentions in helping children from low-income Indianapolis families. But her influence in pushing Indiana's charter school law -- the first step in Indiana's destructive school choice march -- is clear.

I don't doubt that she personally had nothing to do with the grade-changing scheme, but money talks and DeHaan spent much in electing candidates. In Bennett's case, it was $130,000, but there were hundreds of thousands more to the Republicans who pushed the school reform agenda. Her total contributions to Indiana candidates to date are $2.8 million.

Indiana voters dispatched Bennett without knowing of his behind-the-scenes manipulation of school data. Now voters should realize the lengths public officials will go to keep the biggest donors happy. The nonsensical grading system foisted on Indiana schools was designed to punish public schools and advance the choice agenda.

The question for lawmakers listening to hours of testimony over last spring's ISTEP+ computer meltdown is not whether the scores are valid. It's how much longer will the lawmakers themselves continue to support a charade designed and maintained to please wealthy donors?

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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