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GOP donor's school grade changed

July 29, 2013

By TOM LoBIANCO
Associated Press
    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold ‘‘failing’’ schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature ‘‘A-F’’ school grading system to improve the school’s marks.
    Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s school received an ‘‘A,’’ despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a ‘‘C.’’
    ‘‘They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,’’ Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.
    Bennett, who now is reworking Florida’s grading system as that state’s education commissioner, reviewed the emails Monday morning and denied that DeHaan’s school received special treatment. He said discovering that the charter would receive a low grade raised broader concerns with grades for other ‘‘combined’’ schools — those that included multiple grade levels — across the state.

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