Pharos-Tribune

Columns

August 29, 2013

SAVAGE: What if Tony Bennett was right?

(Continued)

Bennett’s concern that this particular school registered a “C” grade under initial system trials was well founded. Because the school only served students in kindergarten through the 10th grade, the initial formula penalized the school for not graduating any seniors. This is an obvious problem, because this school, and a few others, didn’t have any seniors. Adjusting the formula to avoid punishing these schools was certainly something Bennett had the authority to do, but unquestionably, was the appropriate thing to do.

Jonathan Plucker, who at the time was the director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University, and sometimes found himself at odds with Bennett, was part of a working group that developed the elementary and middle school accountability model for the Department of Education’s A-F plan. Plucker wrote this week for EdWeek.com that he tested his own recommended A-F model against schools he knew to be high-performing, including Christel House.

Plucker wrote, “In the end, we ran around two dozen schools through the model. Yes, Christel House was one of them, but the vast majority were traditional public schools. It was meant to be a validity check, and I buy that justification for why certain schools were ‘targeted’ in the offending emails.”

No one has disputed that Christel House is a high-performing school.

But none of that was in the first AP story (or any follow-up stories that haven’t been written).

Which brings us to an important question, as yet unasked by anyone else in the media. How did the AP acquire these emails in the first place?

The AP stories indicate the emails came through public records requests. But how did the reporter know which records to request? Is this distinguished journalism or just the by-product of old school political leaking?

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