Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

August 28, 2013

CAM SAVAGE: What if Bennett was right?

Letter-grade change came about during system trials.

(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.

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 e-mails.”

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

But none of that was in the first AP story (or any followup 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 byproduct of old school political leaking?

When an open government advocate asked the Glenda Ritz administration for copies of both the AP’s records request and the emails provided to the AP reporter on which the story was based, he was first told that such records did not exist. When pressed, three days later Ritz’s attorney suddenly found the AP’s requests, but has still refused to provide the responses, including the emails presumably provided to the AP.

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