Christel House Academy director shocked over grade controversy

Christel House Academy

Local schools are getting caught up in the grading scandal. Are the schools somehow to blame, or are they innocent victims?

At Christel House Academy, the school that finds itself at the center of the controversy, there is both disappointment and anger. The Christel House Academy principal says the scandal comes as a complete bombshell.

In just a few days, the academy's empty classrooms will be filled with students. But today, the principal is not talking about a new school year. He's defending his school's reputation.

"It was a shock to us and we're trying to figure out, like everyone else, what happened," said Carey Dahncke, academy director.

Dahncke says he was not aware that former state superintendent Tony Bennett pushed behind the scenes to make sure the school's letter grade was changed from a C to an A. The principal insists no one from Christel House had anything to do with that change, even though the school's founder is a major political donor and influential in state politics.

"Did you ask for your grade to be changed for this school?" 13 Investigates asked.

"No, not at all. We took the the test, received the results like everybody else and waited for the scores. Nobody made any sort of request. From Christel House Academy there was no one who had communication with Dr. Bennett or his staff about our letter grade,"

The school has a history of high test scores. The principal says all the e-mails and headlines should not impact the school's reputation because he feels the scandal is about politicians, not about students.

"We have teachers who work really hard and students who work really hard and any conversation or dialogue that would suggest that performance is not authentic is worrisome to us," said Dahncke.

Teachers were at school Thursday getting ready for the first day of school on Monday. The scandal is the big topic of conversation right now, but Christel House hopes the controversy blows over quickly so the focus can return to students.

Statement from Christel DeHaan, Christel House Academy founder:

Dr. Tony Bennett has helped re-shape education policy in Indiana, to give all Hoosier children the best possible opportunity for quality education and bright futures. It is unfortunate that his actions relating to changing the grade given to 12 Indiana schools, including Christel House, may distract from the significant progress that has been made in Indiana.

Neither I nor anyone connected with Christel House made any request to have any grade changed. I was as surprised as anyone when I was contacted late in the morning of July 29th for a reaction to a soon-to-be-published Associated Press Story.

Christel House was part of a very broad coalition of education reform interests, including the Indiana Chamber, Goodwill Industries, Stand For Children, the Office of the Mayor of Indianapolis, the Mind Trust, and many others, who worked with Dr. Bennett and the Indiana Department of Education to suggest improvements in the "A-F" grading system.

I endorse the call of many public officials of both political parties for a thorough review of the grades given to schools in 2012 and revisions made if they are inaccurate. I have been and continue to be an advocate for the equitable assessment of all Indiana schools, and am confident that the Department of Education will pursue that.