Indy charter school to close after ISTEP cheating scandal

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ISTEP testing

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 21, 2014) – An Indianapolis charter school will shut down after an investigation showed the school cheated on the ISTEP+ test.

The board of directors at Flanner House Elementary Charter School surrendered its charter and will close effective Sept. 11.

Mayor Ballard’s Office of Education Innovation began an investigation after the school showed “extraordinary gains” in 2013 and 2014 ISTEP+ test results. The Indiana Department of Education also investigated.

The department found the school essentially “cooked” its test results.

Here’s a summary of the findings:

  • The school’s 2013 ISTEP+ tests showed an unusually high number of changes from wrong to right answers.
  • Adult handwriting was repeatedly found in student answers of the 2013 test.
  • Students were given test questions before administration of the 2014 ISTEP test.
  • Teachers revised and edited student responses to real ISTEP questions prior to administering the 2014 test.
  • Flanner House Elementary failed to follow several testing security procedures.In particular, it was found that 2013 Testing Integrity Agreements were forged.

DOE has invalidated Flanner House Elementary Charter School’s ISTEP+ results from 2013 and 2014 and stripped the school of its Four Star School Award. Find the department’s findings here.

Information from the investigation has been forwarded to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to decide if criminal charges are warranted.

Ballard said he is working to find schools for Flanner House’s students. The Office of Education Innovation and Flanner House Elementary will hold informational meetings with parents Thursday and Friday from 3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the school.

An enrollment fair will be held next week with nearby public, private, parochial and charter schools so parents can get more information. A full-time staff member has been assigned to help parents with the transition process and manage the transfer of student records.

Flanner House, Inc.–which is a separate entity from the charter school–released the following statement from Ann Murtlow, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Indiana:

We are saddened to hear of academic misconduct at Flanner House Elementary School. Our concern is for the children who have been served by this institution and their placement in other schools.

It is important to note that despite their co-location, Flanner House Elementary School and Flanner House, Inc. are separate and distinct organizations. Flanner House, Inc., a community center with a long history of service to families in Indianapolis, is critical to the well-being and vitality of the near-Westside. Flanner House, Inc. remains an important United Way of Central Indiana agency, and we stand in full support of their work.