Flanner House school to close after cheating allegations

(WISH Photo/Jeff Wagner)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Flanner House Elementary Charter School is closing in September amid allegations the school cheated on ISTEP.

On Thursday, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard accepted the decision of the school’s board of directors to close the school effective Sept. 11.

The Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation investigated Flanner House Elementary after the school made high gains in 2013 and 2014 ISTEP results.

On Monday, the Indiana Department of Education released the investigation results:

  • 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.

“About to go right over there and talk to them because I don’t understand what’s going on,” said parent Brittany Thompson as she stood outside Flanner House Elementary.

Besides feeling confused, she was angry and upset after finding out the same place she sends her children to learn was shutting it’s doors amidst a cheating scandal.

“Now I’m worried about what goes on in my son’s class and my daughter’s class because what are ya’ll doing? If ya’ll would cheat on the ISTEP test ya’ll probably cheat on other stuff,” she said.

On a day Mayor Greg Ballard helped welcome a new charter school to the city, Vision Academy, the news of another having to closing stole the spotlight.

“When academic fraud is involved, it cuts pretty deep. It’s bad, it’s bad and we shouldn’t be doing that to the kids,” Mayor Ballard said. “We want every kid to have access to high quality education. That’s really what we try to do in this city no matter what kind of school it is. That’s really what we’re trying to do. So yeah, this hurts hard.”

Ian Yearwood is the principal at Vision Academy and said although test scores are important, cheating to make the grade isn’t the answer.

“I think teachers really need to remember that they got in this work, I hope they got in this work, for the betterment of the student,” he said.

It’s that mindset Thompson fears teachers didn’t carry at Flanner House Elementary.

“They claim to love and care about the kid so much but clearly ya’ll don’t because ya’ll teaching the kids how to cheat, that’s how I see it,” she said.

The DOE invalidated the Flanner House Elementary Charter School ISTEP results from the 2013 and 2014 and stripped the school of its Four Star School Award.

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office will determine whether any criminal charges are appropriate.

Informational meetings about how the investigation will continue will be from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Next week, an enrollment fair will be held with nearby public, private, parochial and charter schools so parents can find new schools to enroll their child.

The Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation is also assigning a full-time staff member to Flanner House Elementary to help parents during the transition period.

NOTE: Flanner House Inc., a community center that shares the name, is unaffiliated and will remain open. The preschool operated by Flanner House Inc. is separate from the charter school and will continue to operate.

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