Indianapolis charter school to close after probe reveals widespread cheating on ISTEP+ exams

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INDIANAPOLIS — One of Indianapolis' oldest charter schools will close next month, after an investigation uncovered widespread cheating on its students' state standardized tests in 2013 and 2014.

Mayor Greg Ballard's office said Thursday that he had accepted the decision by Flanner House Elementary's board to surrender the school's charter. It will close Sept. 11.

"Cheating simply will not be tolerated in our schools," Ballard said in a statement.

Ballard's office said it had asked the Indiana Department of Education to investigate the school's performance after it showed extraordinarily high gains in its ISTEP+ exam results.

The percentage of Flanner House students who passed both the math and reading portions of ISTEP+ rose from 53 percent in 2012 to 95 percent in 2013. The pass rate fell back to 57 percent in 2014.

Department of Education investigators found an unusually high number of wrong answers had been corrected and repeated examples of adult handwriting on the 2013 test. They also found that students had been given test questions before the 2014 exam was administered and that teachers edited student responses to real ISTEP+ questions.

The department has invalidated the school's ISTEP+ results from 2013 and 2014 and stripped the school of its Four Star School Award.

Information from the investigations is being sent to the Marion County prosecutor's office for review.

Ballard, whose office oversees city charter schools, said he supported the decision to close Flanner House, which opened in 2002. He said the city is now focused on helping students find another school to attend.

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter told the Indianapolis Business Journal the mayor's office will host information sessions for parents and hold an enrollment fair to help the school's 176 students relocate.

Flanner House is the second charter school in the past two years to close at the beginning of a school year. In 2012, the mayor's office ordered The Project School closed due to poor finances and poor academic results.

"It's definitely not the ideal situation," Lotter said.

School officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

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