Friday, December 20, 2013

Significant Disruptions Invalidate ISTEP+ Tests, 92% of Christel House Academy Students Unable to Properly Complete ISTEP+

The award-winning* Christel House Academy charter school in Indianapolis suffered significant disruptions in its ISTEP+ testing process in 2013, preventing 270 of the 294 Christel House Academy students from successfully completing the online exam.

The resulting precipitous drop from an "A", to an "F" on the Department of Education (DOE) grading scale is not reflective of the school’s accomplishments or its students’ academic progress.

 "We appealed our grade based on the tremendously disruptive ISTEP+ testing problems that occurred with the online test.  We believe these disruptions fatally flawed the results," said Christel House Academy principal Carey Dahncke. "We believe this inaccurately represents the performance of our students and teachers."

Dahncke cited examples of the technical failures his students experienced as they tried to complete the test:

o   Test shutting down and recording students’ exams as "complete," before they finished.
o   Tests refusing to allow students to select certain answers.
o   Test questions referring to charts or graphs which would not appear on the students’ screens.
o   Very slow progression from one question to the next, making it difficult for students to stay focused.
o   Students being "kicked off" the system and required to log back on, often several times.

The disastrous impact of the ISTEP+ test interruptions has been documented and carefully analyzed.  Students who experienced test interruptions consistently performed poorly compared to last year’s results.  In fact, nearly every student who moved from “passing” last year, to “not passing” this year, experienced disruption in the test-taking.

"We believe that the scores of the 270 Christel House Academy students who experienced ISTEP+ interruptions are invalid, and the accountability grade is unjustly based on this flawed data," said Dahncke. "For DOE to ignore the facts for Christel House Academy, and the other 151 schools that filed appeals, is perplexing."

Dahncke said that he is consulting with his Board of Directors on options, following today’s State Board of Education meeting.  These options include exploring further administrative appeals, and legal action.

*Awards include:

o   Consistent "exemplary" and "A" ratings from DOE
o   Indiana Title 1 Distinguished School Award
o   Healthy Hoosier School Award
o   USDA Healthier US School Award
o   National Forum’s Schools to Watch Award
o   NASSP MetLife Breakthrough Schools Award

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Making Soap that Lasts for Life

Don and Jen Knebel

On a trip to Christel House in Mexico City, we visited the ninth grade chemistry class.  It was unlike any chemistry class that we had ever experienced.  We first noticed that each student was wearing a starched white lab coat over his or her uniform.  The student's name was stitched in black over the pocket, giving the students a remarkably professional appearance.  Just learning how to dress the part of a scientist is an important lesson for students who likely have never before seen anyone dressed that way.

But we saw something else in the lab that made a lasting impression on us.  These students were not mixing chemicals that create smelly gases or the scent of strawberries.  Working in small groups, each with different a task, they were making soap.  Some were carefully measuring and mixing chemicals to get just the right consistency and color in the end product.  Others were pouring the resulting mixture into molds incorporating various symbols and logos.  Still others were placing the soap in boxes.  All were caring out their tasks with care and enthusiasm.  At the end of our visit, the students proudly gave us a bar of the soap they had made.

Making school relevant to the lives of students is a challenge faced by educators everywhere.  Christel House has met this challenge in Mexico City and its schools in India, South Africa and Indianapolis.  Not all the students we saw will ultimately become chemists.  Maybe none of them will.  But they will all need to know how to how to follow written directions, to measure carefully, to work together in teams and to take pride in their work.  The students in the class we visited were not just studying chemistry.  They were being prepared for life.  That is what Christel House does.  That is why we support Christel House.  

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Join us for 'Giving Tuesday' and double the transformative power of your gift today!

Heather Richey
Featured in: @ChristelHouse Fall 2013

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are about getting deals…. And now Giving Tuesday is about giving back.

Christel House is joining the global Giving Tuesday movement to establish an annual day just for giving back and transforming lives. We are excited to announce that through a generous offer put forth by Dennert and Suzanne Ware, you can double the transformative power your gift will have on Christel House students from now until December 3!

All donations made through Tuesday, December 3, up to a total of $250,000, will be matched.

Please consider making a gift today to help us make this winter a little brighter for Christel House students. You can give online at When giving, select the drop down menu option "Giving Tuesday".

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

From Christel House Kid to UN Employee

MaryAri Contreras
Featured in: @ChristelHouse Fall 2013

Maryari is proof of how a holistic education and the drive for a better life can break the cycle of poverty. After graduating from Christel House in 2007, she earned a degree in International Relations from Universidad Central de Venezuela. Today she is working in a full time position at the United Nations office in Venezuela.

"This job makes me feel happy and grateful, because it's a dream come true to work for such an important international organization. I am excited because I will be able to show the skills that I've learned during my studies in International Relations. I am committed to showing the best of my potential to do a great job for my country and the rest of the world."

"At Christel House, everything was so different than my other school. I was happy because I wanted to be different, to be a good student," said Maryari.

She grew up in La Vega, one of the most impoverished and dangerous barrios of Caracas, Venezuela, where the opportunity to build a better life is hard-won. "There are many girls with broken dreams and no potential for a better life. They get pregnant very young and kids are raising kids. Boys work as adults from a very early age and often get involved in drugs or delinquency," she said.

"Before Christel House, I attended another school where I was bullied for wanting to be a good student and enjoying school. But Christel House was different. I am grateful for all the beautiful things now in my life because of it."

In her personal time, Maryari gives back to her community. She visits Christel House, now run by Fe y Alegria, at least once a week where she started a conversational English club with current students."I wanted to apply a skill that I love to help other students learn. During meetings we watch movies, cartoons and music videos and then discuss them, or we talk about current events and our interests. Some kids are only 12 years old and they say things in such a beautiful way and so correctly [in English]," said Maryari.

"Christel House is like a family to me. I can never say thank you enough for the support it has given me. Without the support of donors, many boys and girls, including myself, wouldn’t be able to tell the stories of their success with pride and happiness. The new generation wants to help others and give back to create a better world. That is the Christel House legacy -- creating something beautiful and unique, and building a better world with the help of many."

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Experience the magic of Christel House

Bobbi Bosch
Featured in: @ChristelHouse Fall 2013

"Family". . . . Visitors and students alike say they "feel like family" at Christel House. Creating a strong sense of belonging is an important component of our model, and that includes warmly welcoming guests from around the globe. In addition to experiencing the "Christel House magic" firsthand at our schools, visitors are also offered the opportunity to travel into the communities where our students live. Nothing can more clearly depict challenges that must be overcome than standing in our children's homes, talking to their parents or siblings.

Next year, Christel House supporters will be able to join us for visits to our schools. We also encourage anyone who is visiting a country with a Christel House (India, Mexico, South Africa and the U.S.) to spend part of a day with us. You will not soon forget your tour of the school and community, or your interaction with the kids and families.

 "When you visit a Christel House, it is then that you see the extraordinary effort the students must make to escape the poverty and despair into which they were born," said Don Knebel, Christel House International Board Member. "You see that Christel House really does work transformational magic in the lives of its students. Jen and I have visited Christel House schools around the world and have experienced that magic first hand. We hope you can have the same experience."


We are organizing visits to Mexico in March, South Africa in May and India in November. Each trip requires a minimum number of participants, so please contact Bobbi Bosch at by
December 1st if you are interested in learning more.

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Delhi Hotel Commissions Christel House India Student Artists

Heather Richey

Featured in: @ChristelHouse Fall 2013

 All aspiring artists hope their works will be displayed where they can be appreciated. For
16 upper-school students from Christel House India-Bangalore, this dream is becoming reality.
The Eaton Smart Hotel in Delhi commissioned 16 paintings to be created by Christel House students. The works, all of which depict the sun setting over the ocean, will be displayed in individual hotel suites.

Eaton Smart Hotels will donate more than $6,000 to Christel House in appreciation of the students' efforts. The project took six months to complete, and students worked both during their art classes and after school. The works are stunning, and reflect care, precision and creativity in every piece.

We are positive that these paintings will enrich the experience of Eaton Smart guests. And, the Christel House artists can take much pride in knowing that their efforts helped support the school they love.

"I have watched the setting sun spread on its canvas beautiful colours and hues. I tried to capture this brilliant spectacle in my small canvas. The beach and the ocean created a feeling of calmness in me. I felt that I am part of it all." – Gopal K., Grade 11, Christel House India - Bangalore

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Your Toes in the Sand = Shoes on Their Feet

Becky Arnett
Featured in: @ChristelHouse Fall 2013

Imagine crashing waves washing up against a white sand beach, turquoise water, warm and inviting, and a your toes digging into the sand… the perfect escape from the frantic pace of our busy lives.

You can make memories - and at the same time make a difference - by participating in the
3rd annual Christel House Online Vacation Auction. It begins Oct. 28 and runs through
Nov. 7. You can snag a great deal on some of the finest resorts and unique vacations, while the money goes directly to benefit the students of Christel House!

From beach vacations to mountain hideaways, the auction offers something for everyone.
One of the most unique vacations this year is a 4-night "glamping" – glamorous camping - stay in a luxury tree house in Virginia.

“We were fortunate enough to buy the vacation to Gatlinburg, Tenn. through the Christel House auction. What a bargain!! The staff treated us like royal guests. Being a retired teacher makes education a priority in my giving, and my husband and I definitely felt this was supporting a worthwhile education program. Thank you for a super nice 55th wedding anniversary vacation!” said Dana and Genevieve Kirby.

You can preview the auction beginning Oct. 21 at and find the ideal vacation, whether you're looking for the perfect family vacation or a romantic couples' getaway.

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