Governor Mitch Daniels envisions a world where the state foots most of the bills for educating Indiana’s children. This includes a booming number of charter schools — many of which were started in the last five years. To give you a sense of how big a business these privately operated schools are, we bring you the biggest and best funded charter schools in the state.
1. Thea Bowman Leadership Academy
Thea Bowman Leadership Academy is both the largest single charter school by enrollment and the best funded. The schools basic tuition fund distribution was $11,205,562 — hardly surprising considering the academy has an enrollment of 1,492 students.
There are in fact 171 school districts in Indiana with fewer students that the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy.
So what value are taxpayers getting for all of that money?
Thea Bowman received a C on the state’s A-F grading scale, which is frankly not to shabby considering the schools is location in the heart of Gary. That being said, their ISTEP+ scores have varied wildly over the past few years, ranging from 65 percent of students performing at grade level in 2010 to 34 percent in 2009. The most recently available assessment data puts them at 56 percent. Their high school assessments are fairly low. Only 31 percent of high schoolers passed required test measuring aptitude in English and Algebra.
2. Lighthouse Academies
There are actually six Lighthouse Academies operating in Gary and an additional four in Indianapolis. Collectively, they form one of the largest charter school networks in the state and individually, three of them would actually fill out the rest of this list — The Gary Lighthouse Charter School, West Gary Lighthouse Charter School, and the Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School.
The network was started in the Bronx in 2003 and has since expand to have schools in five states and the District of Columbia. Collectively, the group is worth $20,123,589 in basic state funding.
Oddly enough, all of the Lighthouse Academies operate schools up to at least K-9th grade and several go all the way to 11th grade, but none of them actually graduate any students. According to a representative with the group, these schools have been progressively working towards incorporating additional grade levels and will begin graduating their first class next year.
3. Imagine Life Science Academies
These schools are also part of a national network of charter schools run by a group called Imagine Schools based in Arlington, Va. The company operates four schools in Indiana. Two in Fort Wayne and two in Indianapolis. Outside of Indiana, they control schools in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
According to the Saint Louis Beacon, the Missouri Public Charter School Association issued a stern warning to the group over poor performance on a number of standards set by the Missouri Department of Education.
The poor track record of these schools over the past several years is reinforced by the majority of their 2011 Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) scores, which are well below the average for the state of Missouri and St. Louis Public Schools. In multiple instances, the percentage of students reaching the top levels of proficient or advanced in mathematics and/or communication arts is in the single digits. In addition, points awarded for the MAP Index score, a weighted formula providing a school credit for its ability to move students out of the bottom performance levels, doesn’t present any better picture of academic growth.
Similar articles have appeared in a number of publications in both Missouri and Georgia.
4. Irvington Community Schools
This is a group of three schools in Indianapolis organized as traditional school district, with an elementary, middle, high school. The school receives about $4,806,030 in state funding. The school touts itself as the first school in the state to establish a year round school year. Irvington is an independent school not associated with any national organization.
Collectively, the three schools perform slightly above the state average on the state’s assessment. Compared to both traditional public schools and other charters, Irvington Community Schools performs well above average both in passing standardized test and graduating students.