Enrollment at state takeover schools is even lower than turnaround operators anticipated, writes the Indianapolis Star‘s Scott Elliott:
But one week into the experiment, enrollment at the three former Indianapolis Public Schools that have started — Manual, Howe Community High School and Donnan Middle School — is down significantly, by 43 percent.
It would appear that given a choice — and choice is an important consideration for the state Department of Education — parents of students at the failed schools are not choosing the state’s solution. At least not yet.
Manual, Howe and Donnan are run by Florida-based Charter Schools USA. But attendance was also down at a fourth takeover school. Elliott notes that EdPower, the Indianapolis-based non-profit now in charge of Arlington High School, is having four different first days of school, one each for seventh, eighth and ninth graders and a fourth for high schoolers.
But on Monday, just 78 of the 215 seventh graders EdPower expected showed up for class.
Beverly Rella, director of external relations for EdPower, says the next day attendance was better and she expects more eighth graders to show up on Thursday, their first day of school.
“We’re calling on the list of kids who haven’t show up,” she told StateImpact. “We’re getting some disconnect there. Some kids live outside the district and were bused by IPS last year but won’t be bused this year.”
Rella says EdPower is working to solve transportation issues now so Monday’s problems won’t be repeated when older students start school. One solution is giving students city bus passes. EdPower anticipates a total of 600-700 student will attend Arlington this year — at least, that’s how many educators are prepared to teach.
“If we don’t reach those enrollment targets we’ll have to deploy folks elsewhere,” Rella says.
EdPower also operates Tindley, an Indianapolis-area charter known for its “college or die” slogan. Rella says educators at Arlington will be using a lot of the same techniques to motivate students.
—Terry Stollar, Emma Donnan Middle School principal
But both EdPower and Charter Schools USA will have to get their numbers up before Sept. 14 if they don’t want to take a hit in funding. That’s the official “count day” the state uses to set enrollment totals. The Indiana Department of Education is paying the turnaround companies per-pupil to operate the schools.
Elliott points out that even though the IDOE remains optimistic about future enrollment, the lower-than-anticipated figures are a cause for concern:
Still, it’s hard to completely dismiss the numbers that are so far even lower than the 40 percent enrollment decrease IPS predicted in May. State officials and representatives of CSUSA back then dismissed that figure as almost certainly too high.
In fact, it wasn’t quite high enough, at least for CSUSA this week. By Thursday, enrollment at its three schools stood at 1,480, about 311 students below IPS’ spring estimate and 1,106 students — or about 43 percent — below last year.
At a back-to-school picnic last month, educators with Charter Schools USA told StateImpact they expected enrollment to increase after the community saw what the company was doing to transform the takeover schools. Terry Stollar, the new principal at Donnan, said they were also prepared to help students who started late get up to speed.