Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

The Seven Ball State-Sponsored Charter Schools Fighting Closure, By The Numbers

A young boy signs his name to a poster advocating for Gary's Charter School of the Dunes to remain open. Ball State University officials have revoked the school's charter.

Seven Indiana charter schools are now in danger of closure, their Ball State University overseers say, because the schools’ leaders aren’t meeting academic performance objectives they set forth in their founding documents.

State data show the rates at which these charter schools’ students pass statewide tests are lower than the traditional public school districts which surround them.

It’s one of several reasons Ball State University officials are revoking these schools’ charters. All seven are appealing the decision.

But leaders at some of the schools whose charters are at risk say there’s a counter-narrative in the numbers.

Many of the students they serve come from transient or difficult-to-serve populations, many charter school administrators argue. But the performance of students they’ve served for more than a year, they say, is markedly better than the students who’ve just enrolled.

To shed some light on the data on these schools’ academic performance, we’re posting a rundown of the seven charter schools’ ISTEP+ pass rates.

We’re also posting a link to each school’s charter renewal application to Ball State University, in which school officials present their own school performance data. Take a look:

Charter School of the Dunes (Gary)

  • ISTEP+ pass rate: 41.6 percent, compared to 45.5 percent in the Gary Community School Corporation.
  • The school serves a transient population, according to the school’s charter renewal application, and “an overwhelming number (78 percent in math and 77 percent in reading) of these new students are at least a grade level behind” when they enroll.

Imagine Indiana Life Sciences Academy – East (Indianapolis)

Imagine MASTer Academy (Fort Wayne)

  • ISTEP+ pass rate: 51.7 percent, compared to 67.0 percent in the Fort Wayne Community Schools.
  • From the school’s renewal application: “There is not one hole that caused our overall low score in math,” and the school’s leadership team also “noticed many areas of weakness” in English Language Arts. They say they developed interventions to address the shortfalls.

Imagine Schools on Broadway (Fort Wayne)

Kenneth A. Christmon STEMM Leadership Academy (Richmond)

  • ISTEP+ pass rate: 40.4 percent, compared to 68.8 percent in the Richmond Community Schools.
  • One in five of the school’s students has an Individualized Education Plan, according to the school’s renewal application. The average Indiana school’s special education student population is closer to 15 percent.
  • Christmon’s English Language Learner population has doubled in size since 2009 which, the school’s application notes, “resulted in a need to shift instructional practices.”

LEAD College Preparatory Charter School (Gary)

  • ISTEP+ pass rate: 19.3 percent, compared to 45.5 percent in the Gary Community School Corporation.
  • End-of-Course Assessment pass rate: 28.3 percent, compared to 36.8 percent in the Gary Community School Corporation.
  • From the school’s renewal application: “A good sign of progress for us is that our 5th grade scored over 50 percent in Reading and almost 35 percent in math. We do believe with researched based interventions in both math and reading our students will show great growth on the ISTEP in the Spring 2013.”

Timothy L. Johnson Academy (Fort Wayne)

  • ISTEP+ pass rate: 41.3 percent, compared to 67.0 percent in the Fort Wayne Community Schools.
  • From the school’s renewal application: “Children who have attended for at least three years have a 73 percent passing rate on English/Language Arts, and a 72 percent passing rate for mathematics.”

The ISTEP+ pass rates above reflect the rates at which students pass both the math and English/Language Arts portions of the test.

Comments

  • Karynb9

    It would be great if ALL schools were given the ability to justify their ISTEP scores by diving into the numbers and finding the success stories. However, the DOE fails to take that information into account when dealing with traditional public schools and assigning letter grades, so why should charter schools be given an exception? Plenty of traditional public schools also have transient populations and receive students who are years behind after being enrolled in a different schools, but they’re told that there are “no excuses for failure.”

  • drbee

    I don’t suppose anyone considered that when comparing the charter school to the public school, the public school’s pass rate was increased due to low performing students withdrawing and attending a charter school. So the achievement gap may not be as great as it appears.

    • kystokes

      That’s a good point. The top-number pass rate figures also gloss over racial disparities. For instance, in the case of Timothy L. Johnson Academy, while the pass rate in East Allen County Schools (which covers part of TLJA’s territory) is higher than the charter’s numbers… because TLJA’s 90%+ African-American, it might be more on-point to compare the numbers when broken down by race.
      EACS’s ISTEP pass rate for black students: 33%
      TLJA’s ISTEP pass rate for black students: 38%

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