Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why We Might See More Charter Schools Close In 2013

    Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

    A parent holds up a sign during a rally to support The Project School after Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard revoked the school's charter.

    Here’s another story to watch in 2013: What happens to a number of low-performing charter schools sponsored by Ball State University.

    A Stanford University report released earlier this month found students in Indiana’s charter schools outperformed their peers in public school over a six year period. But researchers found that some of the schools authorized by Ball State lagged behind those with other sponsors.

    When Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard revoked the Project School’s charter this summer — much to the dismay of satisfied parents — several experts predicted it wouldn’t be the last Indiana charter to close. In a follow-up to the Stanford study, the Indianapolis Star’s Scott Elliott reports 10 Ball State-sponsored schools are in the bottom 15 percent of the state:

    At Ball State, officials acknowledge they’ve had problems. But they’re promising a solution starting early next year, including the toughest of all sanctions — closing schools.

    In fact, 20 of Ball State’s 38 charters are up for renewal by March 1, and Bob Marra, who oversees the university’s charter schools, is talking tough.

    “We need to not renew them,” he said of the lowest performers. “That’s what will happen to some of these schools. We will be taking that step very soon.”

    The recommendation to close schools that score in the bottom 15 percent comes from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, writes Elliott, which is helping Ball State create a better accountability system.

    Alex Medler is vice president of research for NACSA. When he spoke to StateImpact in July, Medler said the need to close some schools shouldn’t be seen as “bad authorizing” but as part of a cycle to create good schools:

    In general what we find is that schools after four or five years if they’re not performing very well, they don’t turn around very often. One of the best strategies instead to serve communities well is to go ahead and close bad charter schools, continue to open new ones and it’s through managing a group of schools that the community gets access to the best education for its kids. If people think of the school as the focus and they want to keep schools open, then kids aren’t well served. If we think about kids, we can close a bad school while simultaneously encouraging the creation of new, good schools.

    Education Week has a good summary of the Stanford study on Indiana’s charter schools, and head over to Choice Words for more commentary on Ball State.


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