Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Ball State Pulls Plug On Seven Charters

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    Shafer Tower on the Ball State University campus.

    Ball State University — recently criticized for the number of low-performing charter schools it sponsors — won’t renew its contract with seven schools in Gary, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Richmond for the 2013-14 academic year.

    Of the seven schools, six received an F last year in the state’s accountability system. A seventh received a D.

    The schools whose charters weren’t renewed included Charter School of the Dunes, Gary; Imagine Indiana Life Sciences Academy-East, Indianapolis; Imagine MASTer Academy, Fort Wayne; Imagine Schools on Broadway, Fort Wayne; Kenneth A. Christmon STEMM Leadership Academy, Richmond; and LEAD College Preparatory Charter School, Gary; and Timothy L. Johnson Academy, Fort Wayne.

    “We’ve been at this process for about two years, so we’ve been heading down this road for awhile,” Bob Marra, executive director of the Office of Charter Schools, told StateImpact Indiana.

    Marra says the decision to renew a school’s charter came from the school’s academic, financial and operational performance over time. All of the schools had the opportunity to sit down with officials at Ball State and present additional information about student performance.

    Ball State awarded four schools five-year renewals. Another seven schools were given a three-year extension but must meet certain performance conditions.

    One school granted a five-year extension — Options Charter School-Noblesville — also received an F from the state, as did Gary Lighthouse Charter School, which was given a three-year renewal.

    “We believe these schools can be successful,” says Marra. “What we have done is put in performance conditions to address those concerns. That’s why we gave them a shorter period of time.”

    Marra says Ball State has been working with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to create high standards for the schools it sponsors. That means schools given three-year renewals will have to meet certain benchmarks if they want Ball State to continue authorizing them in the future.

    Only three of the Ball State schools up for review received an A or a B in the state’s accountability system last year. All received a three- or five-year extension.

    A Stanford study released in December concluded Indiana charter students would have made bigger gains over the last decade if not for a handful of the low-performing schools authorized by Ball State.

    UPDATE, 12:08 p.m.: Charter School of the Dunes Board President Danielle Sleight says the school is in the process of appealing Ball State’s decision. The Gary charter is currently building a new, $13 million school.

    UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: Marra says schools whose charters weren’t renewed have 10 days to appeal that decision. Schools that go through the reconsideration process make their case before a three-person panel.

    UPDATE, 1:12 p.m.: Michael Nickleson, board president of the Timothy L. Johnson Academy, says he’s surprised the school’s charter wasn’t renewed.

    “Our conversations with the university had not gone that way,” Nickleson told StateImpact. “We had in fact in October just recently talked with the university about our renewal for another three-year period.”

    Nickleson says the Fort Wayne school will likely look for a new sponsor. The school received a D from the state in 2012-13 after getting B’s for the previous two years, which Nickleson feels is a direct result of a change in the grading system.


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