Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Where Comparing Charters To Traditional Public Schools Gets Complicated

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    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.

    Indianapolis Star education reporter Scott Elliott tackles an interesting question on his blog: Charter schools are bad, right? Indiana may be a special case, he writes. From Get On The Bus:

    Now, qualifiers are in order. Compared to all public schools in the state, Indiana charters generally rank in the bottom half when it comes to test performance and school report card grades. So you can look at the scores and fairly say public school students do much better than charters. But that’s not really the relevant comparison. After all, public school students also far outscore students in IPS and other high poverty districts where charters generally are located. The better question is the one CREDO attempted to answer — how do kids in charters do compared to the kids in the schools they otherwise would have attended?

    Last December, CREDO was back with a follow up study of Indiana that largely confirmed what they found in 2011, but this time the went further. CREDO argued that overall charter performance here is better than average but that it would be considerably better if not for a handful of very poor performing charters that drag the best performers down. It laid the blame at the feet of Ball State University, which sponsored most of the worst charters.

    Elliott points out that just weeks after CREDO released the second study, Ball State announced it wouldn’t renew the charters of seven schools.

    As we’ve written, that’s put the future of a building project at one school in limbo. And some other shuttered charters argue they’re serving kids who haven’t succeeded in traditional public schools.

    Now Ball State is working with the National Association of Charter School Authorizors to tighten its sponsorship requirements. Last summer, NACSA Vice President Alex Medler told StateImpact closing schools is just part of the cycle.

    “One of the best strategies instead to serve communities well is to go ahead and close bad charter schools, continue to open new ones,” says Medler. “It’s through managing a group of schools that the community gets access to the best education for its kids.”


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