Indiana’s Ball State University has delivered on its pledge to end contracts with the worst-performing charter schools in its portfolio, and its action will strengthen the charter movement overall.
For it was Ball State’s charters that erased many of the learning gains Indiana charters made in the past five years, according to Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Statewide, charter students gained what amounted to an additional month and a half of learning on their district school peers, and CREDO’s Macke Raymond concluded that such strong gains would have been even better were it not for Ball State–authorized schools. “They’re not helping,” Raymond told the Indianapolis Star. “The responsibility is pretty clearly on the authorizer.”
Credit ought to go to Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools for recognizing the problem. Bob Marra, the office’s executive director, has visibly grown frustrated with the performance of the schools the university has authorized. And this week, he and his team opted to end contracts with seven of their schools and offer contract extensions of just three years to seven others, provided they meet certain performance conditions. Two other charters withdrew their own requests for renewals.
All of these schools should have seen this coming. Not only has Ball State worked with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers during the past eighteen months to create a new accountability system for all of its charters, the university has repeatedly told its most
Two years ago, teachers at the Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy voted to form a union by card check.
Photo from ACTS Michigan.
(Updated January 17, 2013 for the Education Gadfly Weekly)
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools should be careful what it wishes for. Although a recent case before the National Labor Relations Board was decided in the direction favored by the Alliance, by vacillating opportunistically on the issue of whether charters are public or private the organization has weakened the charter movement’s long game.
Here’s what happened: Two years back, teachers at the Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy voted to form a union via card check—a power granted to public employees under Illinois labor law. In response, the charter school asked the NLRB to intervene, arguing that it was a privately run institution, not a “political subdivision” of the state—and, therefore, that attempts to organize its employees should fall under federal law and be done by secret ballot.
In March 2011, the Alliance, led at the time by Peter Groff, filed a brief supporting the Academy’s position. Charter schools are indeed public schools, the Alliance reasoned, but they’re run by private entities. Hence their employees should
Simply the threat of pulling the parent trigger could spur complacent administrators to act.
Photo from Strollerderby.
There is a reason why, after months of resistance, the Adelanto School Board this week voted unanimously to adopt the parent-triggered charter conversion of Desert Trails Elementary: It’s not the same board. Throughout 2012, all five board members had thwarted the efforts of the Desert Trails Parent Union to enact the nation’s first parent trigger, but only two of those board members are serving the district today.
Gone is Carlos Mendoza, the former school board president who went so far as to flout a California judge’s order to accept the parents’ plan to seek a charter operator for the troubled elementary school; in fact, he lost his re-election bid to a member of the Desert Trails Parents Union. Gone, too, is Jermaine Wright, who vowed to block the schoolhouse door in handcuffs if that’s what it took to prevent a charter conversion. Wright fled the school district as soon as he spotted an opening on the Adelanto City Council.
A third incumbent was voted out in November as well. And the district superintendent left in the fall just as public opinion was mounting against the board
A quarter of Ball State-authorized charters rank in the bottom 15 percent of Indiana's schools.
Photo from INDelight Photography cc.
Before the holiday break, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes gave the charter school movement more good news, this time from Indiana: Students in the Hoosier State’s charter schools, on average, had greater learning gains than their peers in traditional schools. Statewide, charter students gained what amounted to an additional month and a half of learning in reading and math. And in Indianapolis, charter students had about two months on their district-school counterparts in reading and nearly three months in math.
The findings were released just a couple of weeks after the Stanford-based group found similar results for New Jersey students. But the Indiana story was tempered by a more sobering fact: The findings would have been better if not for the performance of schools overseen by one authorizer—Ball State University.
Bad performance at Ball State–authorized charter schools erased many of the overall learning gains Indiana charters made between 2007 and 2011, CREDO concluded. And that poor performance accelerated after 2009, when Ball State authorized many new charter entrants that turned out to be low-performing.
About the Editor
Director, Program on Parental Choice
Adam Emerson is the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s school choice czar, directing the Institute’s policy program on parental choice and editing the Choice Words blog. He coordinates the Institute’s school choice-related research projects, policy analyses and commentaries on issues that include charter schools and public school choice along with school vouchers, homeschooling and digital learning.
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