Education in America: Indianapolis Mayor Fights for More Charter Schools

After several years of not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), several Indianapolis high schools and one middle school face a takeover by the state this summer. The district, Indianapolis Public Schools, has until the results from standardized achievement tests (ISTEP+ for grades 3-8 and end of course assessments (ECAs) for grade 10) arrive t0 know the fate of five high schools and one middle school.

Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard and Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett are in a battle with each other and IPS superintendent Eugene White to determine who will be in charge of the takeover, and who will determine the course of action.  Ballard would like to convert the schools to charter schools, which are governed by the mayor.  Bennett would like professional, for-profit school turnaround companies to manage the school, and has selected five corporate finalists which he won’t reveal until August, when final decisions are made.  White would like to continue to pursue recent reforms and initiatives started at the troubled schools, documenting several indicators of success.  White is also concerned at the $55 million deficit to IPS’s 2011-2012 budget because of per student funds that will go to new leadership.  He is additionally concerned because IPS will still be required to pay for building maintenance and transportation costs for the students.

The six schools in question are unquestionably in trouble.  Low graduation rates, high staff and student turnover, poor test scores and slashed budgets have left morale and performance in the gutter. The six schools are also located in the heart of Indianapolis, whose urban center contains only two grocery stores, no jobs, a decimated housing market and pockets of abandoned gentrification.

While Superintendent Bennett is affiliated with Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence, the focus of today’s article (and a series of articles thereafter) is Ballard’s charter program.

When challenged about his qualifications to turn around the troubled IPS schools, Ballard claimed that in his charter system, poorly performing schools were closed, he wouldn’t allow the type of problems in IPS to fester in his charter program:

“We set high standards, and we hold the charter schools accountable to these standards,” he said. “Succeed, and they are permitted to continue to educate our children. Fail, and we demand change – period.”

Mayor Ballard lied, and we’re going to prove it.

Today we’re going to look at four Indianapolis/Indy Metro area charter schools that serve students in grades 9-12, the traditional high school format.  Some of the IPS schools on the chopping block share this format, others are combination middle/high schools, and one is a traditional middle school only. All data is from the 2006/2007 school year through the 2009/2010 school year, which is the last available data from the Indiana Department of Education.  Data for the 2008/2009 school year is incomplete, as the state switched from administering standardized tests in the fall to the spring, so administered tests in both seasons, then didn’t provide AYP status.  Trust me, I’m as confused as you are.

Herron High School (est 2006)

  • Grades served: 9-12
  • Demographics: (09/10) 454 students. 180 (39.6%) black, 218 (48%) white, 18 (4%) Hispanic and 28 (6.2%) multiracial.  English as a new language learners: 8 (1.8%).  Students who receive special education services: 53 (11.7%). Students who qualify for free or reduced price meals: 203 (54.7%)
  • Percentage of present/former students to take an Advanced Placement (AP) exam for college credit during 2009/2010 school year: 38.8%.
  • Graduation rate: 90% or 78.6%, on different pages of IDOE website
  • Renewal: Yes

End of Course Assessment (ECA) Pass rates:

  • 2006/2007 – 75.3% (English 10) 70.7% (Algebra I) AYP: Yes.
  • 2007/2008 – 77.8% (Eng. 10) 71.4% (Alg. I) AYP: Yes.
  • 2008/2009 – no data available.
  • 2009/2010 –  77.68% (Eng. 10) 31.94 (Alg. I) AYP: No. AYP score: met 6/14 goals.  AYP not met for insufficient percentage of eligible students tested, math scores across demographics and graduation rate.

Accountability reports: None available.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Academy (est. 2006)

  • Grades serverd: 9-12
  • Demographics: (2009/2010 school year) Total students: 344. 236 (68.6%) black, 72 (20.9%) white, 9 (2.6%) Hispanic and 26 (7.6%) multiracial. English as a new language learners: 0. Students who receive special education services: 92 (26.7%). Students who qualify for free or reduced price meals: 285 (83%).
  • Percentage of present/former students to take an Advanced Placement (AP) exam for college credit during 2009/2010 school year: 0
  • Graduation rate: 61.4%
  • Renewal: Yes

End of Course Assessment (ECA) Pass rates:

  • 2006/2007 – exempt from data collection, new school
  • 2007/2008 – 30.5% (Eng. 10) 18.6% (Alg. I) AYP: No.
  • 2008/2009 – no data available
  • 2009/2010 – 35.48% (Eng. 10) 2.75% (Alg. I) AYP: No. AYP score: met 4/13 goals. AYP not met for insufficient percentage of eligible students tested, math performance overall and for black students and language performance for students on free and reduced lunch.

Accountability reports: Renewal reports issued by Mayor’s office after 4th and 7th years of operation.

Specific concerns from accountability and renewal reports, measured against mayor’s rubric for charter school performance:

In spite of the low test scores and graduation rate, Indianapolis Metropolitan High School was rated as Meets Standards, Exceeds Standards or Is Approaching Standards in all but two categories:

1.1. Is the school making adequate yearly academic progress (AYP), as measured by the Indiana Department of Education’s system of accountability?

Does Not Meet Standards. School has met AYP in less than half of student subgroups for the last two consecutive years.

Unlike public elementary and middle schools, for public high schools (i.e., schools that only serve students in grades 9-12, like the Indianapolis Metropolitan High School), Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) determinations are based solely on 4-year graduation rates, and on 9th and 10th grade student performance on the Graduation Qualifying Examination (GQE) prior to 2009, or on two end-of-course assessments (Algebra I and English 10) given by 10th grade after 2009.  Student performance prior to grade 9 or subsequent re-tests on these exams are not included in AYP determinations.
Indianapolis Metropolitan High School has not achieved AYP toward statewide academic goals set by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) in any of the years it has been evaluated.
The school has made substantial growth toward achieving the IDOE standard of a 90% 4-year on-time graduation rate, and thus made AYP in this specific indicator in 2009.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan High School?s graduation rate has been evaluated by the IDOE twice, and it determined that the school made AYP in this indicator in 2009.  The school?s most recent 4-year graduation rate is 61.4%.  In addition, the school?s most recent 5-year graduation rate was determined by the IDOE to be 74.2% and most recent 6-year rate was determined to by 76%.

And…

2.2. Are the school’s student enrollment, attendance, and retention rates strong?

Does Not Meet Standards. The school’s actual enrollment consistently falls short of target enrollment by 10% or more.  Student attendance and retention rates are consistently below the school’s agreed-upon target rates.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan High School has not consistently met enrollment targets over the course of their seven years in operation.  The school exceeded enrollment targets during the 2010-2011 school year, but was significantly short of meeting targets in every other year of operation.

Attendance rates at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School have been consistently below the IDOE’s target of 95% throughout the school’s six years of operation.

Stonegate Early College High School (formerly Lawrence Early College High School, moved and renamed in 2009)

  • Grades served: 9-12
  • Demographics (2009-2010 school year): 181 students. 95 (52.5%) black, 65 (35.9%) white, 13 (7.2%) Hispanic and 8 (4.4%) multiracial. English as a new language learners: 7 (3.9%). Students who receive special education services: 15 (8.3%). Students who qualify for free or reduced price meals: 100 (55%).
  • Percentage of present/former students to take an Advanced Placement (AP) exam for college credit during 2009/2010 school year: 1.9%
  • Graduation rate: 86.9%
  • Renewal: Yes

End of Course Assessment (ECA) Pass rates:

  • 2006/2007 – 66.2% (Eng. 10) 50.7% (Alg. I) AYP: No.
  • 2007/2008 – 50% (Eng 10) 36.3% (Alg I) AYP: No.
  • 2008/2009 – no data available
  • 2009/2010 – 61.76% (Eng. 10) 44.44% (Alg. I) AYP: No.  AYP Score: Met 0/3 goals; math performance, language performance and graduation rate.

Accountability reports: none available.

Options Charter School (Carmel)

  • Grades served: 9-12
  • Demographics (2009-2010 school year): Total students: 131. 5 (3.8%) black, 112 (85.5%) white, 6 (4.6%) Hispanic and 5 (3.8%) multiracial. English as a new language learners: 0. Students who receive special education services: 47 (35.9%). Students who qualify for free or reduced price meals: 39 (28%).
  • Percentage of present/former students to take an Advanced Placement (AP) exam for college credit during 2009/2010 school year: 0.
  • Graduation rate: 37.8%
  • Renewal: Unknown.  The Carmel suburb is a suburb of Indy with its own mayor, and charter oversights.  Including to compare to the traditional public high school serving the same area, below.

End of Course Assessment (ECA) Pass rates:

  • 2006/2007 – 33.3% (Eng. 10) 23.1% (Alg. I) AYP: Yes.
  • 2007/2008 – 38.1% (Eng. 10) 25% (Alg. I) AYP: No.
  • 2008/2009 – no data available.
  • 2009/2010 – 41.67% (Eng. 10) 44.44% (Alg. I) AYP: No. AYP Score: Met 0/3 categories.  Failed to make adequate progress in English and math test scores and graduation rate.

Accountability reports: none available.

Competing Public High School, in Same Zip Code

  • Grades served: 9-12
  • Demographics: 4489 students. 140 (3.2%) black, 3626 (82.6%) white, 97 (2.2%) Hispanic and 136 (3.21%) multiracial. English as a new language learners: 69 (1.6%). Students who receive special education services: 384 (8.7%). Students who qualify for free or reduced price meals: 320 (7%).
  • Percentage of present/former students to take an Advanced Placement (AP) exam for college credit during 2009/2010 school year: 44.2%
  • Graduation rate: 89.6%

End of Course Assessment (ECA) Pass rates:

  • 2006/2007 – 93.2 (Eng. 10), 96.4 (Alg. I) AYP: Yes.
  • 2007/2008 – 93.8 (Eng. 10), 95.5 (Alg. I) AYP: Yes.
  • 2008/2009 – no data available
  • 2009/2010 – 92.08% (Eng. 10), 89.2% (Alg. I) AYP: Yes. AYP score: met 23/23 categories.

Join me next time as we look at the Mayor’s combination middle/high school and strictly middle school charters, and compare and contrast them to IPS schools with similar demographics.

For reading all that data, here’s a .gif.  (Hitting ESC makes it stop!)

 

 

 

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[E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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