Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Five Indiana schools face charter conversions

During a lengthy meeting Monday, the State Board of Education voted to assign turnaround operators to run one Gary high school (Roosevelt), one Indianapolis middle school and three Indianapolis high schools (Arlington, Howe and Manual). Indianapolis Washington and Broad Ripple (a magnet school) will be assigned to improvement specialists, leaving them under IPS control but subject to takeover if they don't improve. The IDE pointed out that the schools that were taken over refused to sign a memorandum of agreement for restructuring with the IDE last year. In other words they were uncooperative. Although no one said why during the meeting, it's probably because the Indianapolis teachers union wouldn't go along.

FW South Side and North Side undoubtedly would have faced the same fate if they had refused to restructure and raise their passing rates. But Wendy and FWEA (kicking and screaming) wisely went along. IPS superintendent Eugene White said Howe and Arlington were graded unfairly because they have combined with middle schools, whose scores were figured in with the high schools. He's threatened to sue the IDE, which makes it look like it's all about control instead of the kids.

At least Tony Bennett has shown that he's serious. Being willing to take over failing schools will keep some pressure on the ones that escaped takeovers. But as he said in a press conference, being able to escape for another five years by making "minuscule" improvement one year is not acceptable. PL 221 needs to be tightened to avoid backsliding. At the same time he should look at his rating system. When almost half the schools in the state get a grade of "A", he's made that meaningless.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No injunction against vouchers

A Marion county judge refused to issue an in junction to stop Indiana's new voucher program from going into effect this fall, saying the ISTA's case against vouchers didn't have enough merit to succeed. That meas that at least this year about 2800 students will be attending private schools with taxpayer funded scholarships. After that anything can happen in the legal system through further trials and appeals. Different judges can have different opinions. But this judge said the law was written for the benefit of students, not religious schools. He also said state scholarships to private universities would be at risk if they were unconstitutional in K-12. Next thing you know, professors at state universities will unionize to stop private college scholarships.

So far, the 2800 students who will receive scholarships this year seem like a small impact. We'll just have to wait and see how this develops as the legal challenges play out and parents become more knowledgeable on their options. But at least they have an additional option for the time being.