Indiana Board of Education OKs takeovers of 5 schools

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Private companies will take over five public schools in Gary and Indianapolis that a state official called in "various stages of dire situations" after the State Board of Education made the recommendation Monday because of poor classroom performance.

The board endorsed the Indiana Department of Education's recommendations that New York-based Edison Learning Inc. take over Gary Roosevelt High School; that Indianapolis-based charter school operator EdPower take over Indianapolis Arlington High School; and that Florida-based Charter Schools USA become the "turnaround school operator" of three other Indianapolis schools, Howe and Manual high schools and Donnan Middle School.

The companies will spend the academic year assessing and evaluating the schools and developing a plan of action before taking full control next school year.

"All of the schools are in various stages of dire situations. The situation at Roosevelt is particularly stark," said Dale Chu, assistant state school superintendent for innovation and improvement.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White said his schools have made "substantial progress" and that the evaluations of Arlington and Howe high schools weren't fair because they included test scores of seventh- and eighth-graders who also attend those schools. The IPS board voted last week to sue the Department of Education over the evaluations that made the schools vulnerable to takeover under a 1999 school accountability law.

Chu said Gary Roosevelt, with about 1,300 students in seventh through 12th grades, regressed in some areas between state visits in 2009 and 2010. He said many students felt unsafe and less than 40 percent of students graduate. He described the principal's role as like that of a "firefighter" constantly turning from one burning problem to another.

Edison operates several charter schools in Chicago, including one that ranked fifth among non-selective Chicago public high schools in college enrollment, so it has regional infrastructure that should help Roosevelt, Chu said.

Michael Malone, Edison's regional vice president for business development, said the company might bring in former NBA star Magic Johnson, with whom it has an association, for a community meeting with Roosevelt grad Glenn Robinson, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball who went on to star at Purdue and in the NBA.

A message seeking comment was left with the staff of Gary Community School Corp. Superintendent Myrtle Campbell.

State school Turnaround Director James Larson said DOE staff visiting Arlington High found classrooms with no discipline, students resting their heads on desks and no academic questioning of students by teachers.

"We saw very little learning taking place, in classroom after classroom," Larson said.

However, IPS' White said "we strongly object" to the takeovers of Arlington and Howe because if they were evaluated on students only in grades nine to 12, instead of with grades seven and eight, the data would show them succeeding.

"If Arlington and Howe were stand-alone high schools, both schools would receive a 'C' grade and would be allowed to continue with educational programs that are obviously working," White told the board before it voted on the recommended takeovers. Afterward, he said, "There's no reason to be happy."

EdPower, the company recommended to take over Arlington, operates the nearby charter Tindley Accelerated School that has a strong academic record with high expectations for its students. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited the school in April.

Charter Schools USA, selected to take over three other IPS schools, has succeeded in getting parents involved in their children's schools, said Richard Page, the company's vice president for development and

Some board members noted some of Manual's staff members have been profiled favorably in a series of stories by The Indianapolis Star. Member Vicki Snyder of Evansville suggested the staff deserved more time to turn around the school's performance.

"What's to stop Charter Schools USA from going in and cleaning house?" Snyder asked.

Page said at three charter schools his company has taken over, some — but not most — staff remained on the faculty afterward.

"We will go through a very rigorous evaluation of the staff," Page told the board.

Indiana school Superintendent Tony Bennett said the state might make some missteps in taking over schools, but those targeted for the action already were in trouble.

"To believe we won't hit obstacles, that's wrong," Bennett said.

The board also adopted the DOE recommendations that two other Indianapolis high schools, Washington and Broad Ripple, receive private partners for targeted improvements.


  • Remove disruptive students
    I attended Arlington in the '70's and received an excellent education because our school did not tolerate foolishness among students. Today, I work with a volunteer group at Arlington and have come to meet many outstanding students. In my view, we must focus on students who want to learn. We must separate out those who are disruptive, disrespectful, and uncooperative. It is unfortunate that allow distractions to learning at AHS and other schools. I say give the charter operator all those disruptive students.
  • Charter schools do not fix anything
    I was trying to make the following points to support the thesis that
    hiring charter school operators to take over failing public schools is a
    bad idea.

    Charter school teachers are less experienced. 75% of the charter school teachers
    have less than five years experience, compared to 25% of the public school
    teachers. This is unlikely to change since charter operators are trying
    to keep their costs down and hiring less experienced teachers is an
    effective method (average charter salary is about 40,000 verses 54,000
    public, about 26% cheaper per Indiana DOE site teacher salary data). Expecting less experienced teachers to accomplish more is foolish.

    The staff turnover rate at charter schools means that there is no continuity from year to year. About 45% of charter school
    teachers leave each year compared to about 8% of the public school
    teachers (per an Ohio study of school staff retention rates). I actually
    know of one Indianapolis charter school that fired (or failed to renew)
    70% of the teaching staff this last year. When half of the teaching
    staff is new each year, there is virtually no way for a teacher to
    understand and work with each individual student.

    When trying to fix IPS (a very large school district), the state should
    consider ways of leveraging other successful school corporations of
    similar size/complexity rather than selecting charter operators who lack
    the experience. This should not be seen as a racial issue, rather it should be an
    attempt at finding a way of leveraging another district's success.

    And yes, I am very pessimistic about fixing IPS easily. IPS continues to
    have problems with the number of dropouts (about 30%), the low passing
    rates on achievement tests (about 30%), and the low number of students
    going on to either college or a trade school. The IPS problems are a
    result of the overall school system, and not just a problem that only
    occurs at the specified three high schools and one middle school being
    taken over by the state. Hiring a charter operator (such as EdPower or
    Charter Schools USA) that lacks experience in running schools of this
    size, and without fixing the IPS elementary/middle schools, will likely
    fail. (again, these numbers come for the Indiana DOE website)

    There is a great deal of politics with this issue with various groups
    having different agendas. One group sees unionized teachers as the enemy,
    another group sees the situation as a profit making opportunity, another
    group (or groups) sees this as a chance to pander to the voters. The right thing to do is to focus on increasing student achievement, rather than whacking at teacher's salaries or giving tax dollars to politicians' buddies.

    If it were up to me, in order to improve IPS, I'd look for a school administrator who would start
    with improving the elementary schools, who has some sort of multi-year
    plan to improve reading, writing and arithmetic scores in order to build a
    strong initial core. The school administrators should also have a plan to
    work with each student to build a strong set of study habits through
    instruction and practice. In the middle/high schools, I'd expect the
    administration to focus on providing a non-disruptive learning environment
    trusting the teachers to actually teach, identifying those teachers who
    maintain order and those whose classrooms descend into chaos. When order
    is expected, you get better results. When a teacher lacks order, fire

    I am not in charge, but there are fools working for the Indiana DOE.
  • Charter Schools
    DING DING DING DING! We have a winner! How else to explain the large number of charters being handed government money without government babysitting? It's absolutely a way for politicians to reward their friends.
  • Seems high
    Starting salaries are just over 30k I believe. Do they really pay people 15k to teach overcrowded rooms or is this how they solve that issue. I also don't see how they can retain employees with teaching degrees when they get paid the same as a fast food worker. After a quick Google search the average asst manager at McDonald makes 29k. I am only pointing out that 30% to 50% seems high.
  • Yes, throw MORE money
    You talk like a flaming liberal. Throw MORE money at a bad situation. Dr. White gets a raise but cuts teachers. He has been there 6 years and it is worse NOT better. The answer is to get people involved to get crime out, restore discipline and let the teachers teach. Just like the Dumbocrats, spend more, THAT will work...NOT!!
  • Baloney
    You have no idea what you're talking about.

    1) "The results will show that IPS was not doing such a terrible job" - Arlington has been horrible for 40 years - how long ya gonna wait ?

    2) "he charter school operators pay their teachers at 30% to 50% less " - in other words, they pay what a teacher is worth on the open market, without the unions in control.

    3) "maybe have the successful school districts like Carmel or Westfield take a crack at running these schools" - You're saying black people can't learn, so bring in an all white administration from a segregated part of town ?
  • Not government for the people
    Turning these schools over to the charter operators will accomplish two things. The results will show that IPS was not doing such a terrible job and it will make the charter school owners a nice profit.

    The charter school operators pay their teachers at 30% to 50% less than a regular public school and somehow there is an expectation that these underpaid teachers will produce a better result.

    The state needs to come up with a viable method for turning around public schools, maybe have the successful school districts like Carmel or Westfield take a crack at running these schools. The Indiana state legislators and governor should recognize that they are collectively responsible for running effective schools and not just try to hire a scapegoat to be blamed in another few years.
    • Totally Agree
      Even Better! How about we take away the food stamps and housing when they can't pass a DRUG TEST! If they want a handout, then they need to live by a certain standard of rules to take my money! I'm sick and tired of the government punishing the working class, and rewarding the taking class! We didn't need this much government in our lives, and it's pathetic that everyone I see at the grocery store whips out a hoosier credit card "food stamps". There should also be a penalty for those that have more kids while taking my tax dollars! Bottom line is that the more people expect government (taxpayers) to hand them something for nothing, the worse the problem gets with people expecting/demanding government to support them and their reproductive system! It's ridiculous! If you can't afford the kids you have, why should they be entitled to more "benefits" for producing more?
    • Re:Biz Owner
      You say to take the govenrment out of education and put it in the parents hands, the problem is that there are no parents involved. If there were, the kids would not be in the situations that they are in now. They would be passing the ISTEP, look into the data, it shows that when parents are involved with thier childs education they perform at a higher level. Maybe if the government made it so that a parents food stamps were tied to thier childs ISTEP scores... hmm, there is a thought. I bet that they might get involved then.
      • 'Bout Time!!
        Time to get unions out of Public Schools, and let Private Business do the job better with less money! The public schools are getting worse, and spending more! Throwing more money at it is not going to fix anything. Nothing says that public schools must be operated by the government, so why do some people have a mindset that only the government should be teaching our kids? It's pretty scary stuff, and it's time to take the role of education out of their hands and into the parents.
      • wrong to privatize schools
        this is just a way of corrupt goverment officials to chanell funds to their buddies . The schools should remain with Ips , class sizes decreased to 15 per class and more funding given to the schools . thats the best thing to do .
        Privatization of our schools is simply fraudulent , thats not the solution to our problems . People are just gonna make money out it and the problems wiull remain the same . do not privatize these schools , from what God is telling me , more funding and smaller class sizes
        • school takeover
          Why are we paying for outof state companies, to run our schools? We have qualified, accredited teachers, college grads, here in our state. The governor has outsourced our roads, utilities and now our schools, its time we outsourced him. mike alte

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