IBJNews

Online schools face scrutiny over scores, growth

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Leaders of Indiana's two largest online charter schools say low student test scores don't tell the whole picture of how the schools are performing.

Hoosier Academies and Indiana Connections Academy are both sponsored by Ball State University. Neither school came close to the state average for ISTEP+ scores last year. Ball State has ordered Hoosier Academies to submit a corrective action plan after it received an "F'' on the state's A-F grading scale two years in a row.

Teran Armstrong, head of school for Hoosier Academies, said rapid growth and a lack of best practices in the new world of virtual education have contributed to the school's challenges.

"We went from 500 students to 1,800 students to this year, we had 4,000," Armstrong told the South Bend Tribune.

"We're learning how to best serve the type of students we serve. I tell our teachers we are expected to perform on par with brick and mortars that have been there for a century and have a mascot and football games."

So far, that hasn't happened.

The South Bend Tribune reports just 57 percent of the school's students passed both parts of the ISTEP+ exam in 2011 and 48 percent did so in 2012. The statewide average is about 70 percent for those years.

"I'm not concerned," Armstrong said of the scores. "You're looking at a combination of achievement from students who come in very far behind in credits to students pursuing other interests and are trying to complete their schooling, like pre-Olympic gymnasts."

But Ball State officials are concerned.

Bob Marra, executive director of Ball State's Office of Charter Schools, said Hoosier Academies is not meeting the academic performance standards the charter authorizer expects and assesses each year.

"They'll have to start looking at where the issues are and submit a corrective action plan," Marra said.

Indiana Connections Academy had better test scores but still faces challenges.

Sixty-two percent of its students passed both parts of ISTEP+ in 2011 and 59 percent did so in 2012. But the school received a letter grade from the state of B in 2011 and a D in 2012.

"Obviously, they're going in the wrong direction," Marra said.

Principal Melissa Brown said she is disappointed by the school's performance but said many factors beyond test scores need to be considered.

"The types of students we are serving are struggling. That's why they come to us. It's going to take us a few years to turn the tide there," she said. "I'm confident we've put the strategies in place to help our students grow.

"We've saved lives already, and students are learning who wouldn't have in a traditional setting."

What the future holds for the virtual schools, and others that might follow, isn't clear. Researchers at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder issued a report in May that likens the policy-making surrounding virtual public schools to the Wild West.

"There are outsized claims, intense conflicts, lots of taxpayer money at stake and very little solid evidence to justify the rapid expansion of virtual education," the NEPC report says.

Western Michigan University professor Gary Miron, one of the study's authors, said virtual schools are "two to three years ahead of the legislators." He said many states haven't crafted laws governing issues specific to virtual schools, such as tracking how much time students spend learning.

Armstrong, from Hoosier Academies, says the school cares about its students.

"I will be the first to state that virtual education, at this point, is not for everybody," she said. "It's a choice. ... We're here to serve the niche of families who feel they need this option."

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

ADVERTISEMENT