A study of Indianapolis schools released last week seeks to quantify the need for “high-performing seats” in the city – with high-performing defined as seats in schools that earn an A or B on Indiana’s grading system.
But the study, by the Illinois Facilities Fund, ends up providing more evidence of what we already knew: School grades correlate with school poverty, and there’s not much evidence A and B schools have cornered the market on successful educational practices.
The study, funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, was done in support of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s Neighborhoods of Educational Opportunity plan. Indy hoped to win $1 million from Michael Bloomberg’s Mayor’s Challenge, but fell short. IFF, which specializes in arranging loans and financing for charter schools (including 14 in Indiana), has done similar studies in Washington, D.C., and other cities, with similar results.
You know how reformers are always saying a child’s zip code shouldn’t dictate the quality of his or her education? IFF takes the idea literally. It identifies 11 “priority areas” – Indianapolis zip codes where, it says, there is a gap between school-age children and high-performing seats.
The study identifies 80 Indianapolis schools, including public, charter and private schools, that earned As or Bs from the state in both 2011 and 2012. In a “close analysis,” the authors find 17 that, they say, serve an above-average percentage of poor children.
“In light of the increase in low-income households in Indianapolis and the higher percent of children from low-income households in the Priority Areas, these local schools and districts are an important resource for improving schools across the city,” the study says.
But a close analysis should raise questions about whether these schools can serve as models:
// Lutheran High School, one of the schools, charges tuition of $8,700 for church members and $9,500 for non-members. IFF says 91 percent of its students qualify for free lunches, data that comes from the Indiana Department of Education. But head of school Michael Brandt said by email the figure is “not accurate.” Continue reading