Charter schools: the news from Indiana

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels continues to get national press for the education reforms that he is pushing.

A recent article in the Hechinger Report looks at charter schools in Indiana against the backdrop of Daniels’ effort to open more charters and create a voucher program to help parents move their kids to private schools.

Titled “National lessons from Indiana: With charter schools expanding, will public schools be left behind?,” it examines what’s happened in Indianapolis, where after expanding for 10 years, charter schools now enroll about 6 percent of students.

Charter schools were supposed to spur across-the-board improvement by forcing traditional public schools to get better in order to compete for students, writes Sarah Butrymowicz. But that doesn’t seem to have happened in Indianapolis Public Schools, where graduation rates “hover around 50 percent” and barely a third of schools made adequate yearly progress (AYP) last year under No Child Left Behind.

While IPS Superintendent Eugene White complains that the district is “bleeding students” – and resources — to the charters, Butrymowicz says there’s no way to link charters to either the successes or failures of IPS schools. “There are some indications, though, of where charters fall short,” she writes. “For instance, only six out of 15 met AYP in 2008-2009 – roughly the same percentage as in IPS.”

Taking on tenure

Daniels also shows up this week in a New York Times article under the headline “G.O.P. Governors Take on Teacher Tenure.” He gets only a few lines, though, in an article that also features governors of Florida, Idaho, Nevada and New Jersey.

“Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana has said that ‘teachers should have tenure,’ but the bills introduced by his fellow Republicans call for teachers’ traditional protections to be sharply reduced,” the Times says.

What Daniels actually said, in his Jan. 11 State of the State address, was: “Teachers should have tenure, but they should earn it by proving their ability to help kids learn.” And earn it again and again. Under proposed legislation, teachers will be evaluated annually based on “student growth” and other factors. Teachers who aren’t consistently ranked “effective” or “highly effective” can be fired.

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