Indiana has been in the charter-schools biz for a decade, so this is a good time to step back and assess what we’ve learned and where we go next. That’s the thinking behind a policy chat Thursday in Indianapolis, sponsored by the Center on Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University.
The public event, at 6 p.m. at the Indianapolis Convention Center, brings together charter-school operators, authorizers and advocates with researchers who have studied charter schools. It’s co-sponsored by the Education Policy Student Association at IU.
Panelists include former Sen. Teresa Lubbers, author of the state’s 2001 charter-schools legislation; Russ Simnick of the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association; Gretchen Gutman of Ball State University, which authorizes many of the charter schools in Indiana; and Kevin Teasley of the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation, a charter-school operator backed by Indianapolis corporate heavyweights.
Also on hand: Notre Dame sociologist Mark Berends, who directs the federally funded National Center on School Choice and the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity; and Jonathan Plucker, director of CEEP at IU, who will moderate.
Given the otherwise pro-charter make-up of the panel, maybe the academics can keep things grounded. Plucker has been skeptical about some claims of charter-school success, and Berends’ studies have produced complex and sometimes confounding conclusions about charter schools and other types of school choice – e.g., see Jay Mathews’ Washington Post column on the book School Choice and School Improvement, which Berends co-edited.
Charter schools were supposed to find innovative ways to improve student achievement, freed from state regulations and burdensome teacher contracts. But after 10 years, their overall performance has been little different from that of other public schools. And when charter schools have made impressive gains, their critics have suspected they’re cutting corners.
Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White on Monday accused charter schools of “dumping” homeless children and students with disabilities – pushing them back to IPS after the charters have claimed the students for state funding purposes. Spokespersons for the charter schools denied the allegations.