I am a big fan of charter schools. I like them because of the innovation they can bring to a classroom, because they give parents choices, they give teachers the freedom to teach and most importantly, when they don't work, they get closed down. Looking at the data at the Indianapolis Project School, I have a hard time seeing how this place is staying open.
To get you up to speed on this debate, the Project School, located at 22nd and College is a charter school that offers a "holistic" approach to education. According to its mission statement, "The vision of the Project School is to eliminate the predictive value of race, class, gender and special capacities on student success in our school and in our communities by working together with families and community to ensure each child's success." Noble goals, but unfortunately, while the spirit is willing, the flesh just might be too weak to do the job.
According to the latest round of ISTEP Test scores less than 29 percent of students passed both the English and Language Arts portion of the exam. Here is a breakdown by grade.
3rd Grade – 21.2 %.
4th Grade – 57.9 %
5th Grade – 29.2 %
6th Grade – 31.3 %.
7th Grade – 10.5 %.
8th Grade – 30%.
No one in their right mind could possibly think that 90% of a school's 7th graders failing English and math is a good thing.
I also wanted to check and make sure that the Project School just wasn't having a bad year and the poor test results weren't just a blip on the radar screen. So I went back and looked at ISTEP test results from previous years. Here's what I found.
2012 – 28.9% passed English & Math; 35.4% passed Math; 43.8 % passed English
2011 – 29.2% passed English & Math; 33.9% passed Math; 54.9% passed English
2010 – 21.1% passed English & Math; 26.7% passed Math; 46.7% passed English
2009 – 14.8% passed English & Math; 18% passed Math; 39.3% passed English
2008 – 29.8% passed English & Math; 38.8% passed Math; 40.3% passed English
And when you break the school down by racial demographics the results are even more tragic. While 72% of white students passed English and Math on ISTEP, only 16.3% of black students did. And while 72.4% of students not on free and reduced lunch passed the English and Math portion of ISTEP, only 13.5% of student on free and reduced lunch did. I also went and looked at past school years, the average pass rate at the Project School for Black students was 17% and for white students it was 49.3%. Free and reduced lunch students – 19.35%; and for non free and reduced lunch the pass rate was 40.25%.
I fully understand the Project School serves what I would likely label "difficult populations" but the fact over the past several years the test scores of black and poor students can barely crack the 20% mark tells me that something is not working and either the school needs to be shut down or new management needs to be brought in to run the place. Otherwise, the Project School may as well be an IPS School.