In Indiana, district school test scores out-gained charters and private schools


by David Safier

Yeah, I know, Indiana is a long way from Tucson, but the conservative "education reform" juggernaut, like "Money" in Oliver Stone's Wall Street, "never sleeps," so any news that contradicts its constant myth making is worth reporting on.

Indiana's database on state school grades and test-score gains is out, and it looks like school district schools out-gained both charter and private schools that take kids with vouchers.

To be sure, there are charter schools and private schools with strong growth scores. In fact the scores are all over the map for charter schools, private schools and public schools. And among public schools, there’s no clear pattern to which schools do well and which don’t. . . . But the overall trend is clear: Schools that are part of public school districts do better.

If you've read my posts over the years, you know I don't like the national Imagine Schools chain, which has a dozen-plus schools in Arizona. The founder is a multi-millionaire who made his money on an Enron-like energy scheme, and he thinks growth is more important than quality. The four Indiana Imagine schools earned two Ds and two Fs from the state. One of the D scores is actually an improvement, since the school had an F in 2012.

And Indiana's KIPP school got a C. We don't have KIPP here in Arizona, but the chain of schools has one of the best national charter school reputations for helping low income, often minority students achieve at high levels. The reputation is in question for a number of reasons, but if anyone has the high-test-scores-for-poor-kids thing figured out, it's KIPP. So a C state grade is something of an embarrassment, since regular district schools in poor areas that take all comers — unlike KIPP which selects out those who don't succeed — get C's as well. The KIPP magic, one of the favorite talking points of the "education reform" crowd, doesn't look so magical in Indiana.


  1. Well, there you have it. On average, the average student attending the typical district school in Indiana, would have shown greater academic gains than if they had attended the **average** charter or private school. But, they aren’t restricted to the “average” school, some of them are within reach of those 13 charter schools who outperformed the average.

    That choice and the gowth measure will be increasingly important over time, as well as other measures. We are just starting to emerge into a true competitive marketplace in education.

    Map growth scores instead of letter grades and your demographics will disappear. Them, its a question of who can perfect a system of schools which gets to the 80th percentile first. Poverty effects disappear when a child attends an 80th percentile school for 13 years. BASIS is at the 62nd percentile of growth. As your article notes, by defintion, the typical public school is at the 50th percentile of growth.

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