Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ida Wells Community School Gets Another Reprieve.

To my utter and complete lack of surprise, Ida Wells Community School has been given more time to get it's financial house in order. If you haven't been following the story, the Akron charter school has been living on borrowed time -- at increasingly attractive interest rates, apparently.

First, the school's original sponsor, Lucas County Education wanted to close it down. In response it changed sponsors to Richland Academy for the Arts. Then Richland started looking at the books and making noises about shutting them down.

The latest turn is reported in today's Beacon Journal. The school has another thirty days to clear up problems or Richland will -- Really this time!! -- pull its charter.

Complain to a charter schools honk about school accountability and you hear the following:

Hey, charter schools have to meet all the same requirements as regular schools and they can get shut down if they don't suceed and regular schools never are and by the way the free market is the best way to regulate anything.

Go ahead and ask one, you'll see. It's like they are reading it off of a card.

Look into how charter school accountability actually functions, the picture is not as bright and sunny as proponents claim. Ida Wells Community School is an example. An ABJ article from a couple weeks ago gives a good thumbnail history of the problems -- financial irregularity, gallons of red ink and bad test scores.

Ah, the test scores. While the record of Ida Wells is currently in Continuous Improvement, with two indicators met over 2005-06(one being indicator attendance) and a Perfomanc Index of 70.7. The second indicator met was Sixth Grade reading on which they scored a perfect hundred despite doing no better than 54 in any other grade level, and despite a 50 on the previous year's fifth grade reading indicator.

But with all that, it's not academics that have Ida Wells in trouble. Contrast Ida Wells' scores with those of another Richland Academy school, Lighthouse Academy which is in Academic Emergency with no indicators met and a Performance Index of 60.1. Richland hasn't even hinted that it's looking at closing Lighthouse.

Supposedly the new charter accountability law passed last session by the One-Winged Psycho-Demon Duckbeasts from Hell tightens all this up. Supposedly a school that fails to get out of Emergency or Watch for three years running will be shut down. But it's the sponsors who exercise what passes for accountability over the schools. Based on the experience so far, there is little reason to be optimistic.

And the market? I think Jean Schmidt has the best answer for that: If we are giving people money out of a sense of the societal good, society has the right and the responsibility to make sure that the money is being spent wisely.

Oh wait. She wasn't talking about charter schools, she was talking about food stamps. Choice is such a fickle thing.


Anonymous said...

I wish we were closer in distance, I've been trying to learn more about the charter school aspect and you know so much more than I do. I have heard the:

Hey, charter schools have to meet all the same requirements as regular schools and they can get shut down if they don't suceed and regular schools never are....

Especially in talking to some of the Urban Coalition members here in town since many of them keep telling me that the charter schools to their way of thinking are more accountable which I have a hard time seeing how that's possible, but I did learn quite a bit from listening to Steve Steel talk about similar stats as you are in comparing charter school's score cards and public school ones.

I suppose I should give my own county's Lucas County Educational Services Board some kudos for trying to revoke the charter but it sounds like the school was having problems for quite some time before they finally did something. Being able to just switch sponsors doesn't seem to be a real solution...