Indiana’s Ball State University has delivered on its pledge to end contracts with the worst-performing charter schools in its portfolio, and its action will strengthen the charter movement overall.
For it was Ball State’s charters that erased many of the learning gains Indiana charters made in the past five years, according to Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Statewide, charter students gained what amounted to an additional month and a half of learning on their district school peers, and CREDO’s Macke Raymond concluded that such strong gains would have been even better were it not for Ball State–authorized schools. “They’re not helping,” Raymond told the Indianapolis Star. “The responsibility is pretty clearly on the authorizer.”
Credit ought to go to Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools for recognizing the problem. Bob Marra, the office’s executive director, has visibly grown frustrated with the performance of the schools the university has authorized. And this week, he and his team opted to end contracts with seven of their schools and offer contract extensions of just three years to seven others, provided they meet certain performance conditions. Two other charters withdrew their own requests for renewals.
All of these schools should have seen this coming. Not only has Ball State worked with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers during the past eighteen months to create a new accountability system for all of its charters, the university has repeatedly told its most troubled schools that they had been falling well below standards.
With the spotlight shining on an otherwise good showing for charters in the Hoosier State, Ball State made the right decision, and the university showed in a high-profile way how strong authorizers remain critical to charter school quality. Here’s hoping other states heed that lesson.