Jun 25, 2013

Manipulation of public perception of IPS and Turn Around schools

It is no secret that I am a critic of IPS and very skeptical about school takeovers, so this article by the IndyStar really caught my attention. I had no intention of commenting on it since I do not really know any details about the issues concerning this specific school until I read another story on State Impact: Indiana.
I've put in bold what I want you to pay close attention to.

What Arlington got right: Why can’t IPS do this?

June 24th, 2013 | by Scott Elliott
My story today wrapped up the year I spent hanging around Arlington High School as it transitioned from an IPS-run school to a school in state takeover run by a charter school organization, EdPower. The story puts a big emphasis on EdPower’s organization and planning. That was the key in avoiding some of the problems that occurred at Arlington in the past, and which are known to plague other IPS schools, such as scheduling and security issues.
There was a big question on my mind as I contrasted what I saw at Arlington on the first day of school under EdPower to what I saw the first day a year before — why can’t IPS do what EdPower did? Why can’t IPS anticipate problems in the same way and have solutions ready when they occur?
The answer is there’s no reason why it can’t.
All it takes is advanced planning and a problem-solving approach. At least at Arlington, that was missing under IPS. Everything that went wrong that first day in 2011— schedule mishaps, rowdy kids and other potential distractions from learning — was anticipated by EdPower, which had a plan to react when it did.
These problems are universal at schools but most manage to get a handle on them. For whatever reason, IPS sometimes — not always — struggles with the basics in this area. It strikes me as primarily a management problem and one that can be fixed.

Now take a look at a few snippets from this article:

Without Federal Grant Money, Turnaround Operator Could Pull Out Of Arlington

JUNE 24, 2013 | 12:35 PM
The CEO of the Indianapolis-based company now running Arlington High School says without federal money earmarked for school improvement, EdPower might not be able to continue its work at the state takeover school.
EdPower took over a struggling Arlington High School last summer from Indianapolis Public Schools. But many of the students who attended Arlington in 2011-12 opted to remain in the district, partially because of an aggressive IPS attendance campaign.
The school opened in August with around 500 students, down from a peak of 1,200 the year before. Enrollment had dropped to 421 by the end of the school year.
Still, Robinson says EdPower is on track to turn the school around by 2016, the deadline set two years ago ago when the state intervened for low test scores. But Robinson told the board without adequate funding, his group won’t be able to get the job done.
The three companies started last school year flush with cash, but flagging enrollment has already lowered the amount of money EdPower and other turnaround operators have to run the state takeover schools. Then a judge ruled the turnaround operators couldn't be paid for students who attended the schools in 2011-12 and have since left for other schools in Indianapolis and Gary.
That’s why EdPower needs federal SIG money to run Arlington. Robinson says the school employs mostly young, inexperienced teachers who will need professional development to successfully change the school’s culture.
Tony Walker, who represents Gary on the State Board, urged fellow board members not to think of funding as money flowing to EdPower or the other companies running the state takeover schools, but as providing the resources the schools need to succeed.
The State Board voted unanimously Monday to keep funding for the five turnaround schools from falling below the 2012-13 level, but it’s unclear where additional money might come from if not increasing enrollment. In Indiana, funding follows the student, meaning tuition support from the state is calculated after a count each September.

There are a few serious issues here that can be easily overlooked by most readers.
  1. Scott Elliot, and the State Board, would have you believe that IPS and EdPower are on the same playing field.  The reality is that EdPower had 700 less students than did IPS when running Arlington.  
    1. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the take over of a school. The number of students drop dramatically for a variety of reasons and then the policy makers and press exclaim success all the while pointing a disapproving finger at IPS. 
    2. The fact that there is no mention of what happened to the other 79 students makes me wonder how it relates to the school's perceived success.  That is almost 16% of the original student body.
  2. EdPower has been promised the same money for next year despite whatever the enrollment might be. All the while, IPS will continue with the state's funding method based off student numbers in September. 
    1. Do not all schools need to nurture their new teachers with adequate professional development? Isn't EdPower being given equivalent tools as other schools to build and develop an effective faculty? Then why do they need more, while they work with fewer students? 
  3. One of the biggest issues urban students face is the lack of consistency. 
    1. If EdPower leaves, then those children will be faced with change once again. When you are an adolescent living in poverty, lacking even the most basic of needs, the demoralizing caused by such changes will only exacerbate the negative culture that exists in our urban youth. 
When I read things like this it really makes me question who really puts the needs of all students first.

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