Additional Thoughts on Charter Schools from Rep. Steve Davisson
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an editorial on the charter school bill explaining why I chose to vote in favor of the bill and the benefits that charter schools can provide to students and their families. After it appeared in the Salem Leader, I received a lot of feedback from teachers regarding my support for charter schools. I appreciate your concern with this matter and there were some legitimate points made in regards to charter schools.
First, I want to emphasize that there are many traditional public schools that are performing exceptionally well and teachers, principals, and superintendants deserve credit for being successful in the classroom. Especially those who spend countless hours with their students making sure they receive an excellent education. I would never support any measure that would attempt to replace traditional public schools. I am a firm believer that public schools have adequately prepared many Hoosier students who graduate from them every year. My endorsement for charter schools is rooted in the belief that all families and students should have the option to attend a charter school if their child's needs are not being met at their current school.
Charter schools first opened in 2002. Currently, there are sixty public charter schools throughout Indiana. In the past, charter schools were not held accountable to the standards of public schools, but that will all change with House Bill 1002. They will be held to higher accountability standards than those of public schools. If this bill is signed into law charter schools will be required to take all mandated state tests, require all teachers to be fully licensed, have open enrollment with a blind draw if necessary, teachers will have collective bargaining rights, and bus transportation provided within school district lines.
In saying this, the statistics that demonstrate that charter school students perform poorly on the ISTEP and other measurement tests can be disputed due to the fact that the only available data for charter schools is only provided in their first year of operation. The majority of the students are enrolled in their first year frequently have lower scores than those of public school students. In fact according to the "A Comparison of Academic Growth between Indiana Charter Schools and Traditional Public Schools" study available online, only 36% of charter school enrollees pass both sections of the ISTEP, in contrast to the 52% of traditional public school students. Knowing this, it is obvious why the scores for charter school students are lower than those of public school students.
The primary point behind charter schools is that they serve those students who traditionally underperform in traditional public schools. A great example of this is the Hope Academy in Indianapolis that is designed for students who have a history of drug and alcohol addictions. The curriculum is specifically designed to help these students complete their education, stay clean, and become productive members of society. There are several success stories demonstrating how charter schools have improved student's lives. For instance, many of you may have heard about the success that Chicago charter school Urban Prep achieved a couple of weeks ago. For the past two years, Urban Prep has been able to achieve a 100% admittance rate into four-year colleges and universities for all of its 104 high school seniors. Many of the students that enroll in the school arrive with reading and math skills that are below their grade level. The school has effectively managed to bring their students up to par on essential skills they need in order to thrive.
Let it be known that the charter school option is the not end-all-be-all solution for improving education in Indiana. In fact we have a lot of work to do, but this is the first step in right direction. It is not enough that certain students be given access to tools that will help them succeed; we should make educational opportunities available to all. Having the charter school option in Indiana does that. Please know that I will always fully represent the schools in my district and get the best possible deal for them.