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Indianapolis ranks eighth nationally for charter schools

Christel House Academy plans to open a second charter elementary school next year at the site of the former Central State Hospital on the west side of Indianapolis. (Scott Elliott)
Christel House Academy plans to open a second charter elementary school next year at the site of the former Central State Hospital on the west side of Indianapolis. (Scott Elliott)
Scott Elliott

The percentage of public schools students who attend charter schools located within the boundaries of Indianapolis Public Schools grew to 28 percent last year, keeping the district ranked in the top 10 nationally.

IPS saw its charter school competition grow by about 1,000 students last year, up to 11,750. Charter Schools’ share of public school students within IPS saw a corresponding gain of about 3 percentage points. Charter schools are free public schools that are privately operated.

IPS ranked eighth for the size of its charter school market share, the same as last year, in an annual report by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. The city was tied with Dayton, Ohio, and Philadelphia.

But only four of the 16 districts ranked in the top 10 nationally (including ties) saw bigger gains in charter school market share than IPS.

Georgia’s Hall County schools, north of Atlanta, saw an 11-point gain, debuting in the top 10 at No. 6. Detroit’s gain was 10 points and Philadelphia’s was 5 points.

Gary, which ranks ahead of Indianapolis at fifth nationally with 35 percent of students attending charter schools, saw a four-point gain.

New Orleans, which saw its education system remade with mostly charter schools after Hurricane Katrina, is No. 1 in the nation with 79 percent of students attending charters. Detroit is second at 51 percent and Washington, D.C., is third at 43 percent.

Charter School growth in Indianapolis has been driven by several factors, including a push by Mayor Greg Ballard to sponsor more of them.

Ballard oversees 31 charter schools right now with six more expected to open in 2014-15. That’s up from 22 schools he oversaw in 2012. Last year he partnered with The Mind Trust, a local non-profit that advocates for school choice, to create a charter school incubator. The effort aims to encourage high performing Indianapolis charter schools to duplicate and to attract high performing national charter school management groups to start schools here.

Ballard has estimated the effort could seed more than 20 new charter schools over the next five years, which could vault Indianapolis up the annual rankings in the next few years.

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