Ball State University this year continued a recent trend of tougher expectations for the charter schools it sponsors, and for those seeking to open new schools.
Of five proposals for new schools, just one was approved last week. Mays Community Academy in the rural Rushville school district will aim to replace a closed public school elementary with a charter school.
Even that school is an example of Ball State’s more measured approach to opening new charter schools, said Bob Marra, who heads Ball State’s charter school office.
“We gave them approval for three years instead of the usual five,” he said. “For that school, the sustainability is all about the finances and whether they get the enrollment they need. That way we’ll know if they will be successful.”
Of six schools Ball State already sponsors that sought renewals this year, just two got full, five-year renewals: Discovery Charter School in Porter and Rock Creek Academy in Sellersburg. Both are rated as A schools by the state, based primarily on test scores.
Two Indianapolis-based schools — Fall Creek Academy and University Heights Preparatory Academy — closed after they were not renewed. Hammond Academy for Science and Technology was not renewed, but Marra said the school is seeking a new sponsor.
Finally, Thea Bowman Academy in Gary, which fell from an A grade in 2010 to a D the last two years, was given a one-year extension.
Ball State faced criticism in 2012 for sponsoring schools with long records of low performance. Its charter school office overhauled its review process, telling its schools to expect tougher evaluations. The past two years, the university has not renewed 11 schools, five of which closed. The others merged, found new sponsors or reopened as private schools.
Marra said the schools Ball State sponsors, and charter school observers, have gotten the message that the university has raised its expectations.
“We’re trying to hold standards and do the best we can,” he said. “It’s about where we’ve been and what we know.”
The five new charter schools that did not get the green light to open included:
- CORE Academy in Northwest Indiana got a one-year extension to be considered again next year.
- Hammond Lighthouse charter school got a one-year extension to be considered again next year. The school might instead locate in East Chicago.
- New Leaf Career Tech Academy in Gary withdrew its proposal.
- York Academy in Clarksville was not approved.
- Northwest Indiana STEM school was not approved when it applied earlier this year. Instead it applied to the Indiana State Charter School Board and also was not approved there.