Future of Schools

Walton grant aims to double the number of vouchers nationally

The Walton Family Foundation will give $6 million to the Alliance for School Choice, a group that advocates and lobbies for school voucher programs in states around the country, including Indiana, the foundation announced Tuesday.

The goal of the investment is to double the number of students who use vouchers to attend private schools. The Alliance for School Choice says that approximately 300,000 students, including more than 20,000 Hoosiers, currently use vouchers to attend private schools.

The Walton Family Foundation, which was created by the family of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, has invested in other education-related programs in indiana and nationwide. The Washington Post reports that this donation will double the resources of the Alliance for School Choice. (The Walton Family Foundation is a funder Chalkbeat.)

Voucher programs have been hotly debated in Indiana and elsewhere. Supporters of vouchers say the program offers a choice to parents of students who are not happy with their child’s public school. Critics question the effectiveness of voucher programs and say they drain resources from regular public schools. Some also question the use of publicly-funded vouchers in religiously-affiliated private schools schools.

Most research on vouchers has not indicated that students’ academic performance improves after receiving a voucher. In Indiana, where the state’s 2011 voucher law made more children eligible than in most states, the program has seen rapid growth. The state now ranks second largest after Wisconsin.


Colorado’s biggest universities were left off a report on which high schools set up their graduates for college success

PHOTO: Seth McConnell, The Denver Post

A Plus Colorado, an advocacy group that uses research to push for higher student achievement, has withdrawn a report that cast a dim light on the college prospects of most Colorado high school graduates. The report was based on flawed data from the Colorado Department of Higher Education that excluded the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University, both well-regarded schools that are major destinations for students who stay in-state.

A Plus Colorado plans to reissue the report in a few months with correct data. Chalkbeat wrote a story based on the report, which we have removed because the new report may not support the premise of the original version.

That report had found that just 4 percent of Colorado high school graduates went on to enroll in one of the schools ranked among the nation’s top 150 universities and top 150 colleges as identified by U.S. News and World Report. The implication was that many high schools aren’t doing a great job at preparing their students for higher education.

The finding caught the eye of Superintendent Walt Cooper of Cheyenne Mountain School District in Colorado Springs because he knew his students had done much better than the report indicated. A Plus Colorado CEO Van Schoales credited Cooper for flagging the mistake.

In a statement posted to its website, A Plus Colorado apologized.

“A Plus Colorado deeply apologizes for the misinformation provided in our report and will reissue the report, A Seat at the Table: Colorado Students’ Access to Top Colleges, with the corrected matriculation data for all Colorado high schools and the 300 selective colleges and universities,” the statement said. “This is the first time that A Plus Colorado has had to reissue a report because of missing or inaccurate data. Accurate education data and analysis is the core value for A Plus Colorado.”

Beth Bean, the chief research and strategy officer for the Department of Higher Education, took responsibility for the mistake and said measures are being put in place to prevent this from happening again.

“We try to share data with external advocacy groups because the information they put out is good, and we don’t have the manpower,” she said. “Obviously we want it to be accurate.”

All sides of the education debate depend on data to make their case, and when there are mistakes in the numbers, there can be ripple effects. In 2016, Padres y Jovenes Unidos had to walk back a report that seemed to show a spike in out-of-school suspensions after years of declines. In that case, the school districts had reported bad information to the state.

Here’s what happened with A Seat at the Table, according to A Plus Colorado and Bean:

A Plus Colorado submitted a data request to the Colorado Department of Higher Education for matriculation data for a list of 300 colleges and universities for the classes of 2009 to 2015. Due to a data cross-walking error, the underlying data provided by the Colorado Department of Higher Education did not include data from the full list of these colleges and universities, including University of Colorado — Boulder and Colorado State University, leading to a significant discrepancy in the reported and actual matriculation data.

While A Plus Colorado validated the overall matriculation rate at each school, the data provided by the Colorado Department of Higher Education was aggregated across the requested list of colleges. As such, A Plus Colorado was unable to validate whether specific higher education institutions were missing from the data set. The Colorado Department of Higher Education has since improved their validation process for future data sharing and reporting.

Bean said validation processes are being developed for one-off data requests like those made by A Plus Colorado. Such measures have been in place for years for the reports the department generates for the state legislature, and Bean said this incident shouldn’t cause any doubt or question on the accuracy of reports on, for example, remedial education or concurrent enrollment.

“We stand behind having solid data,” she said. “We’ve been doing those for years, and the code has been validated. We’re now building that into our external data reports.”

Future of Schools

These 29 Indianapolis administrators could lose their jobs

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy

Indianapolis Public Schools has identified dozens of principals, deans and other administrators who could lose their jobs at the end of the year, many because of the decision to close high schools.

As the district pursues plans to close three of its seven high schools, the superintendent recommended that the board cancel the contracts of 29 administrators effective July 1.

The list of administrators includes two high school principals and several assistant principals and deans whose contracts could be canceled because of the high school closing plan. Several high school athletic directors could also have their contracts canceled because the district is changing the job description and requirements for those positions, according to IPS spokesperson Carrie Cline Black.

They were all invited to apply to other open positions in the district, but the district is canceling their contracts because state law requires districts to notify certain administrators by March 1 if their contracts will not be renewed, according to Black.

The recommendation, which is included in the district’s monthly personnel report, is not entirely surprising, since the district anticipated having fewer administrators once it consolidates campuses. But the district had not previously revealed which staff members could lose their positions.

This is just the latest sign of the upheaval caused by the high school closings. Hundreds of high school teachers were required to reapply for their jobs, and students were required to select new high school programs for next year.

Here is the full list of staffers the superintendent recommended canceling contracts for:

Arlington High School

  • Debra Barlowe, dean
  • Arthur Dumas, dean
  • David Tuttle, assistant principal
  • Debra Ward, assistant principal
  • Danny Wilson, athletic director

Arsenal Technical High School

  • Anne Deckard, dean
  • Sheldon Floyd, assistant principal
  • Steven Glenn, dean
  • Thomas Starnes, athletic director
  • Roslyn Stradford, assistant principal
  • Lisa Williams, dean

Broad Ripple High School

  • John Edge, assistant principal
  • Robert Moses, interim assistant principal
  • Rachel Norwood, magnet coordinator
  • Vickie Winslow, dean

Crispus Attucks High School

  • Kenneth Roseman, athletic director
  • Joshua Varno, athletic director

George Washington High School

  • Emily Butler, principal
  • Zachary Ervin, dean
  • Patrick Kennison, assistant principal
  • Charonda Woods, assistant principal

Northwest Community High School

  • Moshfilay Anderson, athletic director
  • Eileen Bell, assistant principal
  • Michelle Brittain-Watts, principal
  • Martha Lince, dean
  • Alan Smith, assistant principal
  • Albert Young, dean

Positive Supports Academy

  • Kevin Brown, dean

Shortridge High School

  • Kathy Langdon, athletic director