Ball State Pulls Authorization from 7 Indiana Charter Schools

Indiana’s Ball State University is pulling its sponsorship of seven chronically performing charter schools, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The decision was reached after an extensive review of the schools’ academic and financial performance conducted when the charters applied for contract renewals with the university.

It is expected that this move by Ball State will result in the closure of the seven schools and an additional two others who pulled their applications for renewal before a verdict could be reached on them. The university sponsorship of the nine schools in question expires on June 30th.

Bob Marra, the executive director of the university’s Office of Charter Schools said that 3,900 students who are currently enrolled in the schools will have an option to transfer to another charter or to enroll in a traditional public or private school. He said that those who were surprised by the decision either weren’t paying attention or were willfully blind to the schools’ shortcomings. They had made insufficient progress in the time they operated which is reason enough to pull the authorization, Marra explained in a statement.

Officials with Kenneth A. Christmon STEMM Leadership Academy in Richmond and Charter School of the Dunes in Gary said they plan to appeal Ball State’s decisions.

Kenneth A. Christmon STEMM Leadership Academy received good reviews each of the previous five years before receiving a failing grade last year, chief academic officer Kevin Handley said. He blamed that on the state changing the method of assessing schools.

Marra said the decisions weren’t based on one school year.

Ball State sponsors 42 schools in Indiana, with 20 of them were up for a review this year. The rest received renewals, though some got a 3-year extension on their contract rather than the traditional 5.

This isn’t the first time that the university parted ways with a charter it oversees. In 2004 it pulled the authorization of Urban Brightest in Fort Wayne.

Ball State has been sponsoring charter schools since 2002 when first authorized to do so by state lawmakers. This year the first body not affiliated with a university will get similar powers. The Indiana Charter School Board will begin authorizing its own charters in Indiana in the near future.

The Indianapolis Star reported last month that a charter school sponsor trade group, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said in a recent report that Ball State had not done an adequate job of overseeing the charter schools it sponsors.

Marra said his office’s most recent review has opened a new phase of its scrutiny of its Indiana charter schools. He said the university would review the 22 other charter schools it sponsors when their contracts come up for review.

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