Takeover Of Four Indiana Schools Faces Criticism, Lawsuit

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday, Indiana?s Board of Education is expected to rubber-stamp a contentious plan for the state to take over three high schools and one middle school in Indianapolis, paving the way for the Hoosier state?s first experience running local classrooms.

If the plan is approved, private managers would be put in charge of Manual, Arlington and Howe high schools as well as Emma Donnan Middle School. Two other high schools would receive help from consulting firms. Under Indiana law, the state can take over schools after their sixth year of academic probation.

The plan has raised questions about the wisdom of state intervention in local schools and has brought the threat of a lawsuit. Locals worry that outside management without an Indianapolis-based governance body will make school business less transparent.

"We have very few answers," said Indianapolis school board member Annie Roof. "All we know is that these are not going to be Indianapolis schools anymore."

The formula the state used to determine which schools should be taken over is flawed, according to Indianapolis Superintendent Eugene White. White said four of the six schools have actually seen improvement over the last six years. According to the local TV station 6News, he said the state used data from just one grade in each high school. (White did not return requests for comment from HuffPost.)

White also said the takeover plan was "more about politics than the children."

Indiana was the scene of major education reform this year, following a nationwide trend of tying teacher reviews to student scores on standardized tests. Indiana passed laws that created an expansive voucher system, made teacher tenure contingent on effectiveness, limited collective bargaining, ended the process of firing teachers in order of seniority and required teacher evaluations to be "significantly informed" by student performance on standardized exams.

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