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Monday, April 15, 2024

Study finds major gains for charter school students, especially minorities

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Students in Indianapolis charter schools are doing really well.

So well in fact, a recent study found that these schools achieve growth equivalent to 77 days of additional learning in reading and 100 additional learning days in math compared to their counterparts in traditional district schools within Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).

To explain this in simpler terms, the additional learning days are equivalent to Indianapolis charter students attending school for an extra two-and-a-half to three months. 

The data that substantiate my comments were recently released by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO).

While the aforementioned statistics are incredibly impressive, the results are even better for Black, Hispanic, low-income and English Language Learner students who showed even stronger learning gains in local charter schools. 

While charter schools in Indianapolis haven’t been in existence as long as their public and private counterparts, most of the city’s charter schools have a demonstrated history of success — particularly for minority children. Such outcomes are essential when one considers the generational inequities that have permeated minority communities time after time after time again. And speaking of time, it is high time more people accept the accomplishments of charters and appreciate the benefits such schools provide students.

Since I began my career in the education sector, I have been astonished at how people criticize or overtly dismiss a school simply because of the “type” of school it is, be it traditional public, charter or private. I have found that some adults prejudge or stereotype schools with the same impetuosity as racists and sexists. It is a sad thing to witness because in the end, students are the ones who have the most to lose. Students are the ones who suffer from the actions of adults who intentionally or unintentionally misinform others about a school’s success or lack thereof. In my eyes, it’s a form of child abuse and oppression that should infuriate any logical-minded adult. 

A sad reality about the dissemination of misinformation relative to charter schools is that some of the people spewing the untruths are minorities who are part of the very demographic of people that benefit most from charter schools. It makes me wonder what leads some to hurt the very people they claim to want to help. Unfortunately, I’ve found that generally the roots of such deeds are intertwined in an individual’s desire for notoriety, power, or even the jockeying for a particular position. And while that is indeed lamentable, not all critics have an agenda, rather they are people passionate about their perspectives and they don’t generate propaganda to substantiate their views. In my current capacity, I have engaged with the latter. And while we may have different viewpoints, we agree to disagree and we leave the meeting better informed of the other’s stance. I respect and certainly appreciate that type of interaction. 

One key lesson I’ve learned in life is to be thankful for the large and small victories. After all, progress is progress, right? 

I am incredibly proud of the progress that city charter schools are making. I am also pleased that Indianapolis Public Schools have been at the forefront of educational inclusivity through its Innovation Network Schools (INS) which allows the district and schools within the district “additional flexibility to make decisions based on the specific needs of a school’s student body.” The Innovation Network Schools have the autonomy to make decisions about their school, but they are also held accountable by the district. 

As a result of IPS’ ingenuity, the CREDO study determined that the district’s Innovation Network Schools showed student growth equivalent to 53 days of additional learning in reading and 89 days of additional learning in math. 

In a statement released by IPS, the district said, “The 2019 CREDO study confirms the exciting developments we’re seeing unfold in the classrooms of our innovation schools. The positive academic outcomes are proof the strategies implemented by our talented school leaders are working.”

I couldn’t agree more. 

The CREDO study proves that Indianapolis charter schools and Innovation Network Schools are achieving increased learning gains. These schools serve a greater percentage of minority students than traditional IPS public schools which means our community is directly benefiting from such an innovative approach. That excites me. I have no doubt the positive results are because of the inventive ways these schools are educating students.  

While CREDO’s study represents the strongest findings to date that charter and Innovation Network Schools are making a difference for students, even more strides need to be made towards ensuring all of the city’s students have access to a quality education and that schools improve beyond state averages.

I commend Indianapolis’ charter schools, their leaders and IPS’ Innovation Network Schools for enhancing the educational opportunities for local children. I look forward to continued growth in the coming years. 


Shannon Williams is senior vice president of Community Engagement at The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit that works to build a system of schools that gives every student, no exceptions, access to a high-quality education. 

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