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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne Community Schools board President Mark GiaQuinta, center, along with board member Steve Corona, left, and Vice President John Peirce speak about ISTEP+ scores released Tuesday.

Charter ISTEP+ results among lowest

Some scores up, but still low for state

– Fort Wayne’s three charter schools had mixed performances on the state’s standardized test this year.

One posted score losses, one posted score gains and one school’s scores remained relatively the same. The scores at the three schools were among the lowest in the state.

Charter schools are public schools that operate without some of the restrictions facing traditional public schools. The Indiana General Assembly took action in 2011 to vastly expand the schools, intended to promote classroom innovation.

On Tuesday, the Indiana Department of Education released the results of the ISTEP+, Indiana’s standardized test.

Fort Wayne’s Imagine on Broadway, which has students in kindergarten through fifth grade, had among the lowest scores in northeast Indiana. About 36 percent of students at the school passed both sections of the exam – about the same percentage as the year before. Indianapolis-based The Mind Trust, a pro-charter educational reform group, has cited the low scores as evidence that the school should be closed.

Scores went down, however, at Fort Wayne’s second Imagine school, Imagine MASTer Academy. This year, 52 percent of students at the school passed both portions of the test – down from 60 percent last year. Imagine MASTer Academy has about 825 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Scores went up significantly at Timothy L. Johnson, Fort Wayne’s other charter school that has students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The school had 41 percent of students pass both sections of the test, up from 28 percent last year.

“We’re pleased with our increase, but we know our scores need to be higher,” Timothy L. Johnson school leader Steve Bollier said Monday.

On average, scores at Fort Wayne’s charter schools were lower than the average scores in Allen County’s four public school districts.

East Allen’s Paul Harding Junior High School had the lowest scores in the region, followed by Imagine on Broadway, East Allen’s Prince Chapman Academy and Timothy L. Johnson. Imagine MASTer Academy outperformed those schools but performed about as well as FWCS’ Bloomingdale Elementary and Miami Middle School.

The area’s charter schools also showed the same achievement gap that traditional public schools displayed among black and white students.

Imagine on Broadway had 22 percent of its black students pass both sections of the ISTEP+ exam and had 52 percent of its white students pass both sections.

Imagine MASTer Academy had 27 percent of its black students pass both sections and 59 percent of its white students pass both parts.

At Timothy L. Johnson, 38 percent of black students passed both portions of the test. Data for white students was not available.

At a news conference Tuesday to celebrate testing achievements at Fort Wayne Community Schools, school board President Mark GiaQuinta encouraged residents to ask why their tax dollars should go toward funding low-performing charters.

“We have been challenged by the state to compete,” he said. “And we accept that challenge reluctantly because children should not be someone’s guinea pigs.”

Urban League CEO Jonathan Ray, who intends to open a charter school within the FWCS boundaries this fall, said Fort Wayne needs more high-performing charter schools.

He said Fort Wayne’s charter schools and traditional public schools have a problem with the black and white achievement gap and expressed confidence that his new school could narrow that disparity. He said his new school, the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, is modeled off the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary, which had 64 percent of its black students pass both sections of the test this year.