Bart Peterson

It would be a big understatement to say I’m stunned by what happened in Indy yesterday and incredibly disappointed. Bart Peterson is among the very best public servants I’ve ever worked with and not just because he is so good on schools. Overall he was outstanding for the city and made some tough calls to improve things. It’s a shame the tax issue remains as potent as it does, a real challenge for Democrats and good government in general.

One reason Peterson’s charter school initiative received so much praise is because he was a very diligent authorizer, said no to opening a lot of schools and held those he did open accountable. Let’s hope the new mayor is as deliberate.

In the meantime, Peterson’s Mind Trust initiative will continue to go forward and grow. Keep an eye on that.

Update: Gee, thanks guys! Smart strategery!

Update II: See Ed Week’s must-read on this and also Joe Williams.

19 Replies to “Bart Peterson”

  1. Perhaps you wouldn’t be so stunned by Bart Peterson’s demise if you had known how he raised taxes to support the building of a new $800+ million Indianapolis Colt football stadium while the NFL and the Colt ownership (a privately owned company) contributed virtually nothing. You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Mr. Peterson was just another disposable body the NFL used to suck money out of the public taxpayer’s wallet to support one of their private businesses.

  2. I am one of the teachers who voted him out on the charter issue. He did not hold any of his charters accountable. Of the 15 or so schools he sponsored, only three showed any real progress on statewide tests and the value-added testing showed that individual growth was a mixed picture, at best. There are schools in which NWEA MAP actually showed regression in multiple grades, one in all. Charters in Indianapolis suffer from any real demand from their issuers to perform acadmically and it is unlikely that any public system would take anything they see as serious models worth following. Taxes hurt the mayor here, but charters only added to the sense that he was all talk and no substance.

  3. Anonymous #2, your statement that only three Mayor-sponsored schools “showed any real progress on statewide tests” is just wrong.

    Indiana Department of Education data show that of the 11 schools in Marion County with the MOST growth on the ISTEP+, six were Mayor-sponsored charter schools. And five of the top 50 in the state were Mayor-sponsored schools. Plus, as a group, the schools’ growth in pass rates (6.7 points) was more than 11 times the state average (0.6 points). (It’s really easy to calculate that — you take the state average of 0.6, and multiply it by 11, which gives you 6.6, which is less than 6.7!)

    So you can SAY that only three schools showed any “real growth” on statewide tests, but there’s a bunch of actual statewide test DATA that kind of, well, completely destroy that notion.

  4. The DOE has that available, but it sounds more like you are quoting from the mayor’s own report. Here’s how I figure my three, fair or not in your mind. I look for charters in Indy that show cohort growth, year over year, with non-mobile students. There are only three. Two of them strongly so. That’s good. But the mayor’s report also bears out a problem with individual student growth over time in his charters. On NWEA, charters showed growth in 48% of grades and categories, while traditonal publics showed 52%

    The game the mayor is playing with averages is transparent. His small sample can move much more easily that the entire state average. But I think the more accurate measure of school effectiveness includes value added. So I track cohorts and things like NWEA. That tells us better what happens in any given year to one cohort of students. On those measures the Indy charters lag, particularly as students reach full adolescence.

    The mayor’s report will confirm the weakness in value-added as measured by NWEA MAP.

  5. According to Peterson’s own accountability report, six of his schools lost ground in every grade and every subject, or only had one or two categories or grade gains relative to their traditional school peers. And they are his schools. They are not intended to serve the whole community, but instead poitical interests.

    Only four showed they consistently outperformed traditional schools. One of the oldest of the charters could only show gains realtive to peers in 7 of 21 categories/grades.

    How many of the 7 charters that that are total regressions or majority regressions are under review for closure for failure to perform academically? NONE.

    Accountability? Ability to improve on tradtionals? I don’t think we can expect a political office to admit its mistakes and revoke a charter it has issued. The only one in this city that closed went down on financial concerns. Politicians get that, (although this one was a little slow to understand that the public expects resposnible stewrdship).

  6. A few responses to the last couple of posts.

    First, I couldn’t agree more that in looking at school performance, people should focus on how students improve at the school over time — in other words, track a non-mobile cohort from year to year. That’s precisely what Public Law 221 does. And the PL 221 data show that pass rates at mayor-sponsored charter schools improved by more than 11 times the state average.

    Second, I don’t think the Mayor’s playing a “game” with averages. But if you don’t want to look at averages, look at each individual school’s increase in pass rates and compare those increases with other schools in the state and city. Again, five of the mayor’s charters were in the top 50 in the state, and six were in the top 11 in the city in terms of improvement.

    Third, if you want to focus on NWEA results, that’s okay, but you’re misreading the NWEA data. They don’t show that students in the charters only “showed growth” in 48% of grades/subjects. Rather, those data show that students in mayor-sponsored charter schools had MORE growth than the state average in 48% of grades/subjects. And they had growth statistically similar to the state average in another 48% of grades/subjects. Only in 10th grade math did student gains fail to at least keep pace with the state average. Value-added? You bet!

    Fourth, I think it’s awfully hard to support the notion that these schools serve Peterson’s “political interests.” What interests? You mean, like, kids? I think the real issue is, when you’re the mayor, and your city’s largest school district (over which you have no control) has a 52% graduation rate, well…you have to do something, don’t you? I think there’s a reason Peterson’s charters have over 1,000 kids on waiting lists.

    Finally, you do realize you’re arguing there’s no accountability from the mayor based on information that you got from the mayor’s 2007 “Accountability Report,” don’t you?

  7. You realize that writing a report that almost no average citizen will read is nothing in the way of accountability, don’t you? Accountability means consequences.

    The Indy Star, a pro charter newspaper, refuses to report it without spinning it as an unqualified academic success, in spite of two charters lagging in every category NWEA measures in respect to their traiditonal peers and five of the charters rating in the two lowest categories in PL 221.

    And political interests? The mayor came out in the last days with an ad featuring a charter parent talking about her two boys. Using schools to attract votes? Political. And the 30,000plus children in IPS deserve something more than having their resources diluted in exchange for a parallel system that fails to live up to its claims. A lot of us here think they count for something, too, and we voted.

    If charters truly do innovate and challenge other schools, I could stand down some. For example, I’d like to see more done with the KIPP model. But the reality is charters in this town are mostly traditional schools with a charter in the front office.

    As for averages, you realize that you’re putting lipstick on a pig when you say that the increase in pass rates is higher than state traditional schools. It is much easier to move the mayor’s smaller population from its numbers than than the whole state, particularly when you consider that includes very large systems like Carmel, Zionsville, and possibly the Catholic schools (haven’t had a chance to confirm that), which are already in the 90’s, and movement up another 6% puts them near or even over 100%.

    Also, the value-added gains you emphasize show only two percent or less advantage in 10 of 13 of those categories. I stand pat on the knowledge that traditional schools did as well or better than charters in 52% of categories measured. And since those are taken in the aggregate, they hide some pretty depressing numbers at a number of the schools. Averages do that. If every school were performing as the average indicated, I wouldn’t be seeing schools in the mayor’s system with whole grades with large deficits in comaprison to traditional schools. The fact is, only one school in the charter saw double digit change in pass rates, two saw actual declines.

    And it is political spin to say you are doing so much better than IPS which has a 52% grad rate when the real pass rate for the state is 72.2% and the mayor’s charters are 55%. Since passing ISTEP in grade 10 is a graduation requirement , it is a simple extrapolation to see that charter schools will have to make much more rapid and significant gains to make 60% grad rate in a few years. The mayor’s report also tells us that anywhere from about 1/4 to 1/2 of students will not gain proficiency in two years, in specific subjects and grades.

    If you have only gotten to 55%, and the majority of schools’ actual pass rates are below 55%, the mayor’s schools stand a high probability of showing graduation rates very similar to IPS and a very low probability of making the state graduation average.

    With competition and innovation like that, I am afraid the market forces that are supposed to drive all Indy schools have little or no potency.

    One last note- IPS has withered under school competition for the last three decades. Before the busing order in the 70’s, IPS had over 100,000 students. Indy is a larger city with a school system one third its former size. Private schools and suburban schools have pooped or grown like mushrooms. Do you really think it was lack of school quality that drove IPS down?

    One of the mistakes that people make with competition and school choice is that they assume people choose the best possible academic school for their children. The reality? Other non-academic issues are strong, sometimes stronger forces than quality and certainly more numerous. IPS took its biggest hit when people voted with their feet and mostly to avoid having their children sit in classrooms with other children who didn’t look like them.

  8. Indy Mayor charter dba 21st Century Fall Creek

    Enrollment 2006-2007 307

    Pass both Math and English ISTEP all grades- 32.6 (down from 36.4 in ’05-’06)

    Cohort pass rate change from 05 to 06, ( 9th to 10 th grade in school)
    E/LA 56 to 67%, math 56 to 33%

    These are non-mobile students. For them to graduate 52% (IPS Grad rate), they need to improve almost 20% in 2 years. A six percent average gain in pass rates will not do it.

  9. Indy mayor charter dba 21st Century Fountain Square.

    Enrollment 210

    Pass rate both E/LA, math-19.9%, all grades (up from 17.2)

    Pass rate change in non-mobile cohort from 9th to 10th grade (05-06) E/LA 37% to 21%; math 26% to 11%.

    Their scores are dropping in high school grades. These students will have to increase their pass rate four-fold in two years meet IPS gradutaion rate. However, AYP non-mobile measure shows in 9th grade this school had a 37% pass rate in E/LA, and 26% in math. As tenth graders, pass rate dropped to 28% in E/LA and 17% in math.

    They are moving in the wrong direction.

  10. Indy mayor charter dba Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School

    06-07 enrollment 245

    all grades pass rate for both E/LA and math-53.8% (up from 35% in 05-06)

    Non-mobile pass rate ISTEP E/LA
    10th grade-74% (up from 59%), math 47 (flat from previous year). AYP pass rates for non-mobile cohort 10th grade E/LA 67 % (up from 59%); math 40% (DOWN from 47%).

    60% of 10th graders have not qualified to graduate in Indiana. To avoid being labeled drop out factory, as John Hopkins researcher might, if less than 60% graduate) Tindley will have to add 10% to their pass rates in each of the next two years, but charters only average 6% increases in pass rates, and that only works if this school turns around a regression in passing math.

  11. The people of Indianapolis want good schools as much as any community. They don’t study these numbers, but they live in the neighborhoods these kids live in and they hear about high teacher turnover, discipline issues, and low teacher morale in the mayor’s charters (but not in the press, but with word of mouth being what it is and the fact that it gets turbocharged by the Internet and other communication technology) and they know that the mayor was not effective in making a competitive alternative to our public schools.

    It is well and good that 1000 are on a waiting list, but that pales in comparison to the nubmer of students who are not seeking a charter option. Furthermore, until someone seriously studies why people choose charters, it is only self serving of those in the charter movement to say that they want a better academic school. My sense is that they want a school closer to home or work, or a school with a different socio-economic make-up or racial composition. If they are seeking a school with superior performance to traditional schools, they will be sorely disappointed by their charter options in this city.

    Beating IPS 52% grad rate will be a moral victory for our secondary level charters. Making the state average is just not within reach at the rate of growth I see. But charters said they could do better than that. Instead, they are finding out what IPS educators have known for years.

  12. Some comments from one who has actually taught urban kids:

    1. Teaching is fundamentally about improvement: There is not much we can do with the very real issues/challenges/previous academic skills kids come with…but their very lives hinge on how well we teach them once they come. Any teacher (and astute policymaker) should tell you that looking at overall pass rates makes no sense…if schools (traditional, charter, private etc.) continue draw students who have been academically underserved or from resource deprived areas, then we should expect overall pass rate scores to remain flat or actually dip. This is evidence that they continue to attract/receive underserved kids. It’s not about overall pass rates. It’s about improvement.

    2. Unfortunately previous posts citing data among “non-mobile cohorts” is in error. AYP data and scores from 9th grade to 10th grade (for example) in subsequent years, are NOT non-mobile cohorts. Analysis of a non-mobile cohort would include looking at the exact same group of students over time at the same school, and analyzing how they improved (and actually, the best measure of improvement would be looking at individual students, not necessarily cohorts, over time which I understand Indiana is trying to develop). The data cited by a prior post (showing data for 21 Fall Creek, 21 Fountain Square, and Charles Tindley) are NOT non-mobile cohorts, and neither is AYP.

    3. Specific to the current debate then, there are really only two assessment systems that meet the criteria of examining student cohort growth over time: NWEA and the improvement component of Indiana’s Academic Assessment System PL 221 (which preceded No Child Left Behind).

    4. Given these parameters, I’ll try to provide an unbiased assessment of schools the Mayor has authorized based on the 2006-2007 accountability report:

    -As a whole, PL 221 improvement data are impressive: Average growth of 6.7 percentage points compared to a state average of 0.6 growth. One of the previous posts was accurate in stating that given such a small number of schools, aggregate data is more sensitive to individual school changes. Yet, if you actually look at the growth gains in most individual schools, most of them are very high. Two schools showed negative growth gains and that should be of concern. To be intellectually honest, we should also look at the growth gains of individual schools in urban areas of Indianapolis. According to what I was able to find, Indianapolis has 12 school districts, and improvement data for each school within these districts can be found at the Indiana Department of Education website at (click on Statewide PL 221 Category List). Not much improvement in a vast majority of other urban Indianapolis schools, although there are some exceptions.

    -NWEA: Sometimes it is helpful to read chart descriptions so we have a clear understanding of what the data actually say. Previous posts inaccurately (twice) represented these data. To be clear: in 48% of grades and subjects, the Mayors charter schools showed more growth that other schools taking NWEA in the state of Indiana. In another 48% of grades and subjects the charters made the same amount of growth as other schools taking NWEA in Indiana. This means that, compared to other schools taking NWEA in Indiana, in 96% of grades and subjects the Mayors schools did better or just as well. And keep in mind that this comparison is for all schools in Indiana taking NWEA, not just other urban schools, or schools in Indianapolis (this means that this is in comparison to any suburban school system that takes NWEA). I wonder what the results would show if the comparison was only the other 12 urban school districts in Indianapolis. And if growth in other urban Indianapolis school systems is strong, I wish they would make that data easily available to the public. Again, it’s about improvement irrespective of if the school is a charter, traditional school etc. A previous post indicates that there are some schools that did not show much growth compared to other NWEA schools in Indiana. The Mayor should be concerned about those schools and taking steps to understand how they are addressing their issues. But a fair look at each individual school’s NWEA data illustrates that most schools are doing a good job, and some a pretty incredible job.

    We can debate the merits/ideology of charter schools until the cows come home. But academic results, more specifically improvement in student learning, are what really matters. Unfortunately, we also don’t have a great way to capture student learning that is not measured by test scores and easily understood by parents. Until then, the best proxy is academic test scores. And if one is honest and takes a clear and unbiased look at the data, it is difficult to dispute that the Mayors schools are making large achievement gains among the students that they serve.

    One final point, specific to graduation rates. A couple of previous posts have hypothesized about grad rates in the Mayors schools. Lets wait and see about that. This year (the 2007-2008 school year) will be the first year that any of these schools will have a cohort graduation class. This means that we won’t have official graduation rates for some of these schools until probably December of 2008. Don’t know if the data will look good or bad. But we should wait and see what the official numbers are rather than guess.

  13. I agree with much in the previous post, and apologize about clumsy wording in a previous post of mine. It is difficult to express negative growth, when most NWEA results are comparisions in acutal growth. The words are unclear and clumsy. My fault.

    However, while I would like better data on cohorts, AYP is based on students who were with the school at least 162 days the previous year. That is about the best we can do. However, the Indiana DOE website has an accountability section that includes year to year over time. It is possible to track from grade 3 to highest grade in a particualr school. This is imperfect, because we can’t measure true mobility, but it is the best we have.

    Indy Charters show weakness over time, particlularly in grades 6 and up, and you know from other data that math is often the culprit.

    Indy only has one truly urban district, IPS. Some of the surrounding townships have urban issues, but mostly form a suburban ring around old Center Township.

    One of the oldest charters n town is Christel House. It has a demograhic that most would agree is less urban than the surrounding IPS schools. After six complete years in operation, its pass rate for all grades is only 55.8%. 8th grade pass rate in E/LA is 67%, math is 61%, but those who were with the school 162 days the prior year only passed at a rate of 57% in both. Since these charters have waiting lists, is it safe to assume that their students aren’t as mobile? I don’t know, but I can see new “underserved students” raised their numbers and helped keep them out of AYP or PL 221 trouble.

    And if you check the seriously low numbers on the new ISTEP science test, you can see that one could be suspicious that they teach heavily to the test and are flumoxed by a new science exam (or other things could be going on, but the concern is legitimate).

    This charter school is well funded by one of Indy’s deepest pockets. It has no measurable Special Ed. nor heritage language speakers. It has had a good amount of time to work its magic.

    If the excuse for this performance is too many new students, then what happened to the old ones? Why did they leave? If this school keeps its students, then why are its weakest NWEA results in the higher grades? And if the charter is intended to attract the underserved, then why does it get a boost from its most recent additions? And why does it show no advantage or disadvantage in 67% of the categories measured by NWEA?

    I accept that NWEA averages come from districts outside IPS, too, but charters here have laid a clear rhetorical guantlet down that they are better choices academically than public schools, period. But there is strong evidence that in a few years, they will not show better results than publics, and maybe not better or only marginally better than IPS itself.

    Because charters have political support and unmerited glowing reports, there is no true accoutablity. We stand a good chance of having two failed systems in this city. It is a bad idea to link education and politics directly. Schools are political footballs as it is. An Indy mayor does have political points to score and will reprot on performance without intellectual honesty and an eye on vote getting.

    I hope Peterson’s example is a warning to the next mayor on this issue.

    and I do look at the data and see what is at best a mixed bag. so do other teachers. Not in IPS, but in charters. Almost half of them would not recommend a charter to a neighbor. I trust the insiders know something that the mayor felt was not worth adding anecdotal commentary to in an election year.

  14. Now wait a minute. If you will take the time to read Peterson’s accountability report, you can’t say he isn’t honest about the schools — there are commendations AND (plenty of) criticisms for just about every school. If it was just about “scoring political points,” the mayor would’ve just said everything’s great. He didn’t.

    As for Christel House’s performance, you’re just off base. Its overall pass rate is 72.8% and it had 9.4% improvement. And you’re wrong that the school has a “less urban” population — it has a free/reduced lunch population of 81%. I’d add that if you think the school’s just teaching to the test, go check it out for yourself. My wife just did and came away very impressed with the school’s strong emphasis on art, music, and Spanish instruction.

    But let’s be honest here. Most of the complaining about charters (at least in Indy) isn’t really about academic performance. Let’s just ask Al Wolting — he doesn’t like charters because they’re “taking our students, taking our money.” In other words, Al doesn’t fancy the fact that student leave unionized traditional public schools to non-union charters. He thinks those kids and the related funding are “ours” (i.e., his and his membership’s).

    Of course, that’s nonsense. The money belongs to the public. And the kids don’t belong to anyone (the 13th Amendment sort of put an end to that). But at least he had a fit of honesty. Really, what kind of celebration would 99% of urban schools throw if they had Christel House’s performance one year. Where would they build the statue of the principal? What would the parade route be? Who would direct the Lifetime Original Movie?

  15. Most of the complaining about public schools isn’t about academics, either. It is about unions and neighborhoods and race and money.

    Christel House has a 55.8 percent pass rate on both E/LA and math (not the or, the and) which I find more indicative of a complete education. If I want to find an IPS elementary with a math rate 55% or higher, I would have 34 to choose from. And some of them are near 100% poverty with many more ethnic minorities. Christel House does not reflect the ethinic diversity of IPS. It is nice they teach Spanish, but may want to consider Spanish speakers.

    If the art, music, and foreign language get their due, then that is good. But again, the science pass rate is alarmingly low, and with that becoming a new element of high stakes school ratings, look out. It is ironic to hear a charter defense using the public school rationalizing that they teach so much more than what gets tested. When IPS does that, they get told they are wasting time on fads and fluff.

    Like IPS, Christel House is stronger in lower grades, and older kids fade. I haven’t spent all day on it, but it appears to me that ISTEP strength wanes. IPS has its best numbers in the lower grades, too.

  16. By focusing on where overall pass rates for English and math are NOW, you’re continuing to ignore the real story — the improvement students at Christel House have shown. In its first year, Christel House’s pass rate for both Eng/math was just 18%. Because ISTEP is given in the fall, that means the starting point for Christel House’s new students was lower even than the IPS pass rate for both Eng/math. So what’s happened since then? In four years, Christel House more than tripled its percentage of students passing both Eng/math to 56%. And that overall figure includes students who are brand new to the school. Again, when you look at the non-mobile cohort, the numbers are even stronger — average pass rate over 70% with more than 9 point improvement. There aren’t many schools out there (other than KIPP or Andrew J. Brown) that have moved students so dramatically in such a short period of time.

    If you have data that show Christel House has a significantly lower percentage of limited English proficient students than IPS, please point me to it — the school has nearly twice the percentage of Hispanic students as IPS.

    And you really think that the complaints about traditional public schools are NOT based on academic performance? Seriously?

  17. Christel Houses 7th grade in 05 passed E/LA at 67% and math at 67%In 06, the ones who stayed for grade 8 passed math at 57% and E/LA at 57%. Pass rate lost significant ground.

    IPS in tha same period with tens of thousands of students also moved their pas rate on both significiantly, over twelve percentage points.

    As far as heritage language speakers go, CH may have a higher percentage of ethnic Hispanic/Latino, but that somehow amounts to being less than 30 actual out of 65 H/L who are categorized Limited English proficient, while two thirds of IPS heritage speakers are limited proficient.

    CH, with an open enrollment/ lottery, seems to somehow have missed a measurable Spec. Ed. population and limited English proficiency, as well.

    As far as ignoring the story goes, I have never read a headline in this town that heralded the rise in IPS pass rate in both areas, even though that is a lot harder to do with 37,000 students, many who come from our most disadvantaged neighborhoods. I do remember that the Star summarized the mayor’s schools as having no problems in the classroom, just administrative issues (which does not surprise, given the mayor’s performance as an administrator over all).

    The report may point to some isssues, but they have never been printed or otherwise publicized here.

    Posts in this blog have commented on keeping our eye on improvement. IPS has shown improvement, but with the harsh charter rhetoric savaging IPS, that story gets quashed.

    I understand that CH has made gains. But I still don’t see them holding. Their 8th grade last year left with two years to go until GQE and they are regressing as a class, pass rate back to 57%. If the gains don’t hold, what then? And if they were to take that pass rate to GQE without any further slippage, then they would have, after all the fanfare and money diverted from traditional schools, a pass rate that looks a lot like IPS.

  18. IPS free (not reduced) lunch is 73% CH is 66%. Overall free and reduced at IPS is 83%. Put that on a scale 100 times greater in population and more deeply impoverished, and you have a sense of the difference.

  19. If Bart Peterson was one of the best public servants you’ve seen or worked with, HEAVEN HELP US! He became arrogant, rude, disconnected from those he robbed (taxpayers) and bosom buddies with crooks (Monroe Gray, Frank Anderson, Jim Irsay just to name a few). He did Indy taxpayers no favors and that is why he is on his way out…out to pasture, I hope. It would be a disgrace if he were ever to “lead” anything again!

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