the charm? (updated)

IBO: Schools up for closure tonight enroll very needy students

A slide from the IBO's report about schools up for closure.

For the third year in a row, the city’s data watchdog has concluded that the schools the city is trying to close serve especially needy students.

In 2010 and 2011, the Independent Budget Office put together longer reports about the city’s school closure proposals on the request of Robert Jackson, chair of the City Council’s education committee. But this year, the office, which has a special mandate to scrutinize the Department of Education’s facts and figures, compiled details about the demographics, performance, and funding of schools on the chopping block on its own. Then it released the statistics in an easy-to-read, stand-alone format.

Among the many people who are receiving the IBO’s 13-slide presentation by email today are the members of the Panel for Educational Policy, who are set to vote on the closure proposals tonight, according to spokesman Doug Turetsky.

“It’s an accessible format so people can see the stats and come to their own conclusions,” he said.

UPDATE: Department of Education officials disputed some of the data in the slides and said the budget office had not given them as much time to review the report before publication as an agreement between the two offices requires.

They urged the IBO not to release the report and then to retract it once it was published because data on at least one slide did not match information the city had provided. The budget office retracted one slide that showed change over time in the number of students with special needs at the schools.

But other slides showed that the schools up for closure enroll more than the average proportion of students who have disabilities, are overage, or are considered English language learners, confirming analyses published elsewhere.

That comparison is central to the argument made often by critics of closures that the schools were set up to fail because they enroll especially needy students. City officials counter, on the other hand, by noting that other schools serve similar student populations with better results.

The tables also confirm that many of the schools slated for closure have been enrolling increasingly high percentages of the city’s most struggling students over the last decade.

At At Grace Dodge Career and Technical Education High School and Samuel Gompers Career and Technical Education High School, 47 percent of students had posted eighth-grade reading scores in the lowest third citywide in 2003. By last year, at least 61 percent of the schools’ students fell into that category.

DOE officials argued that the comparison over time obscures the fact that because average test scores have risen in the last 10 years, the lowest-scoring students now are on average higher-performing than the lowest-scoring students in 2003.

Key findings from the IBO’s presentation:

  • On virtually every measure of performance, from test scores to attendance to graduation rates, the schools on the closure list fell short of citywide averages.
  • All of the high schools enrolled more ninth-graders who were overage for their grade than the citywide average. At two schools, Grace Dodge and Legacy School for Integrated Studies, overage students made up more than half of the freshman class last year.
  • All of the high schools enrolled more ninth-graders with special needs than the citywide average. Two schools, Gompers and Legacy, had more than twice as many ninth-graders in special education than the citywide average.
  • The high schools on the closure list spent more per student than the citywide average last year, particularly on teachers and staff. They spent less than average on equipment and supplies.
  • A smaller proportion of the schools’ funding than average came through the city’s Fair Student Funding formula, which is designed to promote funding equity. They got more in federal funds and other funds from the city.

The budget office’s full, updated presentation is below.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.