Before additional failing schools are handed over to turnaround specialists, there needs to be an exit strategy for the end of the five-year contract to turn the schools around.
EdisonLearning Inc. is now more than halfway through its five-year contract with the Indiana Department of Education to run Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary, but it's uncertain what will happen when the contract expires June 30, 2016.
Roosevelt was one of the first Indiana schools to be taken over by the state, after six straight years of failure, under Public Law 221, Indiana's school accountability law.
The school earned an F in 2013 under Indiana's A-F accountability system.
That leaves too many unanswered questions.
What if the turnaround effort fails? Should the school be turned over to another turnaround specialist? Should EdisonLearning be given the same conditions as the school district before control of school operations is turned over to someone else?
Should it become a charter school or a public school or some other variation?
Should the school be deemed a complete failure and shut down?
What if it succeeds? Who operates the school then, and under what conditions?
These are questions unanswered by the state accountability law that authorized the takeovers. The procedure for making these determinations needs to be spelled out by state law.
State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said Senate Bill 205, authored by Sen. James Banks, R-Columbia City, addresses this issue. The bill is scheduled to be heard this morning by the Senate Education Committee.
Under that legislation, the State Board of Education would have to decide whether to return the school to the school district, turn it into a charter school, or make the school subject to further intervention.
"I always felt it was premature to go into the turnaround academy project without all of the knowledge of what would happen at the end of the five years," Rogers said.
Good point, although every year the school is deemed a failure is a year in which the students aren't getting the consistent, quality education they need to succeed in life. That's what school accountability is all about.
With that in mind, there needs to be a plan in place for the fate of Roosevelt and the four Indianapolis schools taken over by the state when the turnaround contracts expire.
It is logical to specifically empower the State Board of Education to make those decisions. We support Senate Bill 205's provision to address this issue.