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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Indiana: Private schools test for vouchers

Students at the Oaks Academy, a Christian school in Indianapolis, take the same standardized test as public school students. Photo: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat

Indiana’s private schools now “live or die by test scores,” reports Dylan Peers McCoy for Chalkbeat. If schools don’t score well enough to be redeem parents’ vouchers, they risk folding.

Central Christian Academy in Indianapolis boosted its enrollment when vouchers enabled students from low-income families to enroll. But test scores were low. The school earned two D’s in a row,  lost eligibility for vouchers and nearly closed. Then Indiana began giving credit for improvement. Central Christian earned an A and hopes to begin taking vouchers again.

Indiana’s five-year-old $146 million voucher program is one of the nation’s largest. The state requires private schools that take vouchers to test all students,  not just those receiving aid.

Faced with losing state funding, Central Christian “went all in on a plan to improve teaching and test scores and to do a better job with students who came in behind,” writes McCoy.

They brought in an outside consultant who helped revamp their instruction, building in more regular teacher training and adding more tests to see what students were learning throughout the year. And they started following the state’s blueprint for what students should learn, and when. Before Central Christian started taking vouchers, (Principal Melanie) Sims said she was a bit “oblivious” to state standards or tests. But now school leaders use Indiana’s standards to make sure that students on are track to know material by testing time.

This could be good for students, even as it erodes private-school independence.

In California, 60 percent of adults and 66 percent of public school parents support tax-funded vouchers good at public, private or parochial schools, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Blacks and Latinos were the strongest supporters.

A majority of those surveyed gave an A or B grade to their local schools: 58 percent of those who gave an A favored vouchers; that went up to 65 percent of those who gave local schools a D or F.

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