by David Safier
Carpe Diem, the "blended learning" charter school in Yuma, will be opening as many as six schools in Indiana. The first is being built in Indianapolis.
When a friend emailed me the news (h/t to this ever-helpful source who prefers to remain unnamed), I immediately contacted the Indianapolis Star's education reporter, letting him know about questions raised by the AZ Republic concerning possible cheating on Carpe Diem's state tests. Consequently, I was quoted in today's story in the Indy Star, following a paragraph about the Yuma school's high test scores.
However, some people have expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the school's reported test scores.
"Carpe Diem was flagged in 2010 because the sophomore reading tests had a high number of erasures," noted David Safier, a blogger who writes for the Tucson, Ariz.-based Blog for Arizona. "That leads to the suspicion that staff went through the tests after they were turned in and corrected student answers, or students were given some one-on-one coaching while they were being tested."
I'm amused by the response from Rick Ogston, the school's founder.
[Ogston] said a later examination found almost as many erasures involved changing right answers to wrong ones as changing wrong ones to right. He said the school is careful to ensure all of its test-administering practices are "above reproach."
Who did the "later examination"? Ogston doesn't say. To be legit, it should have been done by forensic test specialists. The only way to "ensure all of [the] test-administering practices are 'above reproach'" is to have them scrutinized by experts with no skin in the game.
BONUS INDIANAPOLIS CARPE DIEM INFORMATION: The Indianapolis school will have a 75-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. That's four teachers -- one math, science, language arts and social studies teacher -- to serve 300 K-8 students. And they're proud of it.
"Our students [in Yuma] tell us they actually get more personal one-on-one interaction with teachers and get to know the teachers better than at their previous schools," [Ogston] said.
In the charter's "blended learning" model, students spend much of their school time using computer-based curriculum, meaning, I guess, a student-teacher ratio three times higher than at other brick-and-mortar schools will be more than enough teacher contact for the students.
Carpe Diem was courted by Indiana's Ed Supe, Tony Bennett, who visted the Yuma school. Bennett sides with his governor, Mitch Daniels, as a big supporter of the conservative version of "education reform." Bennett proposed a state law requiring all students take at least one online course before they graduate high school. I don't think the idea made it into law (if anyone knows different, let me know), but that gives you an idea of the conservative climate that welcomed Carpe Diem to its bosom