Sep 14, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

With virtual charter schools in Indiana continuing to struggle, national charter school organizations have come together to suggest an innovative solution: letting them choose their students. The catch? This violates the basic principle of charter schools, which are required by law to admit all students who wish to attend. Here’s a closer look at the situation, as recently reported by Chalkbeat.

Struggling Schools

Indiana’s virtual charter schools enroll nearly 12,000 students -- approximately one percent of the public school population. However, their records are troubling: Not only were they were among the state’s lowest in terms of graduating percentages last year, but all three of Indiana’s virtual charter schools received “F” grades in 2016.

In response, virtual charter schools, who say many of their students come to them as a last resort, have taken steps to correct poor outcomes, including through the introduction of new proposed rules which would allow them to expel students for low participation and poor attendance.

A “Provocative” Solution

In advocating for a new way to remedy the situation, national charter school leaders say allowing schools to select their students increases the likelihood of their success. However, this means they’d no longer fulfill a basic criterion of a charter school -- that all students are welcome to attend.

Said Veronica Brooks, policy director for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, “One recommendation is actually potentially considering virtual charter schools as something else besides charter schools.”

Not everyone agrees with this proposition, including Rep. Ed DeLaney, who said, “They can pick the students they want to get the results they want to get funded Other than for a very tiny subset of kids with severe, clinically recognized physical or mental disabilities — other than that, and I do mean tiny subset — I have no interest in supporting virtual charter schools in any way, shape, or form.”

According to Gordon Hendry, who chairs the Indiana State Board of Education’s virtual charter school committee, the concept of a new school type remains under consideration. “The fact that there may be special rules, regulations that apply specifically to virtual charter schools is something that we have been thinking about and will continue thinking about as this process moves forward,” Hendry said.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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