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Learning Curve

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Seize the charters

An article in the Yuma, Ariz., Sun confirms that not only is the Indiana superintendent of public instruction eagerly supporting charter schools, he's also actively recruiting them:

Rick Ogston, CEO and founder of Carpe Diem, said they plan to launch six schools in Indiana over the next three or four years after approval by the Indiana Charter School Board.

Ogston said the venture began when Tony Bennett, state superintendent of schools in Indiana, expressed interest in Carpe Diem and came to Yuma to visit the campus. Bennett was impressed with the combination of computer-based and in-person instruction, said Ogston, noting that he then encouraged Ogston to apply for a charter in Indiana.

There will also be a Carpe Diem Online School to Indiana, similar to the one offered to students across Arizona.

The Carpe Diem leader apparently knows something the rest of us don't, since the Indiana Charter School Board has so far approved only an application for the grade 6-12 Carpe Diem Collegiate High School.

The Carpe Diem application boasts of a "high-quality education programming budget that is 30-40 percent less than that of a conventional public school."

It cuts costs, apparently, by replacing teachers with computers. The Indianaschool, on Indianapolis' North Meridian Street, will have a 75-1 student/teacher ratio, according to a May report in the Indianapolis Star.

The state superintendent liked what he saw in Yuma.

"I was so impressed in touring the school and seeing their results," Bennett told the Star's Bill McCleery. "I think the math teacher there had a caseload of 200-plus students and had the highest growth in the state for his math students."

But those high scores also have attracted some suspicion. Arizona blogger David Safier reported on alleged cheating at the schools, where wrong-to-right erasure marks were reported at seven times the average rate.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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