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A better choice? Really?

Mark GiaQuinta, a Fort Wayne attorney and president of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board, has fired off an angry letter to the director of the Indiana Charter School Board, pointing out the irony involved in a state news conference to announce ISTEP+ scores today.

State Superintendent Tony Bennett invited the principal of Irwin Elementary School to participate in this morning's announcement because Irwin posted a 16-point improvement in students passing both math and language arts sections of the state's standardized test.

It's ironic because the state charter board last year approved a charter for the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, which will be located in the magnet school's attendance area. Jamie Garwood, a member of the state board, is one of the school organizers.

The Fort Wayne Urban League, Garwood's employer and the charter school organizer, pitched the proposal as a much-needed education alternative for southeast Fort Wayne, primarily in the East Allen County Schools district. But once the charter was approved, the location places the newly approved charter in direct competition with FWCS.

Could competition from the new charter school push FWCS achievement even higher? Isn't that what school choice is all about?

Take a look at newly released ISTEP+ passing rates from Fort Wayne's existing charter schools:

Timothy L. Johnson Academy: 41 percent

Imagine MASTer Academy: 52 percent

Imagine on Broadway: 37 percent

Compare those to FWCS, where 67 percent of students passed both sections of the test, or East Allen, with a 65 percent passing rate.

I don't see where students in charter schools are well served in this scenario, but the state charter board certainly seems eager to open more mediocre and poor schools.

Here is GiaQuinta's letter, delivered with FWCS's ISTEP results attached, showing improvement outpacing the statewide average:

Claire (Fiddian-Green),

I write as a citizen and taxpayer of FWCS, and not as a member of the FWCS Board.

Please forward this information to the Charter School Board. Also, please let them know that the State Superintendent invited the building instructional leader of Irwin Elementary to his press conference today on the release of ISTEP scores. (89% of students passed both portions of the ISTEP exam).

Your charter, under the leadership of Charter Board Member Ms. Garwood and located at the corner of Hanna and Creighton, is within the Irwin attendance area. Please explain to us what needs you believe have been left unmet to warrant a decision to allow this to occur without any public input.

Mark E. GiaQuinta, Esq.

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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