Experiments will often fail

January 16, 2014 

Charter schools are intended to be experiments in education. They are freed of some mandates that limit traditional schools and are infused with an entrepreneurial spirit to see if they can do better.

They are not guaranteed a future. If the experiment doesn't work, you learn from the failures and try something else.

Tomorrow's Builders YouthBuild Charter School in East St. Louis finds itself facing the potential end of the experiment.

Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Christopher Koch has reviewed the school's performance and found it wanting. He is recommending that it close at the end of the school year, and the state board will act on his recommendation when it meets next Wednesday and Thursday.

Koch cites a number of administrative deficiencies, but the one that stands out to us is "failure to articulate a sound education plan to drive successful student outcomes." In other words, it has been around for nearly 12 years without figuring out how to stop failing kids from failing.

Admittedly, the charter school takes the student who already are failing in East St. Louis School District 189 and tries to prepare them for trades and the workforce. School executive director Vickie Kimmel Forby says students have gone on to trade school and have found jobs.

The question is, how many? State stats show us only 12 percent of the charter school kids last year graduated within four years and only 7 percent met state standards on the Prairie State Achievement Exam. East Side graduated 67 percent of its students in four years, although their PSAE scores are only 3 percentage points better.

Show the community the results, and quickly, that this experiment is anything but a well-intentioned failure. Otherwise, the state is right to end it and try something else.

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