Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School a dropout factory?
A preliminary report and commentary on
the graduation rates and promoting power of Charles A. Tindley Accelerated
by John Harris Loflin
is tragic to have to say that there is no need to prove urban public education
in America is in trouble. We only have to look at local television to see the
negative outcomes associated with urban school failure. We also know that when
urban students are graduated on time and ready for careers, college and
citizenship, chances of being involved in crime or violence are reduced.
The Pushout Crisis
Schott Foundation (2012) report “The Urgency of Now” introduces a new factor to
the discussion: “The pushout crisis.” Evidently, nearly 17% of African American
students and 7% of Latinx students were suspended at least once in 2009-10,
compared to 5% for White students. The section of the report concludes that
disproportionate use of out-of-school suspension for Black and Latinx child-ren
at all levels is the first step toward pushing them out.
This Schott report defines a “pushout” as a student who leaves their
school before graduation through the encouragement of the school itself.
challenge now is a new one: trying to persuade the “Unconvinced Generation”
(Evans, 2006) to stay in school while trying to keep school officials from
pushing them out (Loflin & Evans, 2015).
The “pushout crisis” reflects situations where
many schools try to get rid of (dump or ”shed back”/“counsel out”) students who
may tarnish the school’s statistics (Lewin & Medina, 2003) when they score
low on state standardized tests, or fail to graduate on time.
During recent national hearings, an NAACP task
force found, “…many participants testified about students with special needs,
those perceived as poor test takers, or those who pose a behavioral challenge
are either not accepted, or once enrolled, disciplined or counseled out of many
charter schools” (NAACP, 2017).
This trend of manipulating students’ educational
lives like pawns or stick pins on a map by “hiding” students in “alternative
learning experiences” (Spring, 2016) to keep the “bottom line” of academic outcomes
and grad rates with other “quick fixes” is widespread (Turner, 2015). It reflects
the shady underbelly of a market ideology’s system of competition and choice applied
to, of all things, the lives of children (Winerip, 2011; Miller, 2015; Taylor,
2015; Wolfe, 2015; Brown, 2017).
As well, whole districts are not above throwing
some students under the bus to get/maintain high grad rates (Spring, 2016; Koran,
Pushing students out is especially tempting for
urban charter schools which are under
intense scrutiny and pressure to perform. Taking into account the past
economics of educational politics (i.e., school choice) in Indianapolis, this
is especially the case for Mayor Hogsett’s bevy of charters.
out” students is the December 19, 2015 Indiana
Business Journal (IBJ) story on
events at the Charles Tindley Accelerated School (CTAS): “Charter star Tindley
in cash crunch as CEO’s expenses questioned” (Columbo, 2015). Though the story
raises concerns, IBJ joins other
local media in validating the “star” status of the Tindley brand (www.tindley.org). Note, both Indy’s local
establishment (Pulliam, 2013) and Black community (Perry, 2013) hold CTAS up to
everyone and praise the school as a model for other urban charters.*
In fact, CTAS is recognized nationally as one of the “highest-scoring schools”
by US News and World Report (2015).
A scrutiny of this blend of concern and praise
suggests a public discussion. A deeper
review of factors behind the school’s graduation rates, which are in the lower
90% for the classes 2013 and 2014, will promote dialogue and clarity.
Introducing “Promoting Power”
In order to open a conversation about the
“success” of CTAS, fostering a clear view of the school’s graduation rates (or those
of any Indiana public school) is needed. The concept of Promoting Power (holding
power) is being used because it can provide a quick way to determine how a
school is doing. Promoting Power also circumvents certain graduation rate
formulas which can hide the inability
of schools to keep students in school and graduating.
graders and divides that by the number of these students who make it to 12th
grade. It does not determine graduation rates–those 9th graders
(cohort) who actually graduate. A Promoting Power of <60% is weak Promoting
Power. High schools with weak Promoting
Power are called “dropout factories.” The term was used in the Indy Star’s 2005 “Left Behind” series: http://rishawnbiddle.org/RRB/Starfiles/leftbehind/Dropout_factories.pdf
To understand more about Promoting Power and the
dropout factory term see:
Comparing graduation rates and promoting power: Is CTAS a dropout
Linking both the Promoting Power concept and
“pushout crisis” factors will bring another possible explanation of the “success”
of CTAS. Contrasting Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) graduation rates for
CTAS with the school’s Promoting Power percentages reveals CTAS as a dropout
factory in all but 1 of the graduating classes for the 2007-2008 to 2017-2018 school
years. See Table II.
To illustrate, the graduation rate for CTAS for
2012-2013 was 90%. A closer look at the data shows only 27 of the 2009-2010 9th
grade cohort of 61 graduated. The 90% rate was determined by dividing the number
of seniors (30) into the number who actually graduated (27). In other words,
the class of 2012-2013 had 30 seniors of which 27 graduated. Even though the
cohort lost over half of its members after 3 years, it still had a graduation
rate of 90%. See Table II.
The Promoting Power formula measures the ability
of CTAS to hold on to its 9th graders. Comparing the 61 freshmen who
started the 2009-2010 school year with the 30 who made it to their senior year,
CTAS has a Promoting Power of (30/61) 49%–making it, for that class, a dropout
factory. See Table II.
An Indiana public school both traditional or charter can lose over half
its freshman class after 3 years and still have a graduation rate of 90%
How does this happen? According to IDOE guidelines,
a school’s graduation rate will not be affected by students who leave a high
school and are enrolled elsewhere. With regard to determining graduation rates,
the “home school” does not have to count these students among those in that
year’s cohort. For example, a particular
public high school could have 20 9th graders and 4 years later have
5 (seniors) left in that cohort due to 15 students leaving and enrolling in
another high school. If all 5 graduate, and even though the school lost 75% of
its freshmen class after 3 years, the school’s grad rate for that year will be
This raises the question and thus the rub: what if
the student/family is counseled out or persuaded to “self-select”–pushed away
from their school
before they are graduated, through the encouragement of the school itself?
Also, what about a school coaching a
student/family to choose homeschooling as an alternative to expulsion? In this
way, these negative marks do not appear on the student’s or school’s record,
and does not count against the school’s gradua-tion rate. However, are there drawbacks
to the home schooling option for the student/family? See Appendix B
On the surface “self-opting” makes sense and
appears fair to all parties: schools, and students and their families. Yet, the
issues brought to the surface by the Schott report on the national “pushout crisis”
raises questions as to whether these students left “on their own” or were they
As stated above, “The ‘pushout crisis’
reflects situations where many schools are trying to get rid of (dump/’shed
back’ or ‘counsel out’) students who may tarnish a school’s statistics (Lewin
& Medina, 2003) such as by scoring low on state standard tests, or failing
to graduate on time.”
Why is weeding-out students disguised and excused by the status quo
All of this is worrisome. A closer look at the January 2013 commentary
about Tindley by Russ Pulliam (2013) is needed. Here Pulliam quotes Brian Payne, the
president of the Central Indiana Community Foundation who said, “I think it’s
human nature that people generally rise to the level of expectations.” Payne
went on, “When you create a culture of high expectations, people generally will
self-select out of that culture if they are not committed. They have this
culture at Tindley that you will work hard. If you aren’t ready to work, you
may not want to be there.”
Respecting the school in light of graduation
rate vs. Promoting Power percents, CTAS and its supporters attempt to “spin”
the pushout phenomenon as one where the student
and their family leave on their own accord.
So, the school is left free of responsibility: We didn’t push the
student out, she/he “self-opted” out.
Again, the “self-select out” concoction is
endorsed by Indy Star’s distinguished
political pundit Mr. Pulliam who is plainly pushing the idea that this
rationale makes sense. Perhaps local media and the CTAS board want the public to
believe that such a covert “self-select out” masquerade is justified in order
to keep up the school’s reputation.
Even in some cases regarding disciplinary
action/s, a student/family may be offered “a deal you can’t refuse.” In this situation,
a school intends to suspend or expel a student, but proposes not to if he/she
leaves (supposedly) by their own choice and then enrolls in another school. Perhaps
for certain students, such “counseling” is used to help them realize they “…may
not want to be there.”
to this “trade-off,” neither the school nor the student will have a suspension
or expulsion on their record and the school unapologetically gets rid of a
student they can label as one who just wasn’t a good “fit.”
And, most likely those students/families that pick
a Tindley-type charter will go to another school, thus removing that student
from the cohort. Now, she/he will not be counted toward determining the graduating
rate of that group/class.
obvious concern involves schools with high test scores—and the efforts of these
schools to maintain such status. How is it fair and equitable when schools, can
under the cover of the “self-selection” alibi, actually “weed out” poor test
Our “pushout crisis”
and the Promotion Power idea call for transparency
the above report/commentary is presumptuous and even accusatory. Still, with over 20 years of pressure on certain high
schools (notably urban charters), and in this case the very contentious, over 10-year
local and state-wide debate over school choice, this level of suspicion simply cannot
the extent that Mayor Hogsett is the only mayor in the United State of America
who can charter a school, to that same extent tremendous political-economic
pressure is put on the mayor’s charters to perform. Thus, he cannot afford to
have any of his schools fall below the norm–let alone be suspect of any
deceptions exposed by the pushout emergency and a Promoting Power analysis.
Indianapolis, Indiana, and the country praise the Charles Tindley Accelerated
School for having high expectations for its students, families and staff, the
Tindley board must maintain credibility by virtue of transparency and public
accountability, practicing the same level of expectancy it holds for the school.
*This was especially the case when Mayor Ballard
closed The Project School (TPS) charter over financial issues. TPS also had low
test scores—which was why the Mind Trust’s David Harris said the school must be
closed (Peg with Pen, 2012). Yet, many believe the closure happened because 28
students opted-out of ISTEP. In the wake of the closing, CTAS was presented to
the public as the blueprint to follow—the opposite of TPS (RTV Channel 6,
Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School
(IDOE school #6208)
Enrollment numbers per 9th grade 4-year cohort for 2004-2015
06-07 07-08 08-09
09-10 10-11 11-12
12-13 13-14 14-15 15-16 16-17
9 66 59 29 40 46 61 69 62 68 93 135 94
26 30 28 52 52 48 54 79 87 80
11 15 22 23 23 22 43 32 41 42 44 64
12 14 19 22 13 18 30 30 32 35 40
Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School
Enrollment numbers, graduation numbers and rates,
and Promoting Power percentages for 9th grade cohorts
School IDOE * Class
IDOE * Promoting
9th 10th 11th 12th #
Grad % Power
<60% Strong Factory
04/05 66 44 (-22) 15
(-29) 14 (-1) 12
12/19 2007-08 63.2%
05/06 59 34
(-25) 22 (-12) 19 (-3)
15 15/25 2008-09
60.0% 19/59=34.5% W Yes
06/07 29 26 (-3)
(-1) 15 15/19
2009-10 78.9% 22/29=75.8% S No
07/08 40 30
(-10) 23 (-7) 13 (-10)
12 12/16 2010-11
75.0% 13/40=32.5% W Yes
08/09 46 28 (-18) 22
(-6) 18 (-4) 15
15/19 2011-12 78.9%
09/10 61 52
(-9) 43 (-9) 30 (-13) 27 27/30
2012-13 90.0% 30/61=49.1% W Yes
10/11 69 52
(-17) 32 (-20) 30 (-2) 29 29/32 2013-14 90.6% 30/69=43.4% W Yes
11/12 62 48
(-14) 41 (-7) 32 (-9)
24 24/28 2014-15
85.7% 32/62=51.6% W
12/13 68 54 (-14) 42 (-12)
35 (-7) 32
32/36 2015-16 88.9% 35/68=51.5% W
13/14 93 79 (-14) 44 (-35) 40 (-4) 35
40/93=43.0% W Yes
14/15 135 87 (-48) 64 (-23) 61 (-3) 2017-18 61/135=45% W
15/16 94 80 (-14)
16/17 89 77 (-12)
Breakdown of Graduation Rate Calculations
Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School
Class of 07-08
Class of 12-13
Class of 14-15
Class of 15-16
Class of 16-17
in School students are expelled students, yet are still “enrolled” &
expected to return. Until that happens or not, this is counted against a
school’s graduation rate.
The limitations of homeschooling as an alternative to
Why high schools benefit, but students, families, and
society may not
language of “counsel out,” “self-select out,” “shed-back” (Lewin & Medina, 2003) and now “de-selection” and “Got to Go” lists
even “thrive or transfer” bullying (Winerip, 2011) become alarming as
analysis shows public school administrators have the option to offer parents
and students the use of home-schooling as a “transfer” over expulsion.
this a good choice for low-income, marginalized families living in poor
neighborhoods, characterized by crime and violence?
is noted because Indiana home schooling guidelines are non-in-forcible by the
state. Indiana has no accountability for record keeping for students and/or
families who select this expulsion option. This worries some important local and
national community vitality and public policy groups (Fiddian-Green &
happens to those students being “homeschooled” without adequate or little or no
parent involvement, or formal supervision?
o What about situations
where the parent/s works during the day and the student, who is normally in
school, is left unsupervised?
o What if parent/s do
not have the level of education needed to home school adequately?
led to speculation that there is a possible correlation between the Indiana
home schooling guidelines and the school to prison pipeline.
high schools inadvertently placing students in jeopardy by counseling families
to choose this alternative?
homeschooling choice is popular because it can benefit both parties: neither the
student nor the school has the expulsion mark on their official school records.
Does count against a school’s grad rate
Does not count
A student leaves a high school and drops out completely
A student is expelled though counted as “Still in
The student/family “self-selects” out or is “counseled”
A student/family chooses homeschooling over expulsion
Grasp the analysis of Appendix B via the
discussion about the homeschool option which resulted from an analysis by the
National Council on Educating Black Children, the Black & Latino Policy
Institute, and Indiana University’s School of Social Work. It was presented
02.17.16 to the Indiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil
Office of Education Innovation 2013-2014/2014-2015
reports on CTAS
Chalkbeat 10.21.16 CTAS as one of the better local high
schools regarding ISTEP
CTAS 2017 2nd Best Charter HS Out of 19
in Indy Metro Area
Brown, E. (2017, July 26). NAACP
School choice is not the answer to improving-education for black students. Washington Post.
H. (2015, December 19). Charter star Tindley in cash crunch as CEO’s
expenses questioned. Indianapolis Business Journal.
C. & Bridgeland, J. (2017, November 14). State still has work to do
increasing graduation rates [Letter to the editor]. Indianapolis Star, p. 23A.
A. (2017, July 30). How well are Indiana high schools preparing students
Loflin, J. & Evans, J. (2015). “They
Say that We are Prone to Violence, but It’s
Home Sweet Home”: The Praxis of Hip Hop, Self-Actualization, and
Education for Addressing the Roots of Violence. International Journal for Cross
Disciplinary Subjects in Education. 6(4): 2358-2367.
R. (2013, January 24). A culture of high expectations. Indianapolis Star.
Channel 6. (2012, August 1). Judge Sides
With Mayor; Project School Closed.
Foundation. (2012). The Pushout Crisis: The Urgency of Now.
and World Report. (2015). Best High School Rankings 2015.