Tonight the Austin school board will deliberate the future of the IDEA charter school chain.

The chain claims to offer a “rigorous” college preparatory program. It claims that 100% of its graduates enter four-year colleges and universities and that 92% are either still in college or have graduated.

As researcher Ed Fuller shows, none of these claims is true.

71.4% of the IDEA graduates–not 100%–enrolled in a four-year institution of higher education.

Nearly half of them–43%–are failing in college. They were not well prepared.

Each year, the failure rate has gotten larger.

Despite these unimpressive statistics, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the IDEA charter chain a stunning $29 million.

Fuller concludes:

“One would think that given claims of the CEO, the marketing focus on being a college preparatory school, and the recent $29 million Race to the Top award from the US Department of Education, IDEA graduates would be showing improving performance in this area. Yet, this is not the case.

“In addition, this data calls into serious question the 92% persistence rate of IDEA graduates in universities as claimed in the IDEA annual report. While students earning less than a 2.0 GPA during the first year of college do not necessarily get removed from the university or drop out of school, the fact that nearly one out of every two IDEA graduates failed to earn a passing GPA suggests that more than 8% of IDEA graduates might fail to enroll after their first year of post-secondary work. Unfortunately, IDEA provides no data source or even data table to substantiate their claim about the persistence rate and, given that many of IDEA’s claims have proved to be untrue, one has to question the veracity of claims that are not substantiated by some independent data source.

“I have written about this issue before in more detail (see http://fullerlook.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/college-readiness-of-idea-and-other-high-schools-in-the-rio-grande-valley/) and shown that given the initial scores of IDEA students entering high school, IDEA students tend to under-perform on the SAT and college performance. Indeed, even when compared to high schools in the same labor market, IDEA students substantially underperform in college. This entry simply updates the previous post with a new cohort of students.

“Sadly, despite the rhetoric from IDEA, Tom Torkelson, and the US Department of Education, the college preparedness of IDEA schools has been moving in the wrong direction.”