In the State of the District address, Supt. Dr. Aleesia Johnson announced Indianapolis Public Schools’ (IPS) commitment to ensure there are excellent choices open to every single student, in every school, in every neighborhood.
As she described, “For a century, the schools here in IPS have offered excellent experiences to some of our children. But doing right by ‘some’ of our children isn’t enough….there is more we can do now to ensure all of our students get the opportunity to live their lives full of choice and purpose.”
Under the banner of “Rebuilding Stronger: Our Commitment to All Students,” Dr. Johnson outlined a plan focused on great schools, excellent offerings, and equitable access — the themes shared again and again in community meetings over the past year.
“Last fall….I told you that we would spend the year listening, so this plan would be born out of the needs of our community. And we have done that,” said Dr. Johnson. “We put out tens of thousands of invitations. Nearly two thousand people joined us in dozens of meetings, virtual and in-person. Another two thousand completed surveys. It’s an incredible level of participation, which has helped us paint a complete picture of what this community values. So the plan you’ll hear about tonight doesn’t reflect just my values, or our school board’s. The vision you’ll hear about tonight comes from all of us.”
During the last year, the district has placed an emphasis on improving the student experience and continuing the recent upward trajectory of ILEARN test scores, graduation rates, and enrollment in colleges and universities.
Standardized test scores for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) are at or near pre-pandemic levels. In the ILEARN report released July 13, about 22.3% of the district’s third through eighth graders (at IPS in-LEA schools) tested this spring were proficient in English Language Arts (ELA), an increase from 18.5% in 2021. The rate was 22 % in 2019. About 19.5% of IPS third through eighth graders were proficient in math in 2022, an increase from 13.7% in 2021.
Almost three-quarters of freshmen attending our four district-run high schools are on track to graduate and a recent study of IPS seniors graduating in 2022 found that about 67.5 % planned to enroll in college or trade school with 52% of these already accepted to a 2- or 4-year college. The IPS Class of 2022 earned about $17 million in scholarships for 2022-23.
Looking to other communities outside of Marion county that offer a robust and imaginative curriculum, from jazz and geometry to fiction and physics, IPS similarly wants to offer all of its students infinite possibilities to cultivate their students’ full potential, which is at the cornerstone of the proposal that Dr. Johnson will bring to the district’s Board of Commissioners.
“We have an incredible diversity of academic program options in our district — options that provide our students with great experiences. But today, they’re not available at many of our schools — especially traditional neighborhood schools,” Dr. Johnson said. “We also know that for so many children, it’s the arts, or music, or team sports that draw them into school and learning — yet at a number of our schools, a child might have only one of those options. It’s time for that to change. So I’m bringing our school board a proposal to put excellent offerings within reach for everyone.”
The superintendent also noted that community partners, parents, students and business leaders have come together over the last year to create the “Rebuilding Stronger” initiative, which is designed to reinvent, rebuild, redesign, and rethink IPS’ family of schools. It is IPS’s ultimate commitment to ensure excellent schools for all students in all neighborhoods throughout the IPS district by examining how it spends resources and how to effectively leverage facilities.
“Aligning resources and vision will mean a number of changes. This is where the hard choices come in,” said Dr. Johnson. “Because what we’ve prioritized in our community, above the offerings our children depend on, is a strikingly large number of very small schools.”
IPS notes more than 40% of the students in the district attend smaller schools. As a result, the district spends about $1,500 more per student at these small schools. Also, with less than a third of district buildings rated in “good” condition and 21% being in “poor” or worse condition, the cost to renovate these facilities would approach $500 million.
“We can do anything here in Indianapolis. But we can’t do everything. We need to prioritize.” The district is finalizing details of the draft plan, which will include phasing in program improvements, zones, grade reconfigurations, athletics, and consolidating or closing some facilities.
The goal of ‘Rebuilding Stronger’ is to create the best learning environment via the most accessible and well-kept facilities. This will allow IPS to utilize its facilities at full capacity as well as invest more in every classroom and have additional teachers per grade level. In the coming years with “Rebuilding Stronger,” every elementary school will have art, music, physical education, and computer science classes. Other programs that are successful in one school will be replicated throughout the district.
“This plan boils down to the idea that every single one of our kids has a future. And has the power to choose it,” said Dr. Johnson.
The community is invited to read the full “Rebuilding Stronger” plan, share feedback and learn about upcoming meetings in the district at www.myips.org.
Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) is the largest public school district in Indiana. IPS is an agile, innovative educational organization committed to academic excellence built through individualized, relationship-based learning.