As a cornerstone of IPS Strategic Plan 2015, IPS will create
a system where schools can make site-based decisions around how to allocate
resources to address the specific and unique needs their students and families
to increase student achievement.

What is autonomy? This is a question that many have. In
March of 2015, the IPS Board of School Commissioners unanimously approved Core
Commitments and Beliefs that include moving toward an academic model where
teachers and school leaders control and are responsible for what happens in
their schools. In this framework, each school will make instructional and
operational decisions that are in the best interest of the students that they
serve. We recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to student achievement;
each school is filled with talented teachers that have various innovative
approaches to engage students. By empowering principals to make most or all
decisions at the school level, our central office supports will fulfill our
mission of supporting school needs. 

There are three parts of the Core Commitments and Beliefs
that directly align to our roadmap for achieving this vision.

  • All IPS schools must be great places to teach
    and great places to learn
  • Effective teachers and great schools are the key
    to students’ success
  • The IPS Central Administration exists solely to
    support the work of teachers and schools, and must be a high performing

The Core Commitments and Beliefs serve as our “North Star”
for the creation of our framework. Beyond the Core Commitments and Beliefs, our
strategic plan also includes very specific benchmarks to achieve as it relates
to this work:

  • Establish a portfolio of autonomous schools
  • Develop and implement an autonomous school
    framework that will allow schools greater flexibility by 2016, as measured by
    district data
  • Expand Innovation Network Schools to provide a
    wider range of choice options for families 

Keeping these benchmarks in mind, the transformation to
autonomy will begin during the 2016-2017 school year. The framework will be
piloted and then phased in over time with guidance and support to the district
and to schools from field experts, based upon Board-approved parameters. IPS
will remain transparent and open to community feedback throughout this process.
Principals will be urged to engage in conversation with their school
communities discuss what this means for their school and how it can improve
educational experiences for all students.

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We are working over time to streamline the current structure
of grade configurations within schools to better serve families and become more
efficient as a district. Guidelines driving the administration’s proposal
include a review of all current grade configurations, the elimination of middle/high
school combinations and the charge to replicate high-demand programs. Based on
these guidelines previously provided by the Board this year at a Spring
retreat, members will consider a proposal to phase out the Multiple
Intelligences magnet program, convert Nicholson Performing Arts Academy at
School 70 to
a new Center for Inquiry, and restructure
Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Performing Arts and Humanities to a
9th-12th grade facility. This design would eliminate the waiting
list for the three standing CFI schools, allowing students who have been
awaiting an opportunity to learn and grow in an innovative and diverse learning

The Board is set to consider these reconfigurations, along
with the broad autonomy framework in next weeks’ action session. Conversations with families, staff and
stakeholders as well as diagnostic reviews of comprehensive district data will
inform the evolution of our academic offerings. It is important that we allow our IPS family the
opportunity to weigh in on a decision aimed to positively impact our district.
Over the next two years, a phased approach is intended to right-set concerns
with the district’s current grade configuration.

Phase 1:

Mary E.
Nicholson School 70 would become the new Center for Inquiry, serving grades
Pre-K –5 in the IB Primary Years Program (PYP)

The new CFI
location would absorb the entire CFI waitlist pulling from the North as well as
all over the district (some applicants are external to IPS). This new CFI would
continue in the diverse spirit of IPS, as more than half of the students on our
CFI waitlists are minorities. In addition to our waitlisted CFI applicants, the
remaining 100+ seats would be open to new applicants and potentially transfer
requests from other CFI locations. Students from all across the district are
able to apply for our newest location!

Learning Community’s Multiple Intelligences Program would sunset, making way
for a new Visual & Performing Arts School serving grades K-8

As magnet
programs, Nicholson Performing Arts Academy and Key Learning Community both
draw students from all corners of the district; neither school serves their
respective neighborhood exclusively. Key Learning Community currently offers
limited academic offerings for students due to the low enrollment numbers of a
K-12 program, which sparked the proposal for the sunset of the program.

Performing arts
magnet students would be able to experience the benefits of Key’s unique building,
allowing a targeted middle school experience for students within the same
building as the elementary program. Key’s spacious floorplan and natural light
lend itself to a vibrant location for Visual and Performing Arts (VPA)

Ripple High School would serve 9th-12th grade

There would be
no program changes for Broad Ripple High School. Middle school students
currently attending Broad Ripple High School would be invited to stay and no
new middle school applications will be accepted. Middle school students at
Broad Ripple will have the opportunity to transfer to the K-8 VPA program or
remain at Broad Ripple if they so choose.

Phase 2:

Community input
is needed to ensure the success of future configuration plans. Additional
elementary programming will be discussed in 2016, and the district would
develop two new middle schools as an alternative to the K-8 experience.
Community recommendations on the best locations for middle schools will be
sought, along with insight on family needs for high school programming.
Students and families will help explore specific academic themes for high
schools. There is no proposal to convert all high schools to magnet schools;
rather it is ideal to provide strong academic foci at schools to ensure that
there are offerings to support all students’ interests district-wide.

Our students
and families deserve better educational opportunities, and we look forward to
collaborating with you to ensure the needs of all young scholars are met!