At the April Agenda Review and Action Sessions, the Indianapolis
Public Schools Board of School Commissioners discussed and took action on
various district initiatives, plans for increased efficiency and increased
student achievement.


Newcomer Program

Commissioners continued the discussion from last week’s Work
Session and approved a Newcomer Program, which will offer wraparound support
services for students and families who are new to our country. Originally
proposed for a “school within a school” model at Northwest Community High
School, IPS leadership will now launch the program at the Gambold building
on our city’s west side.


“I think that will help with the startup and its success,” said
Commissioner Kelly Bentley. “I don’t think I’ve heard a negative thing about
the proposal, and that’s really great.”


This program will offer specialized instruction for English
Language Learners (ELL) in Grades 7–9, with planned expansion to Grades 3–9 the
following year. ELL classes will also be available to families, along with a
Parent Center offering support for various needs. More information on the
Newcomer Program can be found here.


Project Lead the Way Expansion


Ben Carter, Director of the IPS Career Technology Center, shared
an exciting update on the expansion of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) in IPS. Thanks to a $250,000 investment from American Structurepoint, PLTW will
expand from its current footprint of four IPS schools to 22 schools by the
2018-2019 school year. This successful curriculum model brings project-based
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming to students from
Kindergarten through 12th Grade. This engaging curriculum focuses on
problem-solving skills while giving students insight into career pathways in
STEM fields. Through PLTW, students have opportunities to learn about
engineering, robotics, architecture, computer science, biomedical sciences and


Each participating school has identified a passionate STEM
education to receive training and implement PLTW programming in their school.


“It revolutionizes what they can do,” Carter said of the power
PLTW gives teachers to introduce challenging and transformative educational
experiences to their students. For more details on the PLTW expansion, including participating schools, click here.‎


Innovation Network Agreements


Commissioners approved Innovation Network agreements for the first two IPS schools
seeking to convert to Innovation: Cold Spring School and George H. Fisher
School 93.


Cold Spring’s school design extends the instructional day and
allocates staffing to support enhanced STEM curriculum; Cold Spring will also
expand its partnership with Marian University, serving as a lab school with
benefits expected for both schools. More information on the school design
can be found in Cold Spring’s executive
and Innovation
Network Agreement


George H. Fisher’s leadership team proposed a school design
expanding on the popular Project RESTORE model, which uses weekly assessments
to consistently identify growth opportunities for increased student
achievement. Rather than creating their own 501(c)(3) to support the school,
George H. Fisher forged a partnership with Phalen Leadership Academy (PLA) for


You can read more detail about George H. Fisher’s plans in the executive
and Innovation
Network Agreement


Purdue Innovation Proposal


Polytechnic Institute
, a high school educational arm of Purdue University, presented
Commissioners with initial design ideas for a proposed Innovation Network school.
Scott Bess, Purdue Polytechnic’s Head of Schools, shared plans for a
student-centered, design-based high school program focused on technology,
humanities, math and science. The proposed model would begin with 150 9th Grade
students in school year 2017-2018, expanding to 540 9th-12th Grade students by


The school building itself – location to be proposed at a later
date – would feature an open concept design with high-tech lab and educational
spaces. All students would be expected to master technical content, research
skills and problem-solving skills while gaining valuable workforce credentials.
The proposed partnership would receive the full support of Purdue University;
IPS teachers would have access to supports from the university including
faculty resources and professional development, while students who graduate
successfully would receive direct admission to Purdue. Students would enjoy
flexible scheduling and enrichment opportunities during holidays, along with
mentoring and career support services. Extracurricular opportunities would be
determined by the interests of the students.


“We want it to be a full high school experience,” Bess told


Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee noted the intent of Purdue
Polytechnic would be to complement – not compete with – the STEM programs
currently ‎being offered at existing IPS schools. The
complete Purdue Polytechnic presentation can be found here.


Strategic Plan 2015


IPS Chief Strategist Le Boler shared a status update with
Commissioners on the implementation of IPS Strategic Plan
. Drafted by IPS families, staff members and community stakeholders,
IPS Strategic Plan 2015 incorporates 98 goals, objectives and strategies in the
areas of Teaching and Learning, Efficient Operations, and Family and Community
aligned with the Board’s Core Commitments and Beliefs. A quarter of the
items in the robust plan are due for completion in May 2016. Of those 24 items,
four are already complete:

  • the creation of an Autonomous schools framework
    outlining the implementation of various pathways for school autonomy in
    the district, encouraging and providing support for our talented educators
    to make the decisions they know are best for their unique school
  • the establishment of an Autonomous schools pilot cohort
    wherein six schools explore increased flexibility and accountability in
    their school-wide instructional and operational decisions; 
  • the creation of philosophical and functional
    imperatives to ensure a level of consistent district expectations, upon
    which families can rely, that span across all existing and future schools;
  • the expansion of attractive and rewarding Career
    and Technical Education (CTE) academic offerings, including STEM
    programming, dual credit courses and exciting student internships.


Additionally, 16 of the ‎24 items due are on schedule for
completion; only four items are currently delayed, but corrective action plans
are in progress to bring those initiatives back online in a timely manner. No
items are currently off track for scheduled completion. The full update can be
found here.


As part of our district’s continuous improvement process,
performance data is being reviewed; perception and quality assurance data
are currently being gathered and will continue to be collected throughout the
Strategic Plan implementation process. Focus groups, anonymous surveys,
community meetings, quality assurance response prompts and other helpful
feedback tools will enhance IPS’ business intelligence efforts by allowing the
district to frequently gauge the pulse of stakeholders, respond to newly acquired
learnings and continue to create S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable,
relevant and time-bound) goals regarding future needs. These implements
will inform the administration and Commissioners how well our students,
families, staff and community members understand and value the initiatives
brought from our Strategic Plan. Our community meetings to gather input and
facilitate discussion early on major impending initiatives, including grade
configuration for schools (addressing middle grades) and a revised
bell/transportation schedule will begin later this spring at various
locations throughout our city‎; keep an eye out for dates and times for
these sessions soon – your thoughts are vital to this process!‎ 


5 Essentials/Equity Reports


Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson updated Commissioners on the
pilot of the 5essentials school health survey and the Equity Reports project in
collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation. Both of these
tools are intended to help the district meet two key benchmarks of IPS
Strategic Plan 2015:


  • 2.8.2:
    Create a common local performance-based accountability model with interested
    partners that includes metrics for school culture and student growth
  • 3.1:
    Indianapolis Public Schools will provide an effective method for families to
    obtain knowledge and make educated decisions about schools by 2017, as measured
    by district data


The purpose of the Equity Reports is to provide community
members with comparable school information including demographic makeup,
academic growth, student attrition and discipline data. A steering committee
and community advisory committee are currently being built to guide the process
of collecting this important data; community surveys will be forthcoming as a
continued part of this process.

5 essentials is a school health survey designed by the University
of Chicago to assess how well a school is organized to promote improvement in
student outcomes. Our pilot program for this survey includes 20 schools; the
process includes an initial consultation with principals, a school
effectiveness survey (administered to staff, students and families), an
in-depth analysis by University of Chicago experts, and tailored professional
development to address the results of the survey.

More information on these initiatives, including next steps, can
be found in this


Real Estate Update


As deliberation continues on the potential sale of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant
on Mass Ave, IPS leadership brought a new opportunity before Commissioners. In
conversations with the City of Indianapolis, the mayor’s office has expressed
interest in a potential land transfer. Through this plan, the City would take
the lead on the sale of the property and give the proceeds from the sale to IPS.
Commissioners commended our IPS Real Estate Advisory Committee for their
countless hours of diligent work to review the bids and share vital information
about the process. Board members shared that they learned so much about the
value of the property and complexities of a potential sale in this process that
it became apparent this development decision could potentially benefit from
increased City participation.


“I am a fan of engaging the city in this conversation,”
commented Commissioner Michael O’Connor. “I joined a school board, not a real
estate development commission.”


Commissioners voted to table the
discussion on the Mass Ave property until a land transfer proposal is presented
by the mayor’s office next month.