At the January 20 Academics Briefing Session, the IPS Board of School Commissioners was presented with updates on several district initiatives.

Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee shared an update on the Transformation Zone proposal in partnership with Mass Insight Education, a proven leader in school transformation work. Dr. Ferebee shared take-aways from a recent staff visit to Evansville, IN where Mass Insight’s efforts are evident. Dr. Wanda H. Legrand, Deputy Superintendent for Academics shared an update on district academic progress and support goals for priority high schools. Dr. Ferebee outlined the phases of the Transformation Zone initiative, which features targeted support to Northwest and George Washington high schools and four of their elementary feeder schools. The administration highlighted the merits of implementing a K-12 continuum to ensure academic achievement. Beginning in March, concentrated efforts will be underway to build a timeline and model for transformation.

IPS Student Services presented updates on Student Mobility and the district’s Alternative Education programs. As schools with a high student mobility rate often experience greater academic challenges, the district is considering targeted strategies to increase opportunities for student success. District strategies include exploring a transportation model to provide more consistency to students who experience multiple moves throughout a school year. Six distinct alternative education environments within the district offer a myriad of supports to students. Additionally, in-school supports ensure students in traditional school settings are provided opportunities to achieve success in their home schools. Goals for Alternative Education include increasing attendance, reducing exclusionary practices (suspensions, expulsions, and arrests) by 50%, and improving student GPAs.

A Turnaround Teacher Teams (T3) initiative update was provided to commissioners. T3 trains teacher leaders in three IPS schools in an effort to provide additional development resources. Principal Carole Wilson-Frye of Clarence Farrington School 61 – a school that recently improved by one letter grade – shared some of the benefits of “elevating teacher leadership.” This semester, T3 teachers will receive weekly one-on-one coaching as the program rolls out a new progress monitoring tool. In the summer, teachers will attend a 3-day professional development session to prepare for the program’s second year.

Representatives from the Phalen Leadership Academies brought an Innovation Network School proposal before the board. The school would employ a blended learning model for English Language Arts and Math, along with five-week enrichment courses in a variety of fields including debate, entrepreneurship, music, robotics, and more. Data from similarly-inspired schools presented a 14% proficiency increase in Math and 56% increase in ELA.

IPS Career Technology Center (CTC) director Ben Carter shared an update on career pathways for IPS students. By the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, all pathways will offer students the opportunity to earn six or more college credits through a dual credit program. Future plans include increased internship and mentoring opportunities, pathway expansions and a 100% college readiness goal for the 2016-17 school year.