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At
the June agenda review and action sessions, the Indianapolis Public Schools
Board of School Commissioners discussed and took action on initiatives to
increase equity, create new educational opportunities for students and maintain
fiscal responsibility. Also, a group of student advocates saw their hard work
result in an amendment to district policy!

 

Commissioners highlighted several exciting donations
received by our district this month: Shortridge High School received a $20,000
robotics grant from the Verizon Foundation; our partners at Faegre Baker Daniels
supported William McKinley School 39’s $5,000 media center renovation; and our
district Math and Science divisions received $65,774 from the Indiana
Department of Education for a Math/Science partnership!

 

Student-Based
Allocations Update

 

IPS Strategic Plan 2015 item 2.1 calls for a
weighted student funding formula to promote equitable resource allocation. The
IPS Finance Division provided commissioners an update on the research and
recommendations regarding our district’s upcoming student-based budgeting initiative, which
will be piloted by the first cohort of IPS
Autonomous Schools
.

 

In this strategic initiative, weight will be given to
awarding additional
funds to schools with students in categories identified with a higher financial
need. Weights in this strategy must be relevant, measurable, independent,
significant and diversified. Based on stakeholder feedback, principal focus
groups and consultation with design teams, the recommendation is to weight Grades K-2, Grade 7, Grade 9 and student
poverty when determining school budgets.

 

Policy recommendations include budgeting positions based on average
salary rather than actual salary. This would incentivize schools to hire the best and most
highly-qualified teachers and staff without worry of individual cost.
This practice is in alignment with that of other districts utilizing SBA. A
transition/hold harmless policy is also recommended to limit the amount any
school could gain or lose going into the first year of SBA. Schools that lose
significant dollars may need time to make adjustments to school organizations,
while schools that gain significant dollars may need time to build capacity
around high performing strategies so new dollars are used in effective ways.

 

The goal of this initiative is to ensure IPS schools are
equipped with more tools to address gaps in student achievement and our school
leaders are empowered to make more building-level decisions. Next steps include
running scenarios with recommended weights and policies for 2016–2017 projected
budget data and updating commissioners on the project at the July session. The
entire presentation can be found here.

  

Innovation
Network School Reports

 

As part of their Innovation Network
agreements, each innovation school’s leadership team must provide public
presentations twice a year. The
goal of this agreement is to maintain transparency
regarding the progress of our innovation schools for the Board, school staff,
families and supporters. Each school reported on progress and growth areas
mid-year and followed up with a year-end report. Highlights from each of our
Innovation Network partners include:

 

Enlace Academy

·         Increased number of
students at or above grade level – raised by 49 percentage points

·         Significant gains in math

·         Focus on whole child
learning incorporates sports, yoga and partnership with Peace Learning Center

·         Community service outreach- — recycling club raised
money for disaster relief and animal shelters

 

KIPP Indy

·         Interim assessments
identify growth areas every 6 weeks

·         Data-driven interventions
provide targeted supports

·         Restorative justice pilot
program supports student growth

·         New Kaboom playground will
be built July 30

 

Phalen Leadership Academy
at 103

·         20 percent
enrollment increase

·        
100 percent
retention of effective and highly effective staff

·        
Significant
academic growth across all grades

·         Continued successes in
building culture and sense of community

 

Westside
Community Middle School Proposal

 

Sheila Dollaske, former IPS principal and current Mind
Trust Innovation Fellow, presented a proposal for a new middle school within
the Innovation Network. The Board of School Commissioners and IPS
administrative leaders agree that phasing out community high school models and
creating new opportunities for middle grades is key to increasing student
achievement. This was a major discussion point in our Community Town Hall
Meeting tour in June, and will continue to be a main focus of our leadership
team as student and family input drives future decisions regarding middle
grades.

 

The proposed school’s leadership team identified a
significant community need for
increased academic and economic support on the west side of Indianapolis, and Dollaske has forged
several partnerships to create a true community school to support students and
families. Her advisory committee has met monthly over the last year to plan the
school proposal centered around three pillars: supporting students to be
community minded, college and career ready, and self-empowered as they
transition from elementary school to high school. A partnership with Family
Access Network would ensure students and families have access to health
services. Goodwill Education Services, chartered through the Mayor’s Office,
would serve as governing board. Target proposed enrollment is 360 students in
6th, 7th, and 8th grades,
and the location would be determined as conversations surrounding the proposed
school model continue. The entire proposal presentation may be found here.

 

Purdue
Polytechnic High School Proposal

 

Commissioners will also review a recommendation to enter
into negotiations with Purdue University regarding Purdue Polytechnic
Indianapolis High School, which fulfills many goals set in our strategic plan.
In the IPS Strategic Plan 2015 goal area of Teaching and Learning, we have committed
to increasing unique learning opportunities for students, enhancing college and
career readiness, and providing additional professional development
opportunities for our educators. Purdue Polytechnic would feature a work-based
learning environment focused on technology, humanities, math and science where
students would experience flexible terms, mentoring and career support
services, and a challenging curriculum based on problem-solving. Teachers at
the school would receive the full support of Purdue University, including
unique professional development opportunities.

 

Shatoya Jordan, an Arsenal Technical High School
graduate and former IPS employee, has been selected by Purdue to lead the
university’s next high school. She told commissioners she is excited to support
a pathway to Purdue for students in Center Township while sparking curiosity
and exploration through Science. Scott Bess, head of Purdue Polytechnic,
added that Purdue is committed to supporting college and career opportunities
for minority students in STEM fields. Additionally, shared professional
development and programming for all IPS employees would be part of the expanded
partnership with the university. The full presentation from Purdue Polytechnic
can be found here.

 

IREAD-3
Results

 

The dedicated IPS Research, Evaluation and Assessment
team identified errors in the state’s 2014–2015 IREAD-3 data for some students
in our district. Our colleagues at IDOE were responsive to the concerns of our
team, and the scores have now been corrected. Deputy Superintendent for
Academics Dr. Wanda H. Legrand
shared the finalized data
with commissioners for review. Our districtwide pass rate is 74 percent — a 4
percentage point increase from 2013-2014 data. A performance growth assessment
from 2013–2014 to 2014–2015 shows 33 IPS schools (67 percent) showed an
increase in percentage passing over the previous year!

 

2015-2016 scores are not yet finalized, but IPS is
trending higher than in recent years. Students may have up to three
opportunities to pass IREAD-3 – the final testing window is underway this week.
After the initial testing window, targeted supports are initiated for students
in need of additional assistance. Literacy programming, including ReadUP and
OASIS tutoring offer opportunities for students to hone their reading skills.
Results after the second testing opportunity show 72.5 percent
of our students passing; last year at this time the passing rate was 66.9 percent. 

 

Surplus
Property

 

As IPS continues to exhibit fiscal responsibility and a
commitment to increasing efficiency through strategic real estate sales, two
properties were approved by commissioners as surplus: the Mallory Building
(also known as the Ford Building) at 1316 Southeastern Ave. and the Facilities
Management Division (FMD) building at 1129 E. 16th Street.
IPS leadership will continue to engage our trusted Real Estate Advisory
Committee
 for
guidance on the complex process of selling properties. A displacement plan will
be provided to Commissioners outlining the transition of staff and operations
from these two properties, along with the SCIPS property on Mass Ave.

 

Urban
Initiative Partnership

IPS is committed to increasing fruitful partnerships
with local organizations for the benefit of our students, and the Board
approved an exciting collaboration to encourage our students to succeed. The
Rev. Dr. Preston Adams, head of Urban Initiative, Inc., will organize recurring
high five rallies to start the day at our elementary schools with an inspiring
high five tunnel supported by local professionals. These rallies are known
for bringing joy and motivation to our students. You can help Urban Initiative
in their exclusive partnership with IPS! Contact Rev. Adams at drptadams1@me.com to learn more about how
you can take part in the upcoming rallies.

 

Dress
Code Policy Change

 

A group of young women from Center
for Inquiry School 84
 are
proving students have the power to effect action by IPS administration! CFI
84’s Girl Scout Troop 1610 noted inconsistency in the IPS
Dress Code
 regarding
tights. While the dress code was updated to allow multicolored socks for all
students to show fashion expression, the language remained unclear on tights.
These young ladies put together a survey regarding tights in IPS and presented
their findings in a compelling presentation at the May Board session. We’re
pleased to report new language will be recommended allowing multicolored tights
to be worn by our students thanks to the hard work of Troop 1610!

 

“To see this kind of civic engagement,” said
Commissioner Kelly Bentley, “it does my heart good. I think you should be very
very proud of yourselves. We look forward to seeing those tights this
fall!”

 

Read
more about CFI 84 Girl Scout Troop 1610 and their dress code proposal here

 

Board
Statement of Support for Dr. Ferebee

 

Indianapolis Public Schools has been the subject of
significant media coverage in recent months regarding the alleged misconduct of
a former employee and the internal processes related to that case. Board
President Mary Ann Sullivan took an opportunity to address the public at the
Action Session in support of Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee and the
progress our district has made in recent years. Her full statement reads:

 

The last five months have been a
difficult time for IPS and the IPS family. We have been the focus of public
attention due to a very unfortunate incident. An incident that was not only, in
itself tragic, but also was not handled well by far too many people.

 

The board and the administration accept
our responsibility for any mistakes. We are doing everything in our power to
ensure that this never happens again.  The safety and security of our
students are the most important obligation we have to our families.

 

It is important to remind everyone, however,
that despite the delays in timely reporting, the alleged abuser was barred from
her school and relieved of her duties at the district’s very first opportunity
– the morning following the evening officials first learned of the alleged
abuse.

 

Fortunately, this type of incident is
rare. And because it is rare, and so disturbing, it attracts a lot of
attention. Unfortunately, by dominating the news about our district, it also
draws attention away from many important accomplishments; working with our students,
teachers, families, staff, and education partners, we:

 

·        
Cut in half the
number of IPS schools designated as failing;

·        
Earned the
district’s highest graduation rate in our storied history;

·        
Increased the
African American male graduation rate by 7%;

·        
Completed a
landmark bargaining agreement after years of no salary adjustments;

·        
Dramatically
downsized the central office and shifted more resources to schools;

·        
Expanded preschool
opportunities and grew our most popular programs;

There are so many examples of progress,
real progress, in a district that has been at best, stuck in mediocrity, and at
worst, failing thousands of families and their children year after year.

 

Significant and positive changes have
come to IPS under the leadership of Dr. Ferebee. To his credit, he has
kept a steady hand at the helm of this district throughout these trying times.
He has maintained a focus on the right things, and not allowed the continuing
coverage of this single event to slow his pace or weaken his commitment to our
most important work — building a 21
st century
urban school system capable of uplifting lives and transforming our community.

 

Thank you, Dr. Ferebee.

 

To our friends in the media, we
understand that this has been an important story to cover. We have worked hard
to be responsive to your requests. We thank you for keeping the public informed
on this issue, but we would also welcome your equal attention to our progress,
as well as covering our challenges.

 

What is happening in our schools on a
daily basis is both inspiring and evidence that we are on the right path. I
have no doubt that if you make an effort to chronicle our progress, you will
understand why all of us are so proud about how far we’ve come.

 

And much is yet to come.