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February Board Work Session Highlights

When the IPS Board of School Commissioners convened for its February Board Work Session on Tuesday, Feb. 16, topics discussed included details on the 2020-21 budget development, district scorecard metrics and an academic and schools update. Below is a closer look at these topics.

2020-21 Budget Development

Chief Financial Officer Weston Young walked the Board through the annual budget appropriation process. This included key terms, a timeline and recommendations for an appropriation. The Board will weigh an approval of the appropriation during the March Board Action Session on March 25.

Key Messages:

  • Budget appropriation authorizes maximum spending authority.
  • Projected cash flows are aligned to strategic priorities and supported by operating and capital referendum funds.
  • Appropriation of rainy day and referendum funds addresses cash flow needs as the district strives to develop a sustainable long-term financial plan to support academic priorities.

District Scorecard Metrics

The administration revisited a December 2020 presentation to the Board that outlined the purpose and metrics of the district scorecard. The scorecard aligns with the 2025 Strategic Plan priorities and will serve as a tool to monitor district academic progress. The purpose of the presentation is to continue to build around our key commitments and outline how goals have been established. 

Key Messages:

  • The IPS district scorecard is designed to do the following:
  • Serve as a tool that allows the general public to monitor district progress toward key commitments and strategic priorities.
  • Provide a regular data snapshot to board members and internal stakeholders to cultivate a universal understanding of district performance as well as a shared sense of ownership.
  • Promote data-driven dialogues and decision making across the district.
  • Provide ambitious goals for the district to rally around as we strive to provide the best possible education for our students.
  • COVID-19 has impacted the availability and continuity of data available for several components of the scorecard including state/interim assessment, attendance and enrollment. If these interruptions continue, IPS will need to reevaluate some components of the scorecard.

Academic Data Update

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Warren Morgan shared a detailed deep dive of our academic progress throughout the 2020-21 school year. This is part of a routine update that will be made to the Board detailing academic progress in alignment to the district scorecard.

Key Messages:

  • Student Attendance
  • The overall attendance rate has decreased this school year 7.8% compared to the same time last year.
  • Since returning to in-person learning in January 2021, the average attendance rate has increased 3%.
  • Strategies to support student attendance include:
  • New Tiered Intervention System – IPS has created a menu of best practices and strategies for improving student attendance based on their attendance tier. School social workers and attendance teams have been using this tool since January.
  • New attendance data tracker to support student attendance and discipline – This attendance tool allows schools to consistently track and intervene for students struggling with attendance.
  • School teams will deploy a set of effective and personalized strategies to support student attendance.
  • Student Grades
  • The IPS failure rate has improved since the beginning of the school year.
  • The new grading policy is helping the district monitor and intervene for students since there is a consistent method for how we grade in IPS. The district must continue to make sure schools are adhering to the policy and supporting students with multiple opportunities to achieve.
  • IPS has work to do to decrease the failure rate, but the rate at the end of the second quarter was not as high as other comparably sized urban school districts.
  • High school students had the highest rate of student failure.
  • Strategies to support student grades include:
  • The new IPS grading policy.
  • Continuing to share consistent, updated data with schools so instructional leaders can intervene early and often.
  • Focusing on freshman and sophomore ‘On Track’ metrics and interventions with high school students.
  • Operation Graduation to support high school students who are off-track. This is an intervention to ensure students can retake classes they have failed in the past.
  • Summer learning – IPS is in the process of finalizing summer school opportunities and criteria to ensure students have more time to accelerate learning.
  • Student Test Scores
  • NWEA data shows IPS students have improved slightly in ELA (literacy) since the last ILEARN test.
  • NWEA data shows IPS students are struggling the most with Math (particularly in the upper grades).
  • Though our district growth rate on NWEA is lower this year than it has been in the past couple of years, data shows IPS students are growing at a slightly faster pace than other districts in the NWEA national study.
  • Students who have chosen remote learning for this year are performing slightly better than the students who have transitioned between in-person and remote learning this year.
  • Post-Secondary Readiness
  • The district is starting to create SMART goals for postsecondary readiness to be more intentional with central strategies to impact schools.
  • Metrics the district will monitor on a consistent basis include:
  • Freshman on Track
  • Pass/Fail rate for students in Grades 9-12
  • College applications
  • College acceptances
  • Graduation rates
  • SAT scores
  • PSAT scores
  • Students qualifying for and completing advanced coursework

Schools Update 

Chief Schools Officer Dr. Nathalie Henderson shared how the district plans to achieve academic commitments. She provided an overview of her team, their work and how they are supervising principals to promote instructional leadership and excellence. She also provided an overview of the emerging schools strategy.

Key Messages:

  • School Improvement Strategy
  • Emerging Schools is a new IPS designation started in the 2020-21 school year based on the following criteria:
  • Three consecutive F state-designated letter grades.
  • Bottom quartile in both NWEA metrics for the beginning and middle of the 2019-2020 school year.
  • This year’s Emerging Schools include:
  • Christian Park
  • Anna Brochhausen
  • Eleanor Skillen
  • Brookside
  • Charles W. Fairbanks 
  • Harshman Middle School
  • Northwest Middle School
  • George S. Buck
  • James Whitcomb Riley
  • Clarence Farrington
  • James Russell Lowell
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The Emerging Schools strategy includes:
  • Monitoring short- and long-term goals for quarterly progress.
  • Utilizing an early hire window prioritizing timelines for posting roles and interviewing external candidates.
  • Strengthening Opportunity Culture in the existing Emerging School sites.
  • Taking advantage of Center for Transformative Teacher Training (CT3) and the University of Virginia’s Partnership for Leaders in Education (PLE).
  • Both organizations have a track record of success in similar school districts. 
  • CT3 is recognized for its anti-racist approach to pedagogy.
  • PLE is known for school district transformation.