In a new national report assessing academic recovery in K-12 schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) emerged as a bright spot.
The Education Recovery Scorecard, a collaborative effort between the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University and The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University, highlighted IPS’s efforts in mitigating pandemic-induced learning setbacks. In IPS schools, “the pandemic losses in math and reading were close to the state average loss and roughly one-third the size of loss experienced in other districts in Indiana with similar poverty levels,” the report’s authors wrote in a press release.
The report revealed that, while many districts across the nation struggled to recover from pandemic losses, IPS showcased resilience.
“IPS has the fastest rates of student academic growth and recovery since 2020,” said IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson. “Our school district now has a greater share of students at or above pre-pandemic performance in both reading and math and is the only district in Marion County that can say that. These results are a testament to the talent and dedication of our teachers and staff and our relentless focus on building a district that is excellent because it is equitable. There’s no doubt this has been a challenging few years, but I’m proud of the way this community has come together to make hard decisions that put students first at every step of the way.”
This positive trajectory positions IPS as a leading district in academic recovery. IPS used COVID relief funds to set up several programs designed specifically for English (ELA) and Math improvement. Out of the 42 school corporations across the state that had 3,000 or more students take ILEARN, IPS ranked #1 in 4-year growth in ELA and Math.
“The district is actively addressing the academic performance gap through our ‘Rebuilding Stronger’ initiative,” Dr. Johnson said. “This ambitious program aims to make excellent offerings available to every student in every neighborhood.”
Rebuilding Stronger is increasing access to excellent schools through grade reconfiguration, the replication of successful school models, and capital improvements to school buildings.
In their state analysis of Indiana, the report’s authors noted that “no one wants to see poor kids footing the bill for the pandemic, but that is the path Indiana is on. With federal relief dollars drying up, state leaders must ensure the remaining dollars are used for Summer 2024 and for tutoring and after-school next year.”
During the January meeting of the district’s Board of School Commissioners, IPS leadership shared that IPS has now spent 72% of total federal COVID relief dollars, which is in line with the statewide average of about 73%.
IPS remains committed to helping students succeed beyond pre-pandemic levels, even as federal COVID relief dollars expire. Looking forward, Dr. Johnson highlighted the need for sustained funding for crucial reading and tutoring programs that have proven effective over the last few years. The district has partnered with several organizations, including Tutored by Teachers for the comprehensive Tutoring for All program, designed to address learning gaps in math and English Language Arts.
She noted that IPS, in collaboration with At Your School, Inc. and other district youth development partners, is launching the “Engage Every Student Indianapolis” initiative this fall. This groundbreaking effort aims to provide accessible high-quality before and after-school programs for all Pre-K through fifth-grade IPS students, fostering a holistic and enriching learning experience.
“As IPS continues to navigate the post-pandemic landscape, our commitment to academic excellence and equitable education for every student remains unwavering,” Dr. Johnson said.