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State education department investing $3 million to transform education at George Washington

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) is investing $3 million over the next four years into George Washington High School (GWHS) to help improve academics and eliminate achievement gaps at the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) facility.

This Next Generation School Improvement Grant (NextGen SIG) from IDOE will work in conjunction with a partnership between IPS, George Washington, and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), to help transform the school. NIET will provide services to support teacher leadership and keep educator effectiveness.

“We have an amazing opportunity to carefully craft and implement transformational projects that will rethink and reconsider the fundamental structures that exist to better meet student needs,” said Melody Coryell, the district’s executive director of postsecondary readiness. “IPS and GWHS aspire to help students succeed by raising the academic accomplishments for all students and eliminating the achievement gaps that exist for a significant number of GWHS students.”

“The fact that GWHS is populated with over 80% of students of color with approximately half of the students who are Black and a third of students who are Hispanic makes it even more critical that we provide the very best opportunities for these traditionally underserved students,” she said. “These are the very students who often experience systemic barriers to positive educational experiences, and that add increased importance to providing them with the very best educational opportunities.” 

Staring in the fall, the grant will fund a three-fold intervention model that aims to engage teacher efficacy, provide strong academic programming, and prepare students for success so that students and teachers feel empowered and are equipped to ensure that each student at GWHS graduates with the tools and a plan to pursue a fulfilling career of their choosing. 

While the district addresses various academic issues through the Rebuilding Stronger initiative, the new funding will position GWHS to implement rigorous programming to serve its campus community, including students who are seeking a program to provide early access to college-level rigor, who are presently in CTE pathways that do not meet their needs in terms of interest or engagement, or who face credentialing barriers due to undocumented status.

Coryell said the anticipated shifts in increased teacher support and collaboration will elevate the teaching and learning for all students.

The project will not only will provide a new rigorous academic program for GWHS, but support school leadership in aspiring to raise the educational expectations for all students, including those students in the three CTE academies that are already a part of the school, she said.

“Our vision is to increase rigor and student engagement across the board that will have the effect of raising academic achievement for all students and, in turn, have a positive effect on attendance, discipline and, ultimately, graduation rates,” Coryell said. “Furthermore, students who choose a CTE pathway and want to pursue college will be able to access rigorous core coursework to support their CTE coursework and credentials.” 

Through the support of the grant, GWHS leadership plans to explore and then adopt a program to provide students the Indiana College Core coursework via dual-credit opportunities, Advanced Placement course availability, and/or International Baccalaureate programming. Such opportunity development would have the effect of transforming GWHS in both CTE academies and non-CTE programs.

“The George Washington community is excited about the opportunity to strengthen the academic programming as a result of receiving the school improvement grant,” said Principal Stan Law. “The grant will afford George Washington to bolster the rigorous academic offerings for our scholars, whereby scholars will be better equipped to realize their aspirations and dreams of their post-secondary endeavors. 

Coryell notes that by implementing a planning process that will lead to a transformed educational experience for GWHS students, increasing SAT scores to above 1150 from the current level of about 778 for 2022-23 seniors.

Project leaders also estimate the school’s attendance rate will increase from under 80% to over 90% with the transformational changes envisioned.  Also, under the project, the school’s graduation rate is anticipated to rise from the present 72.5% to well over 90%.

Coryell noted that in addition to addressing the above student performance factors, the grant will also lead to a reduction of achievement and other gaps that exist with racial and socioeconomic groups of GWHS students

“By transforming GWHS in terms of rigorous offerings for all students through the support of IDOE for a comprehensive planning and implementation school improvement grant and our expert partners’ guidance and assistance, we are excited by the opportunity to serve our students in such a way as to increase their success in school and their quality of life after graduation,” Coryell said.