As Innovation Officer for Indianapolis Public Schools, Aleesia Johnson guides the process for an exciting new academic strategy in the district: autonomous schools. We recently shared information about the framework for autonomy as IPS begins the pathway for granting increased flexibility and freedom to principals; the application window for principals interested in autonomy is now open! As some of our principals begin the process to join our first cohort of autonomous schools, we sat down with Johnson to learn more about the application process and what this means for our school staff and families.

What is the process for school leaders seeking to have their schools become autonomous?

The application process for schools leaders seeking to transition their schools to becoming autonomous involves two steps.  The first step is to submit a full application that requests the following information:

  • the mission and vision of the school
  • length of principal’s tenure at the school
  • composition of school leadership team and tenure of each leadership team member
  • student academic performance data during the principal’s tenure at the school
  • evidence of leadership capacity and desire to participate in intensive planning, and the ability to enact change throughout the school
  • evidence of support from school staff and community stakeholders, including parents
  • evidence of existing or prospective community partnerships (i.e., businesses, faith groups, community organizations, etc.)
  • rationale for transitioning to an autonomous school, including preliminary strategies the team would hope to leverage as a result of additional decision-making authority

Applications will be reviewed and finalists will be invited to interview with district leadership.  Selection of schools will be made by January 30.  Six to eight schools will be selected with the goal being to select at least  two elementary, two secondary, and two choice programs.  This composition may shift depending on schools that apply.


What will the transition to autonomy look like for selected schools?

Once schools are selected, leadership teams from those schools will participate in a series of strategic school design work sessions. During the course of this work, they will also develop school-based budgets that align to the strategies they have identified for implementation in the 2016-17 school year.


In general, what can families expect next year if their school is part of the pilot autonomy cohort? 

For the most part, families will likely not experience any significant changes from this year to next year as a result of a school’s participation in the pilot cohort.  However, autonomous schools will have greater flexibility around scheduling and instructional methods, so if schools decide to make changes in those areas, families should expect to be engaged and informed throughout the school’s planning process.