Back in May when Indianapolis Public Schools first partnered
with Mass Insight Education (MIE) to begin the exciting work of building
Transformation Zones to support some of our schools, the focus was on
assessment, on seeing where schools in the Transformation Zones were and
evaluating what kind of support might be needed on an individual school basis.

The two Transformation Zones started were

  • Northwest Community High School aligned with feeder
    schools Louis B. Russell School 48 and Lew Wallace School 107
  • George Washington Community High School aligned
    with feeder schools William Penn School 49 and Wendell Phillips School 63

From May through July MIE met with staff, students, families
and community members at these schools to conduct SRAs, School Review
Assessments. Through surveys, interviews and focus groups they were able to
gather valuable information about school-specific needs for support.

Mariah Deans, a Project Coordinator with Mass Insight
Education who is working on this process with IPS, said, “All schools will
undergo more extensive SRAs in the fall,” but that the initial assessments of
Phase I of the Transformation Zone process were complete.

This exciting process is now shifting into Phase II. With
state funding, IPS has added two Directors of Transformation:

  • Cheryl Beeson, who supports the two high schools, and Elder W.
    Diggs School 42, which was recently added to the process
  • Brynn Kardash, who supports the other four elementary schools

Beeson and
Kardash have hired three academic coaches, and are in the process of hiring a
fourth. These positions are also state-funded and within IPS.

Beeson, Kardash
and their coaches are key to Phase II, where they are pushing in to help these
schools with what they are doing right now.

Deans noted,
“Phase II will also include district level surveys and meetings to start
assessing ways the district can improve support to the schools.” Still the
focus at present is on helping schools in the Transformation Zones start off
the year strong.

“We’re training
our coaches to help the schools with building capacity, still focusing in on
IPS goals,” Kardash said. “We’re not bringing new initiatives at this time but
supporting existing IPS initiatives to support these schools on a deeper

Beeson agreed,
“We’re working closely with the schools on building schedules, on how to use
time and personnel effectively, and on how to work with partners. We’re trying
to form cohesive teams with new and existing staff. We want to set clear and
high expectations for everyone.”

That’s why
Beeson was so pleased to support George Washington’s recent 3-day off-site
training experience, Capturing Kids’ Hearts from The Flippen Group. To hold the
off-site training, space at the Lilly Technology Center
was donated by Eli Lilly and Company through their Capturing Hearts at Home
partnership with the school this year.

Principal Emily Butler said this opportunity has been
invaluable for her staff. “Teachers can become very frustrated with adult-like,
inappropriate behaviors from adolescents when they lack the tools for
addressing them. This can lead to increased removal of students from
classrooms, poor staff morale, damaged relationships between teachers and some
students and high out-of-school suspensions. This training equips
educators with the non-content, non-pedagogical aspects of being an
educator; it teaches them how to build welcoming, positive, productive and
accountable relationships with students.”

She also noted, “Legacy and new staff had a great
opportunity to get to know each other during a powerful, three-day learning

Those are exactly the kind of concrete, capacity-building
experiences Beeson and Kardash envision for Phase II of the Transformation Zone
process. These experiences will give administrators, teachers and staff in
these schools concrete tools to hone their skills, build relationships among
staff and students and help all these schools and their students succeed!

We can’t wait to see the next steps in these exciting