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Rebuilding Stronger is our commitment to ensure there are excellent choices open to every single one of our students, in every school, in every neighborhood. No matter the color of their skin, their zip code, their income level, or what language they speak at home, we want families not only to not have to worry about the school their children will attend, but to get excited about the numerous opportunities available at those schools. Rebuilding Stronger is the roadmap to build on and expand what works — while also tackling some of the biggest challenges we face. With this plan, we can deliver more great schools, more excellent offerings, and more equitable access. 

In last year’s State of the District, IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson kicked off a yearlong community engagement process to re-envision Indianapolis Public Schools through an initiative called Rebuilding Stronger. As she said then, “Our vision for IPS is clear — a sustainable district that serves all our students with excellence, warmth, support and love, and that lets children and families choose their own future rather than deciding their path for them.” She also made clear, “We need to develop these solutions together. We can do anything, but we can’t do everything — we need to build the plan around what the community values most.” 

Community Engagement 

Since last fall, we’ve engaged in more than 50 community meetings (both virtual and in person) with nearly 2,000 attendees. We also sent tens of thousands of invitations, emails, calls and text messages about community meetings, and received more than 2,000 responses to our surveys. 

Throughout this work, we heard a clear message again and again: IPS must provide every child in Indianapolis with what it takes to grow and succeed. In these discussions, we heard that this must include: 

(1) Offering excellent, more equitable choices for learning, including academics, athletics, and arts, that are accessible to more students.

(2) Providing supports that value every child as a whole child with a full range of human needs, not just an academic learner.

(3) Ensuring warm, safe, well-kept buildings that promote learning, including inviting outdoor spaces.

The Challenges

The hard truth is that student experiences in IPS have been divided between Choice schools — which often offer more challenging classes and the experiences described above — and neighborhood schools, which haven’t always had the same offerings. Today, race, income, and neighborhood predict far too strongly who enrolls in a Choice school. We also know that for so many children, it’s the arts, or music, or team sports that draw them into school and learning — yet at many of our schools, a child might have only one of those options. Rebuilding Stronger must address our biggest challenges that contribute to these inequitable opportunities and outcomes, including: 

  • Academic Achievement: Academic excellence exists within our schools, but it’s far from universal.  
  • Student Experience: Larger schools tend to have more enrichment offerings while smaller schools have fewer because their resources are focused on essential staffing needs.
  • Enrollment: Our current enrollment practices have led to some schools achieving more enrollment stability than others.
  • Facilities: We have too many buildings and many are in poor condition. 
  • Finances: Our current mix of buildings and programs does not allow for strategic use of resources.

To ensure vision attainment, we must:

  • Ensure equitable geographic distribution of high performing & high demand programming.
  • Grow and replicate schools/programs with demonstrated academic success in supporting all students to both improve under-performing schools and explicitly close the opportunity gap for students of color.
  • Ensure students have access to high-quality and rigorous curriculum and instruction, and co-curricular, athletic and enrichment environments.
  • Address inequities that may exist in the school proximity boundary policy.
  • Create conditions that stabilize student populations at individual schools thereby decreasing student mobility.
  • Stabilize the IPS student population by ensuring successful grade level transitions as they move into Middle and High School.
  • Foster learning models and partnerships that establish welcoming school environments for non-English-speaking communities.
  • Ensure safe passage to school – whether by bus, vehicle or by foot – by leveraging the talent and resources of government, public- private partnerships, and nonprofits.
  • Consider the long-term financial stability of IPS and ensure that any significant school changes (replications, closures, consolidations, new construction) are planned and implemented in a way that acknowledges community and neighborhood dynamics.
  • Ensure facilities are high quality and inspiring for our students, and that unused facilities have a robust plan for reuse.

This four phase, yearlong initiative began in September 2021 with IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson’s State of the District speech, followed by Phase 1 of Rebuilding Stronger which included a series of Community Conversations that resulted in the following tangibles:

Commitments to Our Community

A set of commitments aligned to IPS values non-negotiable. English | Spanish

Stakeholder Input Report

A collection of the feedback received from stakeholders, including key themes and insights, details of the desired vision from stakeholders. English | Spanish

Indianapolis Public Schools continues to provide engagement opportunities for its Rebuilding Stronger Initiative to ensure that all IPS stakeholders (parents, families, staff, alumni, community partners and others) are engaged throughout the process and have multiple ways and platforms to share their thoughts, suggestions and overall feedback.

The Plan Components

Creates dedicated K-5 and 6-8 schools for an exciting and robust elementary and middle school experience.

Improves access to FREE Pre-K by adding programs throughout district schools.

Increases equitable access to schools for all families; reduces student mobility.

Increases accessibility of special education programs in each of the four enrollment zones.

Creates higher-quality facilities, and modifications to schools to accommodate new programs, academic models or grade reconfiguration.

Offers increased access to high-ability programming to eligible students in a more centralized location.

Improves student access to higher-performing, high-demand schools in all Zones.

Reduces number of small schools and poor facilities; improves student enrollment. 

Glossary of Terms

  • IPS Choice Schools – IPS Choice schools (often called “Magnet” schools) are free public schools that offer specific instruction in a specific area, such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), International Baccalaureate (IB), Career and Technical Education (CTE), World Languages (immersion and non-immersion), and many others. All IPS Choice programs provide transportation. All IPS high school programs are choice programs.
  • Innovation Schools – Innovation schools are free, autonomous public schools that are not part of the traditional school district.  They have the authority to make decisions about all aspects of their school – both academic and operational – and are held accountable by IPS for agreed upon student outcomes. 
  • Neighborhood Schools – A neighborhood school is a school that serves all students within a certain boundary. IPS guarantees each child admission to his or her neighborhood school for K-8th grades. 
  • District-Managed School – Traditional schools operated by the district.
  • Innovation Network Schools – Schools that operate with the authority to make decisions about certain aspects of their school-both academic and operational. They are held accountable by the school district for achieving high academic goals and strong student achievement. The purpose of Innovation Network Schools is to allow our district, and schools within our district, greater flexibility to make decisions based on the specific needs of a school’s student body.
  • LEA – An Innovation school under the IPS banner. Special Education services and support will be provided by Unified Student Supports (USS). IPS will maintain oversight of the Special Education services provided within the building including staffing allocations and implementation of the USS – Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Non-LEAInnovation school that is its own legal school corporation. The Partner Operator is responsible for all Special Education services. If a school moves from the IPS LEA to Non LEA, IPS is no longer able to provide Special Education services or staffing within the partner school’s LEA.
  • Replication – copying a successful program at an existing or new site.
  • Renovations – building improvements.
  • Expansions – adding to an existing facility.
  • Rebuild – building a new facility.