Indianapolis Public Schools is in the midst of a reorganization, led by new Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, that will change how it oversees schools that are struggling with low test scores.
Lots of schools need attention.
In all, 38 of IPS’s 65 schools have been singled out by the district or the state as in need of extra attention and more careful monitoring, in hopes of improving their test performance.
Under the state’s school report card rules, middle schools are scored separately at combined junior-senior high schools in IPS. The poor performance of middle school students in “community” high schools, serving grades 7 to 12, and some grade 6 to 12 magnet schools, has caused Ferebee to ask whether the district should consider housing middle school students in K to 8 elementary schools instead.
Last week Chalkbeat wrote about 11 schools that have essentially been placed on red alert. Called “priority schools” by IPS, they have been identified by Ferebee as the most troubled because they have been rated an F two consecutive years or because their test scores have trended downward. Each will receive extra support and monitoring from the district. Ferebee has promised a report to the school board later this month to explain how the process will work.
But those are not the only schools the district will be taking a closer look at. In cooperation with the Indiana Department of Education, Ferebee’s team has two other categories of schools it is tracking: state focus schools and state priority schools.
Somewhat confusingly, the Indiana Department of Education also has identified its own list of “priority schools” that have been rated a D or F the past two years. Those schools will receive extra monitoring from the Indiana Department of Education, and IPS is tracking them closely, too. The state has a second list of “focus schools,” those that have had somewhat better recent performance — a C or above — but fell to a D last year.
Here’s a look at the 27 IPS schools fall into these categories:
STATE FOCUS SCHOOLS
These schools were rated a D last year and a C or above the prior year, so they have trended down.
George Washington High School
Located on the West side of Indianapolis, George Washington narrowly avoided state takeover in 2011 after six straight years of F grades. The school was instead assigned a “lead partner,” or an outside organization to help make changes. Its grade jumped to a C in 2012 but slipped to a D in 2013. The school earlier this year decided to adopt the “eight-step process,” a system of regular testing and regrouping students based on their skill levels.
Longfellow Middle School
Longfellow, located on the city’s East side, had three consecutive F grades before it closed and reopened. Now a magnet school with a global learning focus, the school received a D last year.
Also called James Garfield Elementary School, it is a neighborhood school located on the city’s South side. School 31’s grade improved from a D to a C to a B in 2012 before falling back to a D last year.
Also called James Whitcomb Riley Elementary School, it’s a neighborhood school located on the city’s North side. Mostly a C school over the past five years, School 43 moved up to an A in 2012 but fell back to a D last year.
Also called Daniel Webster Elementary School, it’s a neighborhood school located in Southwest Indianapolis. The school has a 29-year partnership with Kroger, which buys supplies, supports teacher training and provides volunteers. After four straight years as an A school, its grade fell to a C in 2012 and then to a D last year.
Also called Stephen Collins Foster Elementary School, it’s a neighborhood school on the city’s West side. The school has mostly been rated a D over the past five years before jumping to a B in 2012 and then falling back to a D last year.
Also called Meredith Nicholson Elementary School, it’s a neighborhood school on the city’s Northwest side. The school jumped from an F to an A in 2012 before falling back to a D last year.
Also called Robert Lee Frost Elementary School, it’s a neighborhood school on the city’s Northeast side. After two consecutive F’s, the school saw its grade jump to B in 2012 but fell back to a D last year.
STATE PRIORITY SCHOOLS
These schools, rated a D or F the past two years, have been singled out by the state for special monitoring. Although different from IPS’s own list of “priority schools,” these schools also are receiving intervention from IPS this year.
Arsenal Tech High School
Arsenal, on the East side, is host to several magnet programs, including career and technical programs and specialized study in math and science. With the exception of a lone C grade in 2011, the school has been rated a D or F for eight years, including a D the past two years. Its passing rate on end of course exams fell five points last year to 42 percent.
Northwest High School
Northwest narrowly avoided the possibility of state takeover when it raised its grade to a C in 2011 after five straight years of F grades. A sixth straight F would have triggered the Indiana State Board of Education to intervene, and for four other IPS schools that year it meant state takeover.
But after the timely jump up, Northwest’s grade quickly fell back to an F the next two years. Located, as the name suggests, on the city’s Northwest side, its passing rate on end of course exams fell three percentage points in 2013 from the prior year to 25 percent. It’s middle school performance is similarly low, with 23 percent passing ISTEP last year and consecutive F grades the past two years.
Shortridge High School
Converted back from a middle school to a high school in 2009 and given a magnet theme of law and public policy, Shortridge has made slow and modest progress. The school, located on the North side, raised its grade from an F in 2011 to a D the past two years. It’s ISTEP passing rate has plateaued the past two years at 51 percent.
John Marshall High School
John Marshall, located on the East side, has long been a struggling school. In 2012, it received it’s sixth straight F grade and narrowly avoided state takeover, instead being assigned a “lead partner” organization to help make improvements. Last year, it raised its grade to a D for the first time since 2005. Still, its passing rate on end of course exams remains very low at 25 percent. At middle school, test performance is also poor with 18 percent passing ISTEP last year and F grades from the state the past two years.
Broad Ripple High School
Located on the North side of Indianapolis, Broad Ripple is a magnet school for arts and humanities for grades 6 to 12. The school narrowly avoided state takeover in 2012 after six straight years of F grades. Broad Ripple was instead assigned a “lead partner,” or an outside organization to help make changes.
The schools is perhaps the biggest success story of state intervention at the high school level. It has seen a jump in test scores and earned consecutive B grades. Its lead partner organization, Scholastic, has earned good reviews for its work. Its high school end of course test scores are among the best in the city at 68 percent passing.
However, the performance of middle school students has remained a trouble spot. Graded separately, the middle school saw its grade drop to an F last year from a C and it’s ISTEP passing percentage also went down slightly to 56 percent. The middle school grade lands Broad Ripple on this list.
Crispus Attucks High School
Located downtown, Crispus Attucks has a storied history. It was converted back to a high school from a middle school in 2006 and given a medical magnet theme. Its high school grade reached an A in 2012 and again last year. Middle school students have not fared as well, dropping to an F this year, down from a D last year, with 54 percent passing. It’s the middle school that puts Attucks on this list.
Key Learning Community High School
The high school portion of this unique K-12 magnet school has struggled. Located just west of downtown with a long tradition in project learning, a new principal was installed in 2012 and students in elementary grades made the biggest test score gain in the district last year. The high school, however, continued to struggle, earning a D last year after two consecutive F grades.
But the high school’s passing rate on state end-of-course exams has made gains four consecutive years, from 7 percent passing in 2010 to 50 percent last year.
George Washington High School
While the high school made some progress since being assigned a lead partner, the middle school has continued to struggle like most other IPS combined high schools. The grade for middle school dropped to an F last year from a D the prior year with 25 percent passing ISTEP. Again, poor test performance at middle school is responsible for George Washington’s placement on this list.
Also called Thomas D. Gregg Elementary School, School 15 is located east of downtown. The school fell to an F last year from a C in 2012 and has remained there. Its 40 percent passing rate on ISTEP has stayed mostly steady for several years.
Also called Eleanor Skillen Elementary School and located on the South side, School 34 fell from a C to a D to an F the past three years. About 50 percent passed ISTEP last year.
Also called Louis B. Russell Jr. Elementary School, School 48 is located on the North side. Rated a D last year, the school has not been above that grade in six years. School 48 has seen three years of gains on ISTEP, with 45 percent passing last year.
Also called William Penn Elementary School, located south of downtown, School 49 has been consistent — rated a D for six straight years with roughly the same ISTEP passing rate of about 52 percent.
Also called William Bell Elementary School, this North side school is in transition to becoming a magnet school. In 2011, IPS partnered with Butler University to create a “lab school” within the building.
Following a Reggio Emilia curriculum, the school is growing from preschool and low elementary grades to eventually become a full service elementary school. Butler faculty helped design and support the school, which primarily hires Butler graduates or those with expertise in Reggio Emilia. Butler education students also learn on site at the school. The transition is part of an effort to overhaul the school, which earned an F in five of the past seven years as a traditional IPS neighborhood school.
Also called Wendell Phillips Elementary School, School 63 is located just west of downtown. It was an A school as recently as 2008 but slipped from a C to a D to an F the past three years. Just 36 percent passed ISTEP last year, down from 52 percent the prior year.
Also called Mary Nicholson Elementary School, School 70 is located on the North side. The school was an A in 2011 but fell to an F and has stayed there for two years. Its 55 percent passing rate has fallen for three straight years.
Also called Christian Park Elementary School, School 82 is located east of downtown. The school was an A in 2011 but has earned D’s the past two years. Its ISTEP passing rate was 56 percent last year.
Also called George S. Buck Elementary School, School 94 is located on the city’s East side. After a pair of F’s, it improved to a D last year. Its 55 percent passing rate was a three-year high.
Also called Lew Wallace Elementary School, School 107 is located on the West side. It dropped to an F last year from a C the prior year. The school’s ISTEP passing rate of 43 percent is mostly unchanged the past five years.