Future of Schools

IPS outlines a plan: a restart for School 42 and a reprieve for two other schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
John Marshall High School will convert to a middle school next year.

After years of low test scores, an elementary school on the north side of Indianapolis Public Schools is likely to be restarted with a new principal and new teachers next year. But two other schools have gotten a reprieve.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee will recommend that the district restart School 42 as an innovation school, according to a presentation posted today on the IPS board website. The administration is not pushing to restart School 63 or John Marshall Middle School, two struggling schools that were also facing restart with new leaders at the helm and teachers required to reapply for positions.

The board plans to discuss the three schools at its meeting 6 p.m. Thursday. However, it is not expected to make a final decision.

All three schools are facing some clear challenges. They have persistently low passing rates on state tests, and they have gotten several years of F grades from the state because of their students’ low scores.

School 42, which has been a district “priority school” for two years, is also grappling with unstable leadership. Principal Donald Caudle, who took over last year, is leaving in March. The Fayetteville Observer reported earlier this month that he was hired as principal of a North Carolina elementary school. The administration is recommending that the school restart as an innovation school, but it does not mention a specific manager to takeover the school.

As an innovation school, School 42 would still be considered part of the district but it would be managed by an outside operator such as a charter school network. Innovation schools are the most controversial turnaround strategies Ferebee’s administration has pursued in part because teachers would need to reapply for their jobs, the school manager would employ most of the educators at the school and they would not be part of the union that represents teachers in district schools.

IPS has restarted a handful of struggling neighborhood schools as innovation schools over the last two years but it is not yet clear whether the approach will boost test scores.

The presentation suggests that the administration is more optimistic about the future of School 63, which has had the same principal for two and a half years and is part of a transformation zone, a targeted turnaround effort that IPS launched last year that includes extra coaching and training for teachers. The school saw a 3 percentage point jump in the ISTEP passing rate last year. The recommendation calls for continuing current efforts to improve the school.

Although John Marshall also appears to have been spared from restart, its future is uncertain. The school has rock-bottom test scores, and parents earlier this year led a campaign for the district to improve the school. The district already plans to convert the school from a combined middle and high school to a dedicated middle school next year. The current proposal also calls for a new principal and adding it to the transformation zone.

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.

buses or bust?

Mayor Duggan says bus plan encourages cooperation. Detroit school board committee wants more details.

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Fourth-graders Kintan Surghani, left, and Rachel Anderson laugh out the school bus window at Mitchell Elementary School in Golden.

Detroit’s school superintendent is asking for more information about the mayor’s initiative to create a joint bus route for charter and district students after realizing the costs could be higher than the district anticipated.

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a school board subcommittee Friday that he thought the original cost to the district was estimated to be around $25,000 total. Instead, he said it could cost the district roughly between $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000 for their five schools on the loop.

“I think there was a misunderstanding….” Vitti said. “I think this needs a deeper review…The understanding was that it would be $25,000 for all schools. Now, there are ongoing conversations about it being $15,000 to $25,000 for each individual school.”

The bus loop connecting charter and district schools was announced earlier this month by Mayor Mike Duggan as a way to draw kids back from the suburbs.

Duggan’s bus loop proposal is based on one that operates in Denver that would travel a circuit in certain neighborhoods, picking up students on designated street corners and dropping them off at both district and charter schools.

The bus routes — which Duggan said would be funded by philanthropy, the schools and the city — could even service afterschool programs that the schools on the bus route could work together to create.

In concept, the finance committee was not opposed to the idea. But despite two-thirds of the cost being covered and splitting the remaining third with charters, they were worried enough about the increased costs that they voted not to recommend approval of the agreement to the full board.  

Vitti said when he saw the draft plan, the higher price made him question whether the loop would be worth it.

“If it was $25,000, it would be an easier decision,” he said.

To better understand the costs and benefits and to ultimately decide, Vitti said he needs more data, which will take a few weeks. 

Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the district’s hesitation was a sign they were performing their due diligence before agreeing to the plan.

“I’m not at all deterred by this,” Wiley said. She said the district, charters, and city officials have met twice, and are “working in the same direction, so that we eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

Duggan told a crowd earlier this month at the State of the City address that the bus loop was an effort to grab the city’s children – some 32,500 – back from suburban schools.

Transportation is often cited as one of the reasons children leave the city’s schools and go to other districts, and charter leaders have said they support the bus loop because they believe it will make it easier for students to attend their schools.

But some board members had doubts that the bus loop would be enough to bring those kids back, and were concerned about giving charters an advantage in their competition against the district to increase enrollment.

“I don’t know if transportation would be why these parents send their kids outside of the district,” Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said. “If we could find out some of the reasons why, it would add to the validity” of implementing the bus loop.

Board member LaMar Lemmons echoed other members’ concerns on the impact of the transportation plan, and said many parents left the district because of the poor quality of schools under emergency management, not transportation.

“All those years in emergency management, that drove parents to seek alternatives, as well as charters,” he said. “I’m hesitant to form an unholy alliance with the charters for something like this.”