Indiana Signs Deal for Takeover of IPS Schools

Indiana has moved forward and signed contracts for the takeover of four local IPS schools.

The first state takeover of four IPS schools in Indiana moved forward Monday, but not without some cautions by the State Board of Education, writes Scott Elliott at the indystar.com.

The state will sign one-year contracts, not five-year, which was initially sought, with takeover operators of Indianapolis Public Schools’ Emma Donnan Middle School and Manual, Howe Community and Arlington Community high schools and of Gary’s Roosevelt High School.

The companies will spend the academic year assessing and evaluating the schools and developing a plan of action before taking full control next school year, writes Ken Kusmer at the courier-journal.com.

The contracts cover transition-year work that includes studying the schools, building community support and creating an improvement plan. Next year, the state will sign new contracts that will allow the organizations to run the schools, independent of the school districts, for up to five years.

Jim Larson, who heads the Indiana Department of Education’s turnaround office, said Charter Schools USA will make those decisions, but the state board could provide input and receive updates.

“All of the schools are in various stages of dire situations,” said Dale Chu, assistant state school superintendent for innovation and improvement. “The situation at Roosevelt is particularly stark.”

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White said that his schools have made “substantial progress” and that the evaluations of Arlington and Howe weren’t fair because they included test scores of seventh- and eighth-graders who also attend those schools.

If Arlington and Howe were evaluated based on students only in grades nine to 12, instead of in grades seven and eight, the data would show them succeeding, claims White.

“If Arlington and Howe were stand-alone high schools, both schools would receive a ‘C’ grade and would be allowed to continue with educational programs that are obviously working,” White told the board before it voted on the recommended takeovers.

The IPS board voted last week to sue the Department of Education over the evaluations that made the schools vulnerable to takeover under a 1999 school accountability law.

Similar questions were raised about lead partners. In the case of Broad Ripple, board members Sarah O’Brien and Jo Blacketor asked what power lead partner Scholastic Achievement Partners has if the school fails to implement its advice for reshaping teacher evaluation.

“We need to establish who makes the final call,” O’Brien said. “We need to have that said upfront.”

Some board members noted that some of Manual’s staff members have been profiled favorably in a series of stories by The Indianapolis Star. Member Vicki Snyder of Evansville suggested the staff deserved more time to turn around the school’s performance.

“What’s to stop Charter Schools USA from going in and cleaning house?” Snyder asked.

Page said at three charter schools his company has taken over, some — but not most — staff remained on the faculty afterward.

“We will go through a very rigorous evaluation of the staff,” Page told the board.

To create an incentive for schools with lead partners to collaborate, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett proposed, and the board approved, a plan to allow him to convert lead partner schools to state takeover at the end of the first year. The department will develop a new request for proposals for turnaround school operators for such situations, he said.

“We have to develop the type of capacity where we know we will have turnaround school operators who are prepared to respond if the relationship proves untenable,” Bennett said.

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Thursday

September 1st, 2011

Staff Reporter EducationNews.org

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