Indianapolis Public Schools to Sue Indiana Board of Ed

Next school year, four Indianapolis Public Schools – Donnan Middle School and Manual, Arlington Community and Howe Community high schools, along with Roosevelt High School in Gary – will be among the first to be taken over by the state of Indiana as the Board of Education are likely to approve the recommendation, writes Scott Elliott at Indystar.com.

The Indianapolis School Board is prepared for this result, and voted 4-3 on Thursday to sue the state Department of Education when the announcement is made.

Two other IPS schools — Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Washington Community High School will be paired with “lead partner” organizations to assist with specific needs, while IPS retains control.

“Our children deserve better, and it’s time to do it,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett in unveiling his recommendations.

“Our intent is to use everything we have in this state to restore these schools to what they should be for the children in these communities.”

Superintendent Eugene White said IPS attorneys believe the district has a solid case for a discrimination suit, writes Kyle Stokes at State Impact.

IPS officials say the three “high schools” on the district’s takeover list (T.C. Howe, Broad Ripple, and Washington) actually teach students grades 7-12. That means schools have to meet the standards of both a middle school and a high school to meet targets for improving their test scores.

 “I don’t think you should be penalized because you found a model that works in the urban setting,” White told State Impact after the meeting.

Bennett responded to arguments by saying that only the IPS schools failed to make enough progress to avoid intervention, despite there being 140 schools, 20 of which were on probation, statewide with blended grade configurations.

“These are the same metrics we have had for many years,” he said. “I think the way we work ourselves out of this problem is by thinking about how we educate, not how we litigate.”

Under Bennett’s plan, each school that is taken over would then be run by an outside organization, beginning with the 2012-13 school year.

The schools to be taken over will enter a “transition” year in which the management organizations will learn about them and prepare to take control in 2012, if the state Board of Education approves. These organizations will then run the schools for the next four years and receive the tax dollars that otherwise would have gone to the district.

“The relationship between the Indiana Department of Education, turnaround school operators and lead partners will be one of high expectations and clear metrics for accountability.”

Bennett promised to ask lawmakers next year to add to state law a mechanism allowing him to prevent schools from returning to their districts after state takeover unless the districts can demonstrate they are capable of sustaining improvements, writes Elliott.

Thursday’s announcement was met with a mix of emotions from students, teachers and administrators.

“It is devastating what’s happening,” IPS board member Andrea Roof said.

“It’s not that I don’t think it won’t be devastating to staff, communities, families, businesses. Devastating. I wish we weren’t in this situation, but we are… My hope now, my personal hope, is for the best for our kids, whatever that may be.”

Roof, who voted against authorizing the legal action, said during the meeting she felt a lawsuit would be too little, too late, writes Stokes.

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at www.matthewktabor.com , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.