Opportunity Schools: A Plan to Transform Indianapolis Ed

The Mind Trust has released an ambitious plan to transform Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) that sets out to dramatically shrink and restructure the district's central administration, give around $200 million more annually to schools without tax hikes, provide universal prekindergarten to 4-year-olds, give teachers and principals more autonomy, and provide parents with more quality school choices.

The Mind Trust calls this "the boldest urban reform plan in the United States".

In "Creating Opportunity Schools: A Bold Plan to Transform IPS", the Mind Trust looks to free up $188 million a year for schools by shrinking the central office. Schools are then to use the funds to provide curriculum, school lunches and building maintenance. Schools will have a flexibility in how they spend this money, doing whatever they need to support students – such as extending the school day or year, paying great teachers more, and purchasing new technology.

The plan will also look to reallocate up to: $14 million a year for free, high-quality pre-K for all IPS four-year olds; $7.5 million a year to help start excellent new schools; and $2.5 million a year to recruit and develop the next generation of great teachers and school leaders.

All aspects of this new design could be funded with existing resources, the Mind Trust says.

"Decades of failure demonstrate that it's not the people who are at fault, it's the system. Most IPS schools don't have the conditions that research shows schools need to succeed. This plan creates those conditions," said David Harris, Founder and CEO of The Mind Trust.

"We know that poverty's a major challenge, but around the country a growing number of schools are achieving remarkable success with students just like ours. Schools like CFI and school networks like YES Prep, KIPP, and Achievement First are proving that all kids can achieve at high levels. If they can do it, we have an obligation to ensure IPS schools have the conditions and talent that will achieve similar success with all students."

In no longer having to directly run schools, the smaller IPS central office will be free to focus on holding schools accountable; replacing failing programs with quality new schools; ensuring parents have the choice they need; oversee the New School Incubation and Talent Development Funds; and distribute funds for high-quality prekindergarten.

In The Mind Trust's plan, all schools in IPS would become Opportunity Schools, and after establishing a strong leadership team, the schools are challenged to attract enough students and keep hitting the high standards set to keep the status.

Opportunity Schools are given greater control over resources and be guaranteed autonomy over staffing, budgeting, setting the school culture and other key decisions.

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