The days when the state would take over failing Indianapolis Public Schools appear to be over — at least for the foreseeable future.
That’s the impression that IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee gave today as he responded to the latest round of A-F grades released by the state. Eleven of the 68 schools in IPS received repeated F grades. But while in the past this would likely have drawn state intervention, Ferebee said he is confident that the district’s own efforts at the schools will keep state officials away.
“We haven’t gotten any indication that there is plans for intervention” from the Indiana State Board of Education, Ferebee said. “I think they’ve appreciated that we’ve been much more proactive in addressing our schools that have struggled with student achievement over time.”
Back in 2012, the state took over four chronically low-performing schools. But since Ferebee took the helm in 2013, IPS has taken aggressive steps to overhaul struggling schools. It has “restarted” some schools with innovation status, meaning principals have been given broad authority to replace teachers and overhaul budgets. It has targeted others for closure.
Most of those efforts are only just getting started, and last year’s scores meant that IPS had just three schools get As — 4.4 percent of the district’s 68 total schools.
Across Indiana, 23.6 percent of schools got the top grade — an accomplishment made more difficult by changes to the way the grades were calculated this year.
For the first time, the state counted equally whether students passed ISTEP and how much students’ scores improved or declined. Officials said repeatedly that the new formula would mean more schools getting Bs and Cs than As and Fs.
And indeed, many Indiana schools appeared to do worse this year than in 2015. That’s not a huge surprise because in addition to the warnings from state officials, many Indiana schools also saw lower ISTEP passing rates this year.
Only eight IPS schools saw their state grades go up, and 30 schools had lower grades from the state than in 2015. Two district schools, Cold Spring and School 56, saw their grades drop from As to Fs. Both had sharp declines in the ISTEP passing rates after the state switched to a harder test in 2015.
One of the schools that might have received state intervention in the past is School 69, which received its sixth consecutive F from the state. But Ferebee is hoping the school won’t face those repercussions because IPS already has restarted the school by turning it over to an outside manager.
The north side elementary school was converted to innovation status this fall, and it is now being managed by Kindezi Academy, an Indianapolis charter school in the same network as Enlace Academy.
Another IPS school, School 44, today received its fifth consecutive F from the state. It was restarted as Global Prep, an innovation school offering Spanish-English immersion. Other F schools, including School 42, School 63 and John Marshall Middle School, have already been identified by the district as possible innovation school restarts.
The other IPS schools on the repeated F list were: School 48, Arlington High School and Arlington, Northwest, George Washington, Broad Ripple and Crispus Attucks junior high schools.