Ferebee says he'd consider one enrollment process for IPS, charters

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

When Cynecqua Goodridge picked Indianapolis Public School 103 for her son Johnnie to start Kindergarten last year, her choice was guided mostly by what she heard from her friends and relatives.

They had some good things to say about School 103, but it wasn’t until after Johnnie was in school that she learned the  Eastside elementary school had earned F letter grades from the state for the past four years and its test scores ranked among the district’s worst.

“I had no idea that the school was failing,” said Goodridge, a parent member of education advocacy group Stand for Children. “It wasn’t until he was in Kindergarten that I found out there were magnet schools within IPS that I could send him to. If I would have known, I definitely would have sought out the best location for my son’s education.”

Goodridge and other Stand for Children parents are now pushing the district to improve the enrollment process and be clearer about test scores and other data so that other families don’t have the same experience.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said he’s receptive to the idea.

In fact, Ferebee said he has had “very preliminary” conversations with city officials about creating a common enrollment process to be shared by IPS and Mayor Greg Ballard’s portfolio of Indianapolis charter schools.

Sharing enrollment, he said, would allow district and charter schools to more efficiently plan their staffing by reducing unknowns about how many children might enroll. It would also be easier for parents who are trying to decide whether to send their children to IPS or to a charter school.

“It’s something that we’re open to,” Ferebee said. “Enrollment needs to be very user-friendly and I don’t think it’s very easy for parents to understand in terms of all the different offerings available to them. The better connected we are, the better the community will benefit from what we have to offer.”

A combined system has proved popular for colleges and universities, many of whom now share a single “common application” form. Students fill out just one application that is considered by many schools, which reduces paperwork and time.

For now, Stand for Children is pitching a more limited version of the idea: a “one-stop” shop to help parents to navigate school test scores and other data.

For example, Stand wants all IPS schools rated D or below to notify parents about the school’s grade. The group recently presented the idea to the IPS school board along with a few others they think will improve the district, including a better principal talent pipeline strategy, opening more IPS-charter compact schools and shifting funding from the central administration to the classroom.

Executive Director Justin Ohlemiller said his group is not calling for common enrollment between IPS and charters. At least not yet.

“That’s a couple steps further than what we’re recommending,” Ohlemiller said. “(We’re) calling for data to be housed in one location where (parents) can go and look and see how School A is performing compared to School B, to have all the information they need to make an informed choice.”

The idea of a single enrollment process for IPS and charter schools was proposed in 2013 as part of a policy brief by teacher leadership group Teach Plus as a way to reduce uncertainty for districts planning their staffing needs. It’s also gained traction nationally in cities where there are many school choice options.

School board member Caitlin Hannon, who runs the Indianapolis branch of Teach Plus, agreed parents need more help navigating their options than what is currently available. She has advocated for common enrollment in the past.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure that parents have access to choices, both within the district, and for me personally, outside of the district as well,” Hannon said last month. “We have ton of choice (in Indianapolis), but we don’t have a ton of clarity around navigating that system.”

The Mind Trust executive director David Harris is supportive of centralizing the enrollment between IPS and charters, and anticipated it could be instituted for the 2016-17 school year. The Mind Trust is a non-profit that advocates for innovation and educational change in Indianapolis.

“I’m hopeful that the momentum will continue to grow,” Harris said, who formerly ran the city’s charter school office under former Mayor Bart Peterson. “It’s an important issue. The more choice that is available for parents, the more we’re going to need to make sure we have equity of access.”

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Stand for Children parent Cynecqua Goodridge’s last name.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”