When it comes to the lowest-scoring schools in the Indianapolis Public School District, making changes has proven difficult.

In fact, of the 15 F-rated schools in the district in 2013-14, all but two of them were also rated an F the year before. All of the bottom 10 lowest-scoring IPS schools on ISTEP are neighborhood schools. Not one of them is a magnet school, which tend to serve enrollments with fewer kids who face extra challenges such as learning English as a new language or needing special education services.

In fact, only one magnet school earned an F — Key Learning Community’s elementary school — and its main problem was it could not maintain the huge surge in the number of students who passed the prior year.

Over the next few weeks, Chalkbeat will publish short profiles of the top-scoring, and lowest-scoring, Marion County schools on ISTEP for three types of schools — Indianapolis Public Schools, township schools and charter schools. Find our story on the top-rated IPS schools here.

The other group that dominated the F-rated school list in IPS is junior high schools. Even at IPS’s top-rated high school — Crispus Attucks High School, which earned an A in 2014 — students in junior high school grades earned a separate rating of F.

Shortly after he arrived in Indianapolis in 2013, Superintendent Lewis Ferebee declared 11 schools that were not improving in need of major help for low test scores. Eight of those remained an F at the end of the 2013-14 school year. (ISTEP scores and grades for the 2014-15 school year are not expected to be released until late this year or early next year.)

But there are efforts underway to improve those schools, including some high-profile overhauls.

Here are the 10 IPS schools that have the lowest ISTEP passing rates in 2014:

School 103

Also called Francis Scott Key Elementary School, this neighborhood school has been a long-time poor performing school when it comes to passing state tests. Located on the city’s Northeast side, School 103 has 341 students and has earned four consecutive F grades.

F-rated School 103 became a Phalen Leadership Academy-managed school this year, and is the hub of a new community partnership on the East side.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
F-rated School 103 became a Phalen Leadership Academy-managed school this year, and is the hub of a new community partnership on the East side.

Its grade has never been higher than a C in the past eight years. More alarming, its ISTEP passing rate has been trending down for seven years to a very low 15 percent passing last year from 47 percent in 2009.

That means not even two of every 10 students at the school could pass state tests in reading and math. The district average for IPS was 51 percent that year, and the state average was 74 percent.

But a dramatic change is underway at the school. This year it will be run by the operators of the Phalen Leadership Academy charter school under a first-of-its-kind partnership with IPS.

The challenge is steep, as the students face many barriers to learning. About 84 percent of the students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. To qualify, a family of four cannot earn more than $44,863 annually. Districtwide, about 76 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

School 103 also has a large percentage of students in special education at 21 percent, which is above the district average of 18 percent. About 9 percent are English-language learners at the school, less than the 16 percent district average.

The school is about 78 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic and 18 percent white.  The district averages are 20 percent white, 50 percent black and 23 percent Hispanic.

School 107

Also called Lew Wallace Elementary School, this school is a neighborhood school located on the West side. The school dropped to an F in 2014 and 2013 after a pair of C’s the prior two years. Its ISTEP passing rate dropped dramatically to 27 percent in 2014 from 43 percent the prior year.

School 107 has a new principal this year who hopes to raise reading scores.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
School 107 has a new principal this year who hopes to raise reading scores.

The school has a new principal this year. Jeremy Baugh previously worked at the Phalen Leadership Academy charter school, the same organization that will manage School 103 this year. The school has ambitious goals, including raising reading scores dramatically.

School 107 has one of the largest shares of students in special education among IPS schools at 29 percent. About 67 percent of the 464 students enrolled are black, 18 percent are Hispanic and 12 percent white. Roughly 5 percent of students who attend the school are still learning English as a new language.

School 63

Also called Wendell Phillips Elementary School, it is a neighborhood school located just west of downtown and enrolls about 370 students.

School 63
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
School 63 has seen test scores drop as it fell to the state’s bottom rating in 2013.

The school has a rich history, opening in 1911 to serve black families in the city’s Haughville neighborhood. It closed as part of an integration plan in the 1980s, but a new school was built at the site, and it re-opened in 2006.

School 63 was rated an A-school its first two years after it reopened but has not been above a C since. It earned an F the most recent two years. Test scores have been falling. Just 30 percent passed ISTEP in 2014, down from 36 percent and 52 percent the prior two years.

Children from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced price lunch make up about 77 percent of those enrolled. About 73 percent of the students are black, 12 percent Hispanic and 10 percent white. Roughly 15 percent are in special education and 5 percent are English-language learners.

School 44

Also called Riverside Elementary School, this is a neighborhood school with about 420 students on the city’s North side. The school has not seen a grade above a D since 2005 and earned an F the most recent three years.

School 44 has seen some modest gains in test scores the past two years.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
School 44 has seen some modest gains in test scores the past two years.

Test scores have slowly crept up to 30 percent in 2014 from a low of 23 percent in 2012. But even after the improvement the school ranks in the bottom 10 IPS schools on ISTEP.

School 44 has higher poverty than the average IPS school. About 79 percent of students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Students in special education account for about 16 percent of those enrolled, and about 4 percent are English language learners.

Roughly 75 percent of students are black, 12 percent Hispanic and 8 percent white.

School 69

Also called Joyce Kilmer Elementary School and located on the North side of Indianapolis, School 69 was rated an A in 2010 but has earned four straight F’s since then.

IPS School 69 has been rated an F for four straight years because of low test scores.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
IPS School 69 has been rated an F for four straight years because of low test scores.

The school, serving about 375 students, has seen a slow but steady gain in test scores to 33 percent passing ISTEP in 2014 from 18 percent in 2012. Still, it remains one of the district’s lowest performers. The school has not exceeded 35 percent passing ISTEP in seven years.

This is another example of a neighborhood school with high poverty. With about 84 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch, the school has more poor children than most. Roughly 17 percent of students are in special education, and less than 1 percent are English-language learners.

About 80 percent of kids enrolled are black, 2 percent Hispanic and 2 percent white.

School 93

Also called George H. Fisher Elementary School, School 93 is a neighborhood school undergoing a transformation aimed at dramatically improving its test scores.

Parents like Kesha Harris gathered signatures in 2014 to bring Project Restore to School 93.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Parents like Kesha Harris gathered signatures in 2014 to bring Project Restore to School 93.

Located on Indianapolis’ Northeast side, School 93 had two A’s and a B between 2005 and 2009. But since then, it has earned four consecutive F’s. About 35 percent of School 93’s students passed ISTEP in 2014, up five points from the prior year, but still far from the 53 percent passing the school had in 2008.

After a parent petition, the school district last year installed the Project Restore program at the school. Project Restore is a system invented by teachers at School 99 that seeks to improve discipline through consistent rule enforcement and promote better student learning through frequent testing and review of what’s been taught. This will be the second year for Project Restore at the school.

Of the 414 students, about 82 percent are black, 8 percent white and 5 percent Hispanic. Roughly 15 percent are in special education, and 1 percent are English-language learners. About 77 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

School 15

Also called Thomas D. Gregg Elementary School, this neighborhood school is located east of downtown and is one of the few school that ranked among the district’s bottom 10 for ISTEP scores that did not receive an F-grade.

Despite low test scores, School 15 moved up to a D from an F because scores improved enough to earn extra credit from the state.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Despite low test scores, School 15 moved up to a D from an F because scores improved enough to earn extra credit from the state.

The school earned a D, helped by strong test score growth.

School 15 is a large school, with 640 students, and faces some of the most difficult changes common in IPS. For example, the school has more children from poor families than nearly all schools, with about 97 percent qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.

It is one of the few IPS school in which a majority of students are Hispanic, at about 44 percent. The percentage of students learning English as a new language is also nearly twice the district average at about 35 percent. School 15 is above the district average for students in special education at about 20 percent. Roughly 39 percent of students are black and 13 percent white.

The school moved up to a D in 2014 after consecutive F-grades. Its 39.6 percent passing rate on ISTEP in 2014 was slightly down from the prior year overall but the passing rate has stayed mostly steady, if low, for several years.

There are several new teachers this year as part of a renewed effort to improve the school.

School 55

Also known as Eliza Blaker Elementary School, this is a neighborhood school on the East side of Indianapolis and is one of the smallest elementary schools with just 211 students.

School 55's test scores have fallen for four straight years.
School 55’s test scores have fallen for four straight years.

It was an A-school as recently as 2006 but has not had a grade above D since 2008. It was rated an F in 2014 and 2013. School 55’s ISTEP passing rate fell in 2014 for the fourth straight year to 39 percent. It hasn’t exceeded 50 percent since 2007.

About 67 percent of students are from families that are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. The school is about 70 percent black, 16 percent white and 8 percent Hispanic. Roughly 20 percent of students are in special education, and about 2 percent are learning English as a new language.

School 61

Also called Clarence Farrington Elementary School, this is a neighborhood school located on the Northwest side of the city. This school’s grade moved up slightly to a D in 2014 after several years in decline.

School 61
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
School 61’s grade moved up to a D in 2014 but its test scores still rank among the district’s lowest.

Principal Carole Wilson is in her third year of pushing an overhaul of the school, which has included several new teachers.

School 61’s grade dropped from an A in 2007 to a pair of C’s and then a D in 2011. Consecutive F’s followed. The percent of students passing ISTEP at School 61 has hovered around 40 percent passing for eight years, with a low of 34 percent in 2008 and a high of 46 percent in 2009. Last year about 40 percent passed ISTEP.

It is a large school with about 567 students and demographically split: 47 percent black, 47 percent Hispanic and 4 percent white. About 75 percent of students are from families that are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

School 61 has one of the largest shares of students learning English as a new language at 41 percent. Nearly 13 percent of student are in special education.

School 48

Also called Louis B. Russell Jr. Elementary School, this is a neighborhood school located on the North side and serves about 409 students. Rated an F in 2014 and 2013, the school has not been above a D in six years.

School 48
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
School 48 has not been rated higher than a D in six years.

School 48 had seen three years of gains on ISTEP before its passing rate fell slightly in 2014 to 43 percent.

About 78 percent of students enrolled at the school come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. School 48 is one of the most racially isolated schools in all of IPS — about 92 percent of its students are black, while only 3 percent are Hispanic and just 2 percent are white.

A large share of the students are in special education at 24 percent. Only 1 percent are English-language learners.

Seven other IPS schools rated F

Two other IPS elementary schools and five junior high schools were rated an F in 2014. Junior high school test performance has been an ongoing problem and prompted Ferebee to say he would like to move the district toward K-8 elementary schools instead of stand-alone middle schools or pairing middle school and high school students together in one building. (Chalkbeat did not include junior high schools in the ISTEP rankings because they have far fewer students taking the test than elementary schools.)

Here are the seven other IPS schools rated an F:

  • School 42. Also called Elder W. Diggs Elementary School, this is is a neighborhood school on Indianapolis’ North side. Its grade fell to an F in 2012 and has stayed there. The school’s 42 percent ISTEP passing rate has barely budged in the past eight years. Its highest rate was 45 percent passing in 2007 and lowest was 33 percent passing in 2009.
  • Key Learning Community Elementary School. In some ways, Key, a magnet school for project-based learning, is a victim of its own success. The school jumped to an A in 2013 with a huge gain of 21 percentage points on its ISTEP passing rate to 57 percent. But then the school’s fall back to 46 percent passing was so steep that its grade also fell back to an F.
  • Broad Ripple Junior High School. Like most IPS high schools, Broad Ripple has both high school and junior high school grades. Students in grades 9-12 are considered high school, while those in grades 6-8 make up the junior high school. The high school has seen improved scores, but the scores at its middle school have remained a trouble spot. The junior high school has been rated an F for two years, and its ISTEP passing percentage also went down 12 percentage points to 44 percent.
  • Crispus Attucks Junior High School. This is another example of a high school that has seen good performance — an A rating last year — but where those results have not translated to junior high school success. The junior high school test scores have dropped by 14 percentage points over three years to 44 percent and earned the school consecutive F-grades.
  • George Washington Junior High School. The seventh and eighth graders at George Washington posted one of the worst passing rates in the state on ISTEP at 18 percent passing. The school has been F rated for two straight years, and scores have been falling for three years.
  • Northwest Junior High School. Junior high school test scores at Northwest are very low at 21 percent passing ISTEP. The school has been rated an F for three straight years.
  • John Marshall Junior High School. The worst ISTEP passing rate among all IPS junior high schools — and one of the lowest rates in Indiana — belongs to John Marshall. Just 14 percent of junior high school students passed ISTEP, earning the school its third straight F-grade.