School Closings

IPS plan to keep students interested in school? Give them career training

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
The IPS administration is proposing adding more career training programs to high schools.

Indianapolis Public Schools leaders have a new vision for the district’s high schools: converting each campus to a career academy.

The plan unveiled today would be part of dramatic reshaping of the district’s high schools, including closing several of the existing buildings. The new model would replace traditional neighborhood high schools, which draw students based on their addresses, with magnet schools that house several career or academic focus areas.

The academies are designed to keep students interested in school and give them the skills to find well-paying jobs or succeed in college after graduation. The focus areas were chosen because there is student interest and good jobs are available in Indianapolis.

The proposal is the first detailed outline of a vision revealed last summer by Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. It would preserve the existing magnet programs in the district, such as the performing arts program at Broad Ripple High School, the medical program at Crispus Attucks High School and the International Baccalaureate at Shortridge High School. But it would also create seven additional focus areas based on student interest and the Indianapolis job market.

“Everything that we currently offer now will be on the table, but we will also be adding … career academies,” Ferebee said.

The proposed career academy focus areas are:

  • Health sciences;
  • Manufacturing, engineering and logistics;
  • Education;
  • Construction, engineering and design;
  • Business and finance;
  • Information technology; and
  • Military.

The administration has not announced where each academy will be housed, but Ferebee said the locations would be chosen based in part on how long bus rides would be.

The proposal is not guaranteed to become reality. When Ferebee floated the idea of career academies last August it received mixed feedback from school board members, who must approve the plan. The administration is expected to make a recommendation for which high schools to close and what academic programs to offer in June. The board plans to vote on a final plan in September.

Career academies are reminiscent of similar efforts in Indianapolis and across the nation. In 2005, IPS converted its high schools to small theme-based academies with the help of millions of dollars in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but soon abandoned the plans.

Career and technical education, or vocational schools, have a long history but they have been getting more attention in recent years. Nashville won national praise for converting its schools to career academies a decade ago, an example Ferebee cited as a model for Indianapolis last summer.

new schools

New $85 million Englewood high school to focus on science and technology, careers

PHOTO: Chicago Public Schools
A rendering of the new $85 million high school planned in Englewood.

Chicago Public Schools announced Monday that it will open a “state-of-the-art” high school focusing on career-preparation and math, science and engineering education in Englewood, a South Side community where the district is closing several high schools.

Englewood STEM High School already under construction, will open next fall with just freshman and add a grade each subsequent year until it becomes a full-fledged 9-12 school in the 2022-23 school year, according to a press release issued by the school district.

The school will be the district’s ninth “early college” STEM high school, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. The district is building the $85 million school on the site of Robeson High School, which was closed over the summer.

Englewood STEM High School will be “a brand new, state-of-the-art, three-story facility that will include world-class multipurpose educational spaces, a modern outdoor sports facility, and a school-based medical center for use by both students as well as community residents,” according to the district’s statement. Students will be able to earn college credits and certificates through a partnership with Kennedy-King College. The school will also offer vocational programs in information technology and health sciences and will provide mentoring, internships and other work experiences.

“We are thrilled to bring together Englewood students in the state-of-the-art high school they deserve with world-class academic programming that will ensure the new school rivals the city’s best,” district CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement.

A rendering of the new $85 million high school planned in Englewood.

The school is intended to attract students in the Robeson, Hope and Harper school areas who leave their neighborhoods for higher-rated schools elsewhere. Both Hope and Harper are slated to close. TEAM Englewood, the fourth school closing, doesn’t have attendance boundaries.

The district named Conrad Timbers-Ausar as the new school’s principal. Timbers-Ausar was previously principal of charter school Urban Prep Academy for Young Men, in Bronzeville. He was the founding principal at two alternative schools, Ombudsman West and Ombudsman South, and has taught history, graphic design and entrepreneurship at the Chicago International Charter Schools Ralph Ellison campus, where he was twice voted teacher of the year.

Future of Schools

Chicago’s public school system is still shrinking, new data shows

PHOTO: Creative Commons / Charles Wiriawan

After 15 years of consecutive drops, the number of students enrolled in Chicago’s public schools fell again this year.

Enrollment dropped 2.7 percent, to 361,314 students, from the previous fall, according to a count taken on the 20th day of school. New data were released Friday. (The district also released new school ratings on Friday. You can find your school’s latest rating here.)

Size matters, because the number of students determines how many critical state dollars a district receives. In Chicago, state funding accounts for roughly 30 percent of the district budget, including paying into the employee pension fund.

At the school level, per-student funding determines how many teachers a principal can hire, whether or not there are librarians and arts teachers, and how many programs are offered. Principals received this school year’s budgets last spring based on prior year counts.

Schools that lost students will not lose funding for this year; however, 54 schools that anticipated growth and that did not hit targets will lose money. The average adjustment per school is $59,000, with $3.2 million in total forfeited, the district said. The district said in a statement that it will not eliminate any jobs as a result.

On the flip side, the district also announced that schools that gained students since last school year would receive additional funding — to total $15.5 million across 307 schools. That’s to account for budgeting that was based on previous year counts.

“The district’s improved financial position means we can support growing schools and invest more in schools where enrollment is declining with funds specifically designed to support schools that are underenrolled,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson.

Plans to support schools losing population include such assists as a $10 million small schools fund and a new underenrolled schools policy — passed by the board this week — that codifies alternatives to closure.

The number of students in Chicago charters declined by 1 percent to total 54,569, and the number of prekindergarten students dropped by less than 1 percent, too, to 17,668, despite a citywide push under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago schools aren’t the only ones shrinking. Enrollment is down across the state. A declining birth rate, fewer immigrants, and a population in retrenchment are all to blame.

District projections show Chicago schools losing another 20,000 students across the next three years. The trends mirror population drops in Chicago, which has about 182,000 fewer residents than it did 18 years ago, according to U.S. Census data. More than 220,000 black residents have left the city since the year 2000.