Here are the Indiana education stories we plan to cover this year — and how you can help

The school year roared in like a lion, yanking us from our summer daydreams and thrusting us into the thick of the perennial controversy over test scores. But as the cooler weather ushers us calmly into fall, we wanted to take a moment to share our goals for the year.

We at Chalkbeat Indiana want to be transparent about our coverage plans to hold ourselves accountable and seek your input, too. This year, we plan to connect more with students, families, educators, and community members who have a stake in our public education systems. Your perspectives help inform our work.

If you have questions, ideas, or insights to share, you can reach us at We will also hold a listening session Oct. 3 at the MLK Center in Indianapolis to hear what parents want to know more about and how we can be a better resource for families.

We also welcomed a new reporter this summer, Emma Kate Fittes, who is covering state education issues and has a particular interest in special education. You can get in touch with her directly at

Here are some of the key storylines that we’re following this year.

How will a new leader steer Indianapolis Public Schools, and what is the future of innovation schools?

Indianapolis Public Schools is undergoing a dramatic transformation that is redefining the role of a traditional public school district, and its new leader appears poised to continue the change that has captured national attention. But new Superintendent Aleesia Johnson has taken over at a critical time, and she’s going to face a number of tough decisions about the future of the state’s largest district.

First, it’s time to start evaluating its innovation strategy of turning to charter operators to run district schools. Five years into the innovation experiment, Johnson — who oversaw the partnerships in a previous role — will have to decide whether it’s proven to be an effective turnaround model and whether to stick with the strategy. The results at innovation schools vary: Some showed early progress, but test scores remain low at many campuses.

Johnson answers to a divided school board, and it’s not clear how new members will fall on these biggest decisions. So far, the personable Johnson appears to be winning over many local stakeholders, but she’ll also have to handle innovation school critics.

Johnson also faces monumental budget problems, and she will likely need to make tough decisions about closing schools.

Plus, she has made it a personal priority to address long-standing racial gaps in the district, pledging to have more conversations about how to better serve the district’s black and brown students.

Reporter Dylan Peers McCoy will continue covering the district. Contact her at

How have charter schools changed the Indianapolis education landscape?

In the spring, the executive director of the state’s charter school board raised a question: Are there too many charter schools in some parts of the city?

Nearly two decades after the creation of charter schools in Indiana, some education leaders say Indianapolis has hit a saturation point, where there are too many schools and too few students — an equation for under-enrolled, financially strapped schools. And yet educators still want to open new charter schools in Indianapolis, with leaders saying not all students across the city have access to high-quality schools.

How will the changes to Indiana’s graduation rules affect students and schools?

To shift emphasis to career and technical education, Indiana recently changed its requirements for graduation to allow more ways for students, particularly those who aren’t college-bound, to earn their diplomas. Education leaders are hopeful that this will set up more Hoosiers to be successful after high school. This means high school — and what students learn — could look a little different.

How far will Indiana advance on early childhood education amid a growing advocacy effort?

Once among the last in the nation for early education, Indiana took a big step this year by making its pilot prekindergarten voucher program available statewide. But expanding hasn’t been easy — raising awareness of the pre-K opportunity has taken time, and the program hasn’t hit capacity. Those challenges pose hurdles to the political fight by businesses and early childhood advocates to build the program and win more funding from the Republican-controlled legislature.