INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indianapolis school received a special shoutout Monday from the federal government’s top education official.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos mentioned Indianapolis Public Schoolsin a speech, praising the district’s “Innovation Schools” strategy and mentioning Thomas D. Gregg School 15 by name.
“One of the most important things we can do is highlight and celebrate out-of-the-box approaches,” she said. “I want to bring School 15 to your attention as an example of new thinking. School 15 has struggled for years with low test scores, and the state gave it an "F" in 2016. But in recent months, parents and teachers in Indianapolis have come together to propose School 15 become a "neighborhood-run" school under the "innovation schools" program.”
According to IPS’ School Innovation Officer, Aleesia Johnson, the changes to School 15 were made about 18 months ago.
“We want to make sure the school is connected to the neighborhood -- not just geographically,” Johnson said.
School 15 is located on Indianapolis' east side, near the intersection of Michigan and Rural streets.
The community members met with school leaders – the school’s principal, assistant principal and dean of academics – to come up with ways to help the students at the school, which has been plagued with low grades for years.
As DeVos said, School 15 received an F in 2016. But the low scores go back further than that. School 15 hasn’t received a grade higher than D since 2011.
Below are the school’s grades from 2005-2016, except for 2009, where no data was available on the Indiana Department of Education’s website.
- 2016 - F
- 2015 - D
- 2014 - D
- 2013 - F
- 2012 - F
- 2011 - C
- 2010 - C
- 2008 - F
- 2007 - F
- 2006 - D
- 2005 - F
School 15 was officially converted to an Innovation School in a meeting Thursday night, becoming one of just a handful. In fact, when DeVos made her comments about School 15 on Monday, it wasn’t listed on IPS’ website as an Innovation School.
IPS board voted to approve conversion agreement with @ThomasGregg15.
— IPS (@IPSSchools) March 17, 2017
So what is different about School 15 following the community’s involvement?
Johnson said the changes are tailored to what the school needs, and not every change would work at every school.
Two changes School 15 has made have been to increase the amount of small group instruction and the amount of technology available to teachers.
An Innovation School, according to IPS, means administrators are able to make decisions about all aspects of the school but are also held accountable for student outcomes.
The purpose of innovation schools is to allow districts and schools the additional flexibility to make decisions based on the specific needs of schools' student body.
According to IPS' website, there are four ways a school can become an innovation school:
- launch as a new innovation school
- launch as an innovation charter school
- restart an existing chronically underperforming school as an innovation school
- convert an existing high-performing school as an innovation school
Before she was the secretary of education, DeVos was a major funder of the school voucher movement in Indiana.
Read what DeVos said about School 15 in entirety below:
One of the most important things we can do is highlight and celebrate out-of-the-box approaches.
One such example is the "innovation schools" program in the Indianapolis Public Schools district, represented today by Elizabeth Gore. These schools are under the governance of the Indianapolis Public Schools district, but they are freed up to operate independently and thus better attune themselves to the unique needs of their students.
I want to bring School 15 to your attention as an example of new thinking. School 15 has struggled for years with low-test scores, and the state gave it an "F" in 2016. But in recent months, parents and teachers in Indianapolis have come together to propose School 15 become a "neighborhood-run" school under the "innovation schools" program.
This isn't a school run by an outside, third-party operator—this is a school where parents are in direct control. The community takes ownership of developing the school's structure, staffing and performance.
This type of proposal gives everyone in the community a greater say—and greater responsibility—in the education of their children. It's this kind of local control that we want to empower, because when parents are in charge, students benefit.