When Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) opened its doors for the 2016-17 this month, students and teachers in two longtime struggling schools embarked on a new journey. School 44, now known as Global Prep Academy at Riverside 44, and the newly-renamed Kindezi Academy operating in IPS School 69, have both charted new courses as Innovation Network Schools.
Supported by new leaders – chosen for their proven track record of success and entrepreneurial mindset – these schools are operating with new freedoms and newly design curricula aimed at better serving the unique needs of each school’s student population.
Another benefit of innovation schools is that they provide the same level of high-quality programs as many “choice schools,” such as magnet schools or charter schools. But these innovation schools offer programming in the traditional neighborhood setting. This means parents in communities served by innovation schools can access these unique, innovative educational models without having to bus or drive their children across town in pursuit of higher-quality options.
So how did the innovation school model come to Indianapolis?
In 2014, the original Innovation School Network bill was passed by the Indiana legislature. The law, which was expanded to include all Indiana school corporations, allows for IPS to use innovation to reinvigorate struggling schools, some that are in danger of state takeover. The push for this forward-thinking legislation was led by a group of committed community partners, including Stand Indiana.
Under the innovation law, the school corporation (IPS) maintains ownership of the schools and oversees responsibility for some operational aspects including transportation and facility maintenance. Most importantly, the school leaders and non-profit organizations operating the school are responsible for ensuring the growth and success of the students.
In a guest post on the Stand Indiana blog last April, Beverly Bush – the aunt of a student at School 44 – wrote: “My hope is that every child leaves school able to read, write, and with some math skills. They need to be able to function well in society when they get out of school. If they don’t get those skills in school, where else are they going to get what they need?”
IPS’ commitment to innovation is driven by its goal to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for the nearly 50 percent of the district’s students who attend D or F-rated schools. In recent years, IPS has seen modest gains in graduation rates, but with about a quarter of students still not receiving diplomas, there is much work still to be done.
When the school bell rang earlier this month, it’s estimated that more than ten percent of IPS students walked through the doors of an innovation school. With IPS’ growing blend of successful magnets, charters, traditional neighborhood schools and innovation schools; the future of IPS and its students is looking brighter.