As an urban school reformer, I believe that all children deserve a high quality education, that parents have a right to school choice, that good teachers should be rewarded, and that great community schools create great neighborhoods. This isn’t happening for children and parents living in the part of Indianapolis served by Indianapolis Public Schools district.
For the past two months, those who live in Indianapolis have talked about the future of the district. They have talked about a proposal from the Mind Trust that would hand control of IPS to the city’s mayor. They have talked about plans to get rid of the district’s central bureaucracy. Then there has been all the talk about the district since the Indiana state government moved last August to take over four IPS schools — Emma Donnan Middle School, Howe Community High School, Arlington Community High School, and Manual High School — by Indiana’s state government after years of subpar academic performance. And now, the state is looking to take over another high school, John Marshall, which I oversaw as an IPS principal when it was a middle school.
Based on the most recent abysmal academic results, the district’s declining student enrollment, and the state-mandated takeover of four failing IPS schools, I concur there that IPS must be decentralized. Because its bureaucracy, top-down mandates, and employment positions have drained the school district’s operating budget. Because IPS’ central office is filled with too many incompetent administrators who have elected not to make decisions that are in the best interest of students.
In short, the status quo must go. It must go in Indianapolis. This must be the mantra for urban school reform everywhere.
The future of IPS is of intense interest to me. When I was principal of what was John Marshall Middle School, I led it to significant academic improvement, community partnerships, and parent support. I am also a homeowner in the district. My wife, Samantha, serves on IPS’ board. Our two daughters attend an IPS school, the Center for Inquiry.
IPS Superintendent Eugene White has stated publicly several times that the state’s takeover of IPS was unlawful and politically motivated. Quite frankly, the lack of academic achievement at the four schools warranted the state”s intervention. And White, along with his administrators, knew it was bound to happen. Back in 2008, the district decided to cluster 1,400 students who were held back twice (and failing in school) to Howe, Arlington, John Marshall, and George Washington schools. The Indianapolis Star reported on it back then, and noted that those students were going to get special teachers and extra work in order to catch up — and explained that because the No Child Left Behind requires more students to pass state tests, these four schools would face state intervention, takeover, or closure because of their continuous academic failure. Because of White’s blatant disregard for both No Child’s mandates — and the students in his schools — IPS lost four of its schools.
Now this week, during a meeting about the possible takeover of John Marshall, White proposed to create a “cluster” of 15 schools who would receive training from a for-profit education consultant corporation. How much the consultants will cost is unknown. But I’m quite confident the services aren’t free and based on the most recent lackluster academic results, the consultants will do little to dismantle the Indianapolis’ current “cluster” #**#.
The cluster of incompetent administrators in IPS warrants significant change right now. Until it happens, school reform in Indianapolis will remain a symbol without substance. Again, the status quo must go