IU report questions Mind Trust plan for IPS

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Six months after the Mind Trust released its plan to reform Indianapolis Public Schools, researchers at Indiana University say the strategy relies on experiments in other cities that ultimately led to greater inequity among students and did not produce dramatic academic gains.

That contention is the main message of an nine-page analysis released Thursday by the IU Center for Urban and Multicultural Education. Written by John Houser, a research associate at the center, the report examines academic studies about school reforms tried in New Orleans and New York.

Those two cities were the primary models after which the Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform group, patterned its plan, which it released in December.

The plan, called “Creating Opportunity Schools,” recommends gutting the staff and budgetary control of the IPS central office and turning the school into a network of charter-like schools. School-level leaders would compete for autonomy that would allow them to make all hiring, salary, purchasing and curriculum decisions.

Most controversially, the Mind Trust has called for an end to popular elections of the IPS school board members, so that the board could instead be appointed by the Indianapolis mayor and the City-County Council.

The IU researchers said the experience of other cities with mayoral control suggests “no inherent advantages relative to traditional school board control, and may be problematic for democratic aims.”

“A call for major transformation of a school district calls for major evidence or some support for that to happen. And I don’t see the evidence for a fundamental transformation for how IPS is run,” said Houser, who compiled his report with contributions from fellow researchers at the IU center, Joshua Smith and Rob Helfenbein. All three holds doctorate degrees in education.

Mind Trust CEO David Harris bristled at the suggestion that his group’s plan was not based on evidence or research. In a written response to the IU study, Harris noted that the Mind Trust plan included 150 footnotes and 15 appendices with supporting information. He also noted that, in addition to New Orleans and New York, the Mind Trust staff and contractors spent 18 months studying schools in numerous other cities.

“We do not claim that these strategies are perfect or infallible,” Harris wrote of the Mind Trust plan,  titled, “Creating Opportunity Schools.” Referring to the IU center by its acronym, he added, “But contrary to CUME’s claims, they do have a strong research basis, citations for which appear in the report itself.”

The claim of the IU researchers is that the Mind Trust report does not fully portray the results seen in New Orleans, New York and cities that have tried mayoral control.

New Orleans draws the sharpest differences of opinion. The public school system there was overhauled out of necessity after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. About 70 percent of the schools are charters.

IU’s Houser argues that those charter schools in New Orleans posted better student outcomes mainly because they have attracted larger percentages of white, affluent and non-special education students than the remaining traditional public schools.

In short, the system of broad choices instituted in New Orleans—as well as the transportation problems that came with it—funneled stronger students to the charter schools and weaker students to the traditional public schools.

"The idea that we would hold up New Orleans as a model for reform doesn’t fit with what I’m hearing,” wrote Houser, referring to people he knows who work in New Orleans public schools.

Harris at the Mind Trust partly agreed with Houser’s analysis—but said the Mind Trust’s plan includes new elements designed to head off the problems schools in New Orleans experienced.

“New Orleans succeeded by replacing its failing schools gradually over the years with higher-performing schools,” Harris wrote. “CUME is right that the city faces significant challenges in making these reforms work for all students.  Learning from the New Orleans experience, the Opportunity Schools plan includes several features designed to address that city’s challenges, such as a fair district-wide enrollment process, transportation for all students, and a comprehensive, well-funded approach to special education.”

In New York, Houser noted, a decade of mayoral control produced a lot of change, but not much improvement in student test scores across the entire district. He also noted that the school choice system has not worked as well for recent immigrants or English-language learners, and has led some parents to say they are shut out of decision-making processes.

“We are particularly concerned for the possible implications of this plan regarding issues of equity and democratic control,” Houser wrote.



  • IPS Board reforms
    IPS's problems date back to when the school system abandoned the practice of an appointed Board and went to an elected Board.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

  4. Exciting times in Carmel.

  5. Twenty years ago when we moved to Indy I was a stay at home mom and knew not very many people.WIBC was my family and friends for the most part. It was informative, civil, and humerous with Dave the KING. Terri, Jeff, Stever, Big Joe, Matt, Pat and Crumie. I loved them all, and they seemed to love each other. I didn't mind Greg Garrison, but I was not a Rush fan. NOW I can't stand Chicks and all their giggly opinions. Tony Katz is to abrasive that early in the morning(or really any time). I will tune in on Saturday morning for the usual fun and priceless information from Pat and Crumie, mornings it will be 90.1