In U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s dream world, more schools would operate the way one in Indianapolis hopes to.
DeVos shouted out School 15 in a speech Monday, calling it “an example of new thinking” because of a plan that parents and teachers together proposed to join Indianapolis Public Schools’ “innovation schools” program.
That program, which lawmakers created in 2014, essentially allows district-run charter schools. Innovation schools shed many district rules and hand over management to third-party groups, either nonprofits or charter operators. The groups make decisions on everything from curriculum to schedules — and also employ the schools’ teachers directly, removing them from their local unions.
So far, nine Indianapolis schools have become innovation schools. School 15 would be the first collaboration with neighborhood residents.
“This type of proposal gives everyone in the community a greater say – and greater responsibility – in the education of their children,” DeVos said in the speech to the Council of Great City Schools, a group of leaders and school board members of America’s large school districts. “It’s this kind of local control that we want to empower, because when parents are in charge, students benefit.”
Indianapolis’s school board hasn’t yet signed off on the switch for School 15 — it is set to vote this week. If the plan is approved, supporters believe the long-struggling school can turn around.
“You get ultra-local control of your school, and so you can really be responsive to every detail of your school,” Ross Pippin, who would be School 15’s principal under the plan. “That’s really to me the biggest excitement about innovation schools.”
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.
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.