October 28, 2021

Despite IPS concerns, state will allow arts school to replicate as charter

Students at Edison School of the Arts at School 47 in downtown Indianapolis work on an art project in September 2021. School leaders were granted approval Thursday, Oct. 28 to replicate the model somewhere else in the city as a new charter school. - Edison School of the Arts/Facebook

Students at Edison School of the Arts at School 47 in downtown Indianapolis work on an art project in September 2021. School leaders were granted approval Thursday, Oct. 28 to replicate the model somewhere else in the city as a new charter school.

Edison School of the Arts/Facebook

The state is allowing an independent performing arts school in the Indianapolis Public Schools district to replicate its curriculum as a new charter school despite the IPS superintendent not supporting the plan.

Edison School of the Arts relocated to the southwest side of downtown Indianapolis in 2016 as part of the IPS network of autonomous schools. Edison’s unique combination of arts and academics for students in grades K-8 quickly became a popular option for families. Enrollment is currently maxed out at nearly 600 students.

Nathan Tuttle, the school’s executive director, asked the Indiana Charter School Board to approve a charter that would allow him to open a second K-8 arts academy in 2022 to meet growing demand in the city.

The Indiana Charter School Board on Thursday voted 4-2 to grant a charter to the nonprofit organization Edison School of the Arts Inc. to open Edison II. A location for the school is not yet established.

IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson did not support Tuttle’s request. She recently wrote a letter to the charter board raising concerns about Edison leaders’ plan to replicate next year because the district is working on a strategic plan set for release this coming summer.

“In order for this partnering to occur, a replication would be best suited for implementation no earlier than the 2023-24 school year,” Johnson wrote about the potential of IPS partnering with an Edison charter school. “As such, the submitted application for Edison II is not currently supported by the IPS administration.”

During the meeting, Tuttle acknowledged Johnson and the district’s support for the current school, which serves a majority of students who qualify for free or reduced meals. But he said unexpected factors such as the pandemic to local politics could impact any plans district leaders expect to announce next year.

“We do appreciate our relationship with IPS,” Tuttle said. “We feel that we want to be in the best position to do what is right for kids sooner than later. As much as I appreciate the wanting to plan and have a strategic plan, there really is no certainty that plan will come to fruition.”

Edison School of the Arts II would open as a K-5 school next year and add grades 6,7 and 8 in consecutive years, according to Tuttle's approved charter application. James Hill, formerly of the Andrew J. Brown Academy, would be the principal at Edison II.

Edison School of the Arts at School 47 operates as an innovation school within IPS and is managed by a nonprofit board. On the last standardized test scores released by the state, just 5.9 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 scored proficient in both English and math.

Innovation schools are district schools operated by charter organizations and nonprofit school managers through a contract with the IPS board of commissioners. Innovation schools set their own schedules and academic curriculum, such as Edison’s arts integration and performing arts lessons.

Tuttle also filed an application with the Indiana Charter School Board to transition Edison School of the Arts at School 47 from an innovation school inside IPS's local education agency to an independent charter school with its own local education agency. The application was withdrawn before the board's meeting this week.

Contact WFYI education editor Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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