April 1, 2015

Arlington High School Returns To IPS But State Board Intervention Remains

Arlington High School - Scott Elliott / Chalkbeat Indiana

Arlington High School

Scott Elliott / Chalkbeat Indiana

The State Board of Education today approved a transition plan for Arlington High School to return to Indianapolis Public Schools and allowed the district to seek a partnership with a charter school company to run a new K-6 program.

The Northeastside high school remains in state takeover due to years of chronic failure, but today the state board approved a plan for IPS to run the school starting this summer. Tindely Accelerated Schools has operated the 7-12 school since 2012 but announced last July it could not continue financially.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee had sought to fully recover the school from the state, but the board has remained unmoved to release its control. Nonethess, board members have said they trust Ferebee to shepard change at the school.

"I think there is a lot more confidence and public facing evidence that we are making progress," Ferebee said after the meeting. "You see that in our performance ... along with our financial stewardship -- think that has put a lot of confidence in our credibility and also our transparency."

Board member Tony Walker raised concern that IPS would not have a contract with the board, like other companies who oversee failing schools in state intervention, but other members pushed forward to approve the plan.

The board could retake control of the school if IPS failed to make improvements. 

Ferebee issued academic goals for Arlington to reach after the first year, including: improving graduation rates by six and half percentage points to 60 percent and increasing ISTEP scores in math by more than five percentage points and English scores by more than four percentage points.

Mass Insight, a Boston-based education consultant, will partner with the district to manage Arlington. The board had requested the district have a so-called “lead partner” in running the school. Mass Insight just began working with IPS at two other troubled high schools.

The state board also approved extending Charter Schools USA’s contract to run the 7-8 Emma Donnan Middle School through June 30, 2020 and gave preapproval for the company to manage a K-6 school in the same building under a seperate contract with IPS.

The IPS School Board has yet to approve if Charter Schools USA can partner with the district to run the program.

“I think for Emma Donnan this is the best approach, which contains clear accountability and performance metrics,” said board memebr Dan Elsener. “We have good leadership guiding this partnership and I look forward to seeing the progress.”

Charter Schools USA has operated Donnan since 2012 when it was taken over by the state board for academic failure, like Arlington and two other IPS schools.

Ferebee wants to use Public Law 1321 for the charter company to run the new K-6 program inside Donnan. The law allows the district to create autonomous schools -- not bound by collective bargaining -- at struggling or underused buildings. The law also makes it easier for IPS to share resources -- such as transportation, food services -- with outside management companies.

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

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