When innovation isn’t…innovative.

When innovation isn’t innovative, you drive families away in search of forward-thinking, progressive educational ideas wherever they exist.

In the case of Indianapolis Public Schools and their latest grade reconfiguration proposal, it’s not innovation at all. It’s a rather old idea that has been recycled many times, in different iterations. When I transitioned into “Junior High” school in IPS in the early 1990’s, all of the Junior High schools in the district became “Middle Schools” the following year and included 6th graders. I am not sure if this was the first time IPS experimented with grade configurations, but we can certainly see it wasn’t the last. Since then, I can recollect many configurations: K-5, 6-8, 7-12, 6-12, K-8, K-12. In 30+ years, why haven’t we found something that works and stuck with it, for consistency’s sake??

Many parents that I know (myself included) prefer the K-8 model – so WHY are we trashing it, again? Let me be more precise – WHY is it proposed that traditional IPS schools will not be keeping the K-8 model, and yet the independent charter schools and the Innovation Network Schools (charter schools partnering with IPS) will be allowed to retain the model? It begs the question – is IPS intentionally reconfiguring grade levels in order to drive enrollments toward other schools that will be retaining the K-8 model? I don’t know if you see it like I see it, but that appears to be the foreseeable consequence of this change.

Has anyone in IPS done any research on the benefits of K-8 school models prior to suggesting this change? (The benefits to STUDENTS, not corporations, let me be clear). There are numerous studies citing the benefits of K-8 schooling, including increased student self-esteem, better social-emotional adjustment, and higher rates of achievement.

Changing the grade configurations in IPS has not, and will not work – because it does not address the root problems plaguing IPS. The students attending IPS are a microcosm of Indianapolis – and Indianapolis is changing. Some areas of the city are rapidly gentrifying, and the folks who used to live there have to find a new place to live. However, racism hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s alive and well, and unfortunately, it still influences decisions regarding school enrollment. The thing about racism in systems of education is that it’s not always readily visible on the surface level. You can see it if you look intently at patterns of enrollment. You can see it if you wish to compare the vast difference in opportunities offered to students. You can see vestiges of institutional racism in test scores.

Yes, friends. The root problems are more nefarious than which ages of kids attend schools together. It’s not about the ages of the kids, it’s about the skin tones. It all boils down to race and class. We have been tinkering around the edges of trying to cure racism through our educational system for the past 50 years.

If Indianapolis has learned anything from Brown v. Board (1954) [which was not followed in Indianapolis] and from the resulting mandated busing (U.S. District Court vs. IPS, 1968-1997)…we should know that even decades long forced, court-ordered racial integration of students did not lessen the chokehold of educational apartheid in our city. (For historical clarification see: https://indianahistory.org/wp-content/uploads/indianapolis-public-schools-desegregation-case.pdf)

The Indiana Department of Education offers the following statistics regarding the current student body of IPS: 40.3% Black, 31.8% Latinx, 21.6% White, with the remaining 6.2% comprised of Multiracial, Asian, and Native American. In a blog post I wrote in 2015 (“Black Lives Matter“), the district was approximately 50% Black, 23% Latinx and 20% White, so we are seeing some shifts. The district has lost a significant number of Black students while gaining Latinx and White students. Why is this happening?

It’s no secret that Charter Schools target Black communities (see works by David Stovall; Kristen Buras or Pauline Lipman for further reading). In Indianapolis, we certainly see this playing out – and if you don’t believe me, take the time to research some of the charter school demographics listed at the IDOE website. From my research, the range of Black student enrollment at local charter schools is 67% – 95%. One could assume from this data that the loss of Black students in IPS over the past 7 years has been the charter school’s gain.

When you consider the grade reconfiguration proposal, the changing demographics of our city, and the asinine set of enrollment preferences at Enroll Indy, IPS is setting a recipe for disaster. Some of the highest performing and in-demand schools in the IPS district are K-8 schools. These schools also have the highest percentages of white students. Instead of replicating these highly desirable school models and making them accessible to students on all sides of town, and from all backgrounds, instead IPS proposes to reconfigure these schools, succeeding only in pissing off it’s most vocal and politically powerful bloc of parents.

One can only hope that IPS begins to listen to its constituents and follow the sound guidance of research and best practices in future decision making. Until then, the people vote with their enrollment – and will continue in search of true educational innovation.

((My opinions are my own; and are not reflective of any other entity. Also, I have a new email address: tv4gcosby@gmail.com))


Dear IPS,

First of all, I love you, and I want you to be better, that is why I am writing this letter.  Truly, you have provided a decent education to me, generations of my family before me, and to my children.  We may have been privileged in ways that let us see a better side of you, because I know not every person that has tried IPS has liked it.  But for mine and my children’s experience, I am overall grateful.

So, about what is happening right now – I have questions.  So do others in the community -questions left unanswered by your recent listening tour.  It was overly structured to limit participant interaction with the decision-makers.  Not a good look.

I understand the intent is to close three of our high schools.  (I say “our” because you need to understand that these belong to the community and the people of this community.  I assume shared ownership, as do many others.)  This really is heart-wrenching news, never mind which three have been chosen.

We, the community, have been thinking.  What does it mean that IPS is closing three traditional public high schools, yet partnering with charter school entities to open other new high schools at the same time?  These actions MEAN something.  First of all, they mean that there are definitely high-school aged students within IPS boundaries looking to enroll somewhere.  If that weren’t true, then why would the charter schools be opening?  Secondly, why isn’t IPS working overtime to attract those kids to enroll in the traditional public high schools, instead of closing our schools and resigning those kids to attend the new charter schools?  We say ‘resigning’ cause, hey – we’re biased but – those schools have no history, no SOUL.  A hundred years from now, will our descendents proudly tell their kids that their grandparents graduated from Connections Academy?  From Carpe Diem?  The Excel Center?  There is no sense of place or space associated with these names…online?  A cubicle farm?  A strip mall?  No offense intended, but I’ll give somebody a dollar if these institutions survive the next decade or two.

But what of the legacy and history of Broad Ripple, Crispus Attucks, Arsenal Tech, George Washington, Shortridge, Northwest, Arlington, John Marshall?  We’ve seen it happen before – one of those spaces closes its doors and it rips a big hole in the fabric of our community.  It takes years and hundreds of needles and thread to heal that damage…and the spot still always looks and feels different.

We have established that the closures aren’t really due to a lack of students, since IPS is partnering with charter high schools as we speak.  So WHY is this happening?  Race wasn’t mentioned once in the initial report on the school closures, but it seems that every time IPS schools are shifted or closed, it is due to race.  (The creation of Attucks, strategic location of other schools historically, but I digress).  Right now, Indianapolis is in the beginning stages of gentrification, meaning that lots of white people are coming back to center township from previous iterations of white flight from the city core.  Is the racialized stigma of IPS so embedded in the collective white conscious that white students STILL cannot attend IPS?  [White students comprise 20% of the current IPS population].  If this is not it, then what is it?  What is the reason that since circa 1954 Brown v. Board, (well -really IPS dragged its feet until around 1980) – IPS has never been truly integrated?

IPS, you are positioned uniquely.  I know, for decades your superintendents and board members have been tasked with implementing the charges of the city’s power elite, but… You can break those chains!  Stop giving our public resources away to charter school money-makers, and stand as a true beacon of opportunity for all who choose to settle within the boundaries of IPS.  Instead of selling three of our community’s school buildings, seek alternative means of income or consolidation such as leasing or renting excess properties.   Develop strategies to attract all families to a school system of equitable offerings that reach all learning styles.  If you are successful in building a quality public education, you will not need to lease extra building space for long.  As the population of center township increases, so will the enrollment of IPS.

We know this is a big task.  Undoing decades of self-selected segregation is going to be hard.  But if you don’t step up now, the education inequity gaps already in place in Indy will become great crevasses, swallowing up black and brown communities all over our city.  We already see the most desirable magnet schools being heavily populated by white students.  If you continue down your current path, you’ll get the same apartheid results on a larger scale.  Don’t close our schools, and don’t allow magnets and charters to become additional layers in a caste system of schooling.  Do the right thing.  This is your last chance to prove us wrong.


Comments permitted on this thread.

Questions/comments?  Contact the author at grhynear@iupui.edu


The Sam’s Club of Schooling: IPS’s Innovation Network

This month’s IPS agenda is rife with Innovation Network agreements, which are partnerships between IPS and charter school operators.  There is one presentation scheduled for a proposed partnership with Herron High School (both downtown and Riverside locations).  The other three slated Innovation Network schools have the documents already drawn up: Avondale Meadows Middle School, Elder Diggs Elementary #42, and Thomas Gregg Elementary #15.

The details of each arrangement vary from school to school.  A partnership with Herron High School came as a surprise to many. A short announcement of the intended partnership was buried in the Herron High School newsletter – with no public announcement or any solicitation of feedback from Herron families.  Community members are left wondering what’s in it for each party.  IPS will benefit by being able to count Herron High School students in their enrollment numbers and are surely seeking a boost from counting Herron student’s test scores and graduation rates as part of their own.  It appears that Herron may benefit from receiving IPS’s higher per-pupil student expenditure amount.  This is an atypical partnership because typically IPS owns the building of the Innovation Network school, but this is not the case with Herron.

Similarly, Avondale Meadows Middle School owns their property, and thus their partnership will reap similar benefits to Herron’s.  Avondale Meadows and Herron have been freestanding charter schools before pursuing a partnership with IPS.  The difference is that they now will receive more funding (at the higher IPS student rate).

In the case of schools #42 and #15, these are historically traditional IPS schools that are being converted to an Innovation Network school status.  In plain language, this means that IPS is contracting with a charter school operator company to run the school.

IPS Innovation Network partnerships are becoming the Sam’s Club of the charter school world. Small, independent charter schools operation costs are much higher than a large district like IPS.  If a prospective charter school seeks membership in the IPS Sam’s Club, they either receive services like transportation, food service, special education and ELL teachers for free, OR their membership gets them the power of buying in bulk.

Rather than “innovate” with IPS, why don’t these charter schools use their authorizers (the Mayor’s Office or the Indiana Charter School Board) as a lever for buying in bulk with other similar schools?

If IPS continues ‘innovation’ at this pace, it will become a shell corporation, an umbrella simply offering some shelter and benefits to a slew of smaller charter school operators.

IPS truly needs to reinvent itself.  Not by giving away precious resources to charter operators, but by investing in their teachers, giving true autonomy to educators with ideas, and revamping their ideas about curriculum.  Sadly, instead IPS is innovating itself out of the business of providing a free, appropriate public education for all students.



Dear Reader,

Did you know that Marian University now owns a lot more land than it used to?

That’s right.  Indianapolis Public Schools transferred several acres of land surrounding Cold Spring School last week to Marian University.  This acreage included lots of natural habitat along the river as well as three buildings, one of which is the beautiful Sommers Mansion:

Marian Property

I bet you’re wondering why a struggling public school district would do such a thing, especially when the potential revenue that could have been generated from selling the property sure would come in handy right about now.

Apparently most folks at IPS are satisfied with Marian University simply assuming all maintenance costs associated with the property.  In fact, the amount of money that Marian spends each year to maintain the property will ultimately purchase the Cold Spring School building itself, after 13 years of upkeep costs.  (I think aggressively marketing and renting the Mansion could probably cover most/all of that, but I digress.)  Essentially, if IPS decides to no longer operate a school at this location after 13 years, Marian assumes ownership of that property also.  You can read the term sheet for yourself here.

It really comes as no surprise.  Marian University essentially gained control of the school back in April 2016 when Cold Spring converted to Innovation School status.  This was unprecedented because, under IPS’s operation, Cold Spring School was rated an A.

I certainly hope that the A rating remains, although Marian has announched plans to make Cold Spring School a lab school for its School of Education, which may or may not shift its curricular focus away from the current Environmental Studies curriculum that has been so successful.   I’ve heard rumors that Tony Bennett has been contracted to evaluate and revamp Marian’s teacher education programs, which, if it’s true, will likely result in the strengthening of the already prominent Teach For America (TFA) and The New Teacher Project (TNTP) transition-to-teaching programs…just a little prediction for ya.


My thoughts are my own, and do not reflect any other entity.

Comments?  Email me: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com


February 2016 Agenda

What’s on the agenda this month:

  • There is a potential contract for substitute teachers which would outsource that entirely to Parallel Employment Group.  Current IPS subs will be “grandfathered in” at their current pay rate but new subs will be paid substantially less than what IPS had paid.
  • The IDOE’s new “student-centered” accountability model is explained HERE.
  • There is an UPDATE on the performance of Emma Donnan, now operated by Charter Schools USA through an Innovation Partnership.
  • The budget for the 2016-2017 school year will be discussed.  I found this particular line item shocking:  innpayments
  • If proposed policy changes are approved, the board will no longer hear appeals from families with students facing expulsion from IPS.
  • The terms for new Innovation Network Schools at both RIVERSIDE #44 and KILMER #69 are discussed. Both want to start as a K-2 and grow, yet manage the 3-6 grades during the growth process.  Odd.
  • Teacher performance grants are coming: Highly effective teachers receive $208 and Effective Teachers receive $190.perfpay
  • Finally, the superintendent’s contract (which expires JUNE 2017) is being re-negotiated.  The proposed contract details are as follows: supcontract

Are you interested in any of these topics?  The board will meet to discuss them on Tuesday, 2/23, at 6pm.  The meeting is held in the board room at 120 E. Walnut, Indianapolis.  Voting on these issues will take place Thursday, 2/25, 6pm at the same location.  You can also view Thursday’s voting session via live stream at www.myips.org

This is my own personal blog – not intended to represent IPS, any other entity or body and reflect my own thoughts only.