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

Affording charter schools the opportunity to “buy in bulk” comes at a cost to IPS.

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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.

 

Guest Blog: IPS and Alternative Ed

Is our IPS “dumping” certain students into alternative programs to increase its grad rate?

 

     This is a possibility for any district according to “Hidden Dropouts: how high schools game the system by dumping underachievers into alternative programs.”

http://www.pressreader.com/usa/usa-today-us-edition/20170221/281479276181361

      Except for the recent scandal at IPS #28, we don‘t hear much from the IPS Alt Ed Division. You’d think we’d constantly hear about how students were “turned around” and put “back on track” and returned to the mainstream where they were successful, and all due to our district’s alternative programs.  

     (FYI Here’s the link to IPS alternatives http://www.myips.org/Page/34369)

    One reason for this lack of public information may be that IPS alternatives simply warehouse students in “soft jails” in the underbelly of the system. This goes along with the history of punitive alternatives which are actually created for the school adults who don’t know what else to with the chronically disruptive. Here alternative schools act as “safety valves” for teachers and not “safety nets” for those students underserved by the district. In some cases then, IPS programs are neither alternative nor educational.

     Here’s the real question: If IPS alternatives do “work,” why can’t any student attend?

    Thus, the issues here are: 1) How would we know if IPS doesn’t game the system to increase its grad rates; and, 2) are IPS alternatives the first step for some students into the pipeline to prison? We won’t know unless we see the data–but does IPS keep data on its alternative programs and students?

________

John Harris Loflin is an IPS graduate and retired IPS teacher. He has a graduate degree in Alternative Ed from IU. John’s ideas are published locally, in the state and the U.S., and internationally. He’s also presented at conferences regarding alternative and democratic education on 6 contents.  See his work here:

http://vorcreatex.com/general-alternative-ed/

http://vorcreatex.com/indianapolis-indiana-alternative-ed/

http://vorcreatex.com/national-international-alternative-ed/

ALEC’s influence in Indiana education

Did you know that Indiana is so hell bent on corporate education reform models that ALEC has named a 2016 legislation package in our honor called the (drumroll please…)

Indiana Education Reform Package“:

“Indiana Education Reform Package creates a voucher program, using taxpayer funds to subsidize private for-profit and religious schools and limits teachers’ rights to collective bargaining. One of its key components–the “Charter School Act”–automatically converts low-scoring public schools into charter schools”.  (Source: Center for Media and Democracy PR Watch)

If ALEC has their way with legislators, the Indiana models of ed reform will be replicated in more states across the country – and in new, more shrouded language than ever before!

Since vouchers now have a negative connotation, ALEC will begin calling them the “Great Schools Tax Credit Program” or the “Parental Choice Scholarship Program”.

Additionally, charter schools can get exempted from accountability with the “Next Generation Charter Schools” Act which allows for unelected statewide charter authorizers – and the “Charter Schools” Act allows low performing public schools to automatically convert to a charter school.

ALEC was the group responsible for writing and promoting the “Innovation Network Schools” Act (also known commonly as 1321) which was SPECIFIC ONLY TO IPS and signed into Indiana law in March 2014:

ALEC

HEA1321

According to a legislative overview by the Mind Trust, the bill was authored by Behning, co-authored by Rep. Huston, and co-sponsored by Senators Miller, Kenley, Kruse, Grooms, Schneider and Taylor.  Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that ALEC and the legislators also had support from some individuals at IPS.

At least now we know who the true author of this bill was.

A link to all current 2016 ALEC education issues and model policies can be found here.

At the link provided above, there is an explanation of numerous other initiatives that ALEC is pushing in 2016 – including: opposing the Clean Power plan which ensures reduction of carbon pollution; expanding their sponsored “Right to Work” Act in other states (it’s already here in Indiana) which further destroys unions and workers’ rights; and working to ensure that the minimum wage is not set higher by state or local governments through bills like the “Starting (Minimum) Wage Repeal Act,” “Resolution in Opposition to any Increase in the Starting (Minimum) Wage,” and “Resolution Opposing Increases in the Minimum Wage Linked to the CPI.”

All of this information is from the following source:  http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/05/13099/alec%27s-2016-agenda-snapshot#sthash.bD3aOXW3.dpuf (From the Center for Media and Democracy PR Watch – I highly encourage you to read the full article).

Here’s the best part – ALEC is holding their 43rd Annual Meeting  from July 27-29 right here in Indianapolis!  See the IBJ article and this 2014 Indy Star Letter to the Editor, which calls out several Indiana ALEC members, reportedly including Governor Mike Pence, Chris Atkins, David Frizzell, and the state chairs for ALEC: Senator Jim Buck and Representative David A. Wolkins.

I don’t know about you, but I get absolutely no feelings of “hoosier hospitality” when I think about this group coming to visit.  As far as I’m concerned, their Indiana bills have already done enough damage.

My views expressed here are my own personal views and do not reflect those of any other institution or entity.

Questions or comments: email gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

The purpose of education: the three E’s

 

I have heard it said that the purpose of education in IPS should ultimately result in one of the three E’s:

Enrollment

Enlistment

Employment

I want to offer three alternative E’s for your consideration:

Emancipation

Enlightenment

Empowerment

Let us consider the differences between education in different settings.  The elite private schools of Indianapolis certainly don’t offer up “enrollment, enlistment, and employment” as the purposes for the education that they are offering their students.  In fact, one website I visited  included three C’s in their vision: curiosity, compassion, and courage.  It is just me, or are there radically different connotations to each of those lists of words?  Yep.  Enrollment, enlistment, and employment should not be the end game here.  Being enrolled, enlisted, or employed should be natural byproducts of an education that honors and inspires the whole child…a child who is:

EMANCIPATED:  has realized that his current socioeconomic status and/or identity is not predictive of or limiting his future possibilities.

ENLIGHTENED: has been exposed to a wide variety of curricula, activities, and interests, can apply that information to her current circumstance, and is inspired to pursue further learning on topics of her choosing.

EMPOWERED: has realized that his locus of control lies within himself, takes his resources into account and knows when to use them, demonstrates responsibility and self-determination.

Allow me to offer a couple of scenarios for your consideration:

School A students wait outside or on the bus until the bell rings.  Once allowed inside, they walk with bubbles in their mouths and their arms crossed in hallway hugs on the right side of the hallway, using the red tape line as a guide, with absolutely no talking.  They arrive at their classroom, and are greeted by an under-appreciated, underpaid and overworked teacher, who (in some cases) loves them anyway, and are doing the absolute best they can despite the current conditions.  School A student sits at their desk, quietly doing bell work.  Their day consists of a math block, a reading block (typically with basal readers and pre-made worksheets), and Science or Social Studies if it’s in a grade where it’s tested on ISTEP, and when there is time in the day for it.  The Indiana Academic Standards are posted on the wall so we always know which ones we are currently working on, and because there will be a test soon.  There is always an upcoming test; quizzes, benchmarks, I-READS, I-STEPS.  Student A gets gym twice a week, Music twice a week, and Art on a cart or library once a week.  She gets the same lunch as everyone else, whether kindergarten or high school athlete.  She sits down at the long cafeteria table, next to the kid in line according to alphabetical order.  Sometimes she has to sit in silence with the lights out at lunch, while a stressed out adult yells at them through a microphone to be quiet.  If she talks, she get after school detention.

A student from school B arrives at school early to go and speak with his favorite teacher before class starts.  There are no bells, but student B knows when it’s time to head to homeroom because he can hear the happy chatter of students in the halls.  Teachers throughout the halls are standing at their doors, smiling, and greeting students.  Student B enters the classroom and gets ready for his discussion in circle time.  He knows he will have to plan his day of learning, and his teacher guides him in planning to make choices throughout the day, such as where to sit, how to see the best in his (sometimes annoying) classmates, which books to read, which topics to write about, which centers to visit during math workshop.  When his friend helps him to discover grouping pumpkin seeds by ten to count rather than counting by ones, his teacher notes his success and celebrates by asking the class to stop and watch his demonstration.  At lunch, he sits outside in the spring air with a chosen group of friends but plans to visit the library during lunch tomorrow. In the afternoon, he has a disagreement with a peer that wouldn’t leave him alone.  He had to set aside time to attend a peace mediation session with his teacher, and everything is back to normal now – which is great, because the best part of his day is going to the Environmental Club after school.

As you think about the differences in the vignettes from school A vs. school B, please consider the following:
  • What organizational differences in these two settings are creating such a vast gap in the learning experiences of students?  What is the “work” culture of these two districts?  What policies are in place to set these conditions?  What role might standardized testing play?  How might the concept of accountability be experienced differently in school A vs. school B?
  • What do you think the adults in school A are doing differently than the adults in school B?
  • Trick question: which school has the highest paid outside consultants? (Hint: it’s not the one you might think.)
  • Which school offers more individual freedom?  What are the consequences of allowing students to make authentic choices, both negative and positive? (dare I say it, student AUTONOMY?)
  • How might the opportunity to make decisions in school affect a student’s learning…after all, isn’t LIFE about the ability for people to make sound decisions for themselves?
  • Over 12 years of schooling, what cumulative effects can we expect on human lives?  In other words, which set of three E’s is school A preparing students for?  School B?
  • Which school is designed to produce leaders and innovators?  Which school is designed to produce worker bees?  Does either school encourage the questioning of authority, or the status quo? Is this by design?
  • Does student A DESERVE different treatment than student B, based on an ability to pay for a private school education?  To what extent (if any) can a public school offer a private school education (or a semblance of it)?
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For the first time ever, I am allowing comments on this blog thread.  Responses are moderated, and idiocy of any kind is not tolerated.  Let’s discuss the questions above, and the general idea of the PURPOSE of education, public, charter, and private.  If your comments do not get posted, it’s because you did not give input to the questions.  Or you were inappropriate. Don’t take it personal…
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Do you want to share the story of what is going on in your Indianapolis school?  I am inviting teachers, school staff and students to write about their experiences, good and bad, to be shared anonymously (or not, you choose) on my blog.  Please email submissions to: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com
These thoughts are my own and do not reflect IPS or any other entity.  I assume no responsibility for the comments of others on this blog or in any other format.

 

STAND for something, fall for anything??

I came across this little gem in the Indy Star:
STANDletter
I suppose that I am the one cautious board member that is named in this letter.  So, allow me to address your concerns.  For the record, as a former IPS teacher, I have seen firsthand the “failure” that you speak of, and share some of your frustration. I am also currently an IPS parent. My child attends a school which will likely be rated a D or an F this year (if you care about that sort of thing, given the current state of standardized testing/ISTEP).  However, the devil of “innovation” is in the details. The dissent that I offer on the board in regard to innovation schools is because: I believe in equitable access to a free public education, and I do not believe that parceling out our public school system to become a loosely associated chain of charter organizations that have contracts with IPS is in the best interests of children.  Do you realize that when Phalen Academy was given a contract to run school 103, they got upwards of $3 million dollars to do so?  That money has to come from somewhere…and as we create more and more of these “innovation partnerships”, we are siphoning valuable and extremely limited resources from the very D and F schools that you speak of. 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not only about the money – understand that these partnerships are with corporations (non-profit or otherwise) – so when you have a concern, you do not have an elected official (such as myself) to represent the people.  You will be taking your chances with a privately appointed board who is tasked with running the day to day operations of the school.  Good luck signing up to delegate there.
Reason #456 on my list is because: people will undoubtedly lose their jobs. As private organizations take over, they do have the right to hire their own teachers.  Frequently at lower pay.  There will be layoffs of teachers.  These organizations also have the right to contract out any services they desire – including janitorial (bye bye, IPS custodians), food services, bus drivers – you name it, it will no longer be a secure source of employment for our community members with stable pay and benefits.  It will be McBusDrivers Incorporated sending folks from out of town that don’t know how to navigate Indianapolis that will be driving your kids around for minimum wage and no health insurance.
Reason #992: Have you checked the performance of most Indianapolis charter schools lately?  They fare no better than IPS.
Don’t believe the hype – innovation is possible without privatizing our public school system.  Look at Project Restore, which is a model in place at schools 99, 88, and 93.  It is a homegrown IPS concept that has been very successful – and it doesn’t need a contract, millions being given to an outside organization/board of directors in order to make it happen.  Those schools are given the latitude needed to increase student achievement, and it works.  Let’s think critically about how to really improve our school system without fragmenting and reducing it to a binder full of  $$ contracts.  I applaud your advocacy for your children, but you need to ask some hard questions.  What is the real agenda of Stand for Children?  Why have they thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars into getting IPS board members elected, including myself?  Why aren’t they putting that money toward helping IPS develop more innovative homegrown programs like Project Restore, and making them available to other schools, MINUS the middlemen with their hands out?? Are you getting the whole story?
My thoughts are, obviously, my own.
Email me if you’d like: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

Titan up… No. Really.

Tech student speaks before board and gets chastised by principal and administrator.

Yesterday evening I missed a thoughtful delegation from a Tech high school senior.  I always have mixed emotions when a student comes before the board.  My heart swells with pride for their courage, yet sadness usually multiplies with each word they speak.  Why?  Because I know why they’ve come.  They come when their school is being closed, or when they feel disenfranchised by the very institution that is supposed to enrich their lives.  I also worry whenever a student says something that might be cause for retribution. Since this delegation is now public record, I feel compelled to share it with you:

Hello my name is Chris. I am a Student at Arsenal
Technical High school. I am here before you to express my Frustration with the changes that came to Arsenal Technical High School this year.
The first thing I would like to bring up is the new administration. This
by itself has caused many conflicts between the students and teachers
because of the lack of effort and discipline in and on the school’s campus.
From the start of school on August 3, 2015 to today I have only seen the new administrative principal three times. This is a cause for concern because I distinctly remember the new principal said that we would be seeing more of the new administration on campus to:
1. Try and establish relations with the student body.
2. Also to grow more acquainted with the campus.
The second is the new disciplinary guidelines that were implemented in the k-12 system for IPS applied to Arsenal Technical High School does not seem to be effective. The students are taking advantage of it. There have been more fights at Arsenal Technical High School this year alone than in the three years I’ve been at this school. That being said the classroom is no better. Teachers spend more time redirecting kids than teaching. This has lead teachers to become almost unresponsive to what any student really needs in their education.
The Third thing is that some decisions have been made around the
school that have made a lot of students not even want to attend Arsenal Technical High School. These changes consist of pushing back the time students get off the bus. Approximately 2,000 students accumulate into the cafeteria which only leaves the students ten minutes to get food, eat, and then go to first period. It also creates a situation for a fire hazard. Also having teachers patrol the halls on their prep. I say this because in the past teachers used this time to allow students to make up tests, turn in work, and get extra help for the grades that we need. I myself can’t stress enough how much we need these grades.
Another thing is that the new principal made the decision to close the
library to the students. Making this decision has puzzled many people for this reason: It is the one place where kid actually go for studying, lunch, and to check out books. The library is the most calm environment on campus, but now that it’s closed the student that use this resource are now deprived of it usefulness. Its also the one place where student know they won’t get hit by a flying milk.
This last statement might be the most concerning of all. At the end of
the day during the 11th period, the administration has all of the buildings on campus locked up. This means that any student that was requested to either see a counselor or any other adult figure on campus can’t go back to class.
So inevitably it causes those students to then be on campus where they are most vulnerable. I only say this because the only cameras that are recording the campus are unreliable, and are a false sense of security. For not just the students, but also the staff that you yourselves employ.
I would like the board to think about what I had to say and hopefully make changes needed for the success of all at Arsenal Technical High School. I wish to see the teachers and students leave this school at the best it could be for they have made my experience at Arsenal Technical High school most successful and exciting.

Dear Chris,

First of all, thank you for your comments to the board. I admire your courage.  I believe that you are setting an excellent example for your fellow students. Maybe if the entire district was filled with students a little more like you, who made their voices heard, IPS would be a better place.  You see, a lot of adults who run things around IPS think that adults know best, and they go around talking about how to give those adults more autonomy to do what they think is best.  I happen to know that if you believe in your students, and you give them autonomy, they end up doing some freaking amazing things…like actually regulating themselves in very responsible ways.  I’ve been in a high school where there were no bells, and where students were allowed to get up and leave class if they needed to visit a counselor or administrator.  Guess what?  Contrary to what many adults might believe, those students did not abuse their privileges.  They changed classes when it was time and excused themselves from class as necessary to go visit adults that they needed to see.  I think this is an example that could be applied to your ability to go and eat breakfast, and to go visit the library.  Some isolated incidents that might have prompted these changes should not be applied to the ENTIRE STUDENT BODY.  I am a Tech alum, and I happen to know that library has been open to students for decades.  The actions of a few should not have such an impact, especially in an academic environment where we should be promoting literacy and appropriate technology usage to students who may not have access outside of school.

Secondly, Chris – the manner in which you were called into the office to discuss your delegation to the board is really inappropriate.  I am appalled at the response that you have received from your principal and district officials.  Any self-respecting educator would have appreciated your advocacy – not only for yourself but for your fellow Titans.  Instead, you were met with hostility.  You were not allowed to speak your truth.  You were constantly interrupted and they attempted to make you feel shame for going to the board, and silence you.  When you asked to leave, they would not allow you to leave, but forced you to sit and take even more verbal abuse from them.  Chris, do not let that dissuade you.  Know that your comments to the board STRUCK A NERVE and let that light your fire for continued advocacy. Continue speaking your truth and encourage other students to do the same.

Where are our student governments?  I’m afraid they no longer exist at any of our high schools. For the past three years, I have asked time and again as a board member to have student representatives be a part of what we do…student government or otherwise.  Obviously, that has never happened.

Where are my Tech alumni?

Where is our esteemed Cannon?

Here is what I am asking you, the reader, to do.  Teachers, students, administrators that are reading this blog: UNDERSTAND that students are just like us in this respect – they want things to be done in conjunction WITH THEM, not TO THEM.  If anyone’s listening, I’m ready to do my part to elevate student voice.  Send me student submissions, comments or concerns, and I will provide the platform.  Help me to make this a student-centered school district.

My thoughts are my own and don’t reflect that of any other body or entity.  You can contact me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

“Conversion to Innovation”

Next month, in October, we will get further information and have discussion on the biggest steps toward school ‘autonomy’ yet.  District schools, next year, will be encouraged to move into an Autonomous status (principals will control their own budgets) and then to move toward Innovation School status.  As an “Innovation” school the school will have obtained a 501 C-3 (non-profit) status.  This means that they will operate entirely independently from the district, have their own board, employ ther own teachers.  Once innovation status is obtained, the Mind Trust will give the school $50k.
Here are screenshots, showing the details:
auto3

This is a three-tiered system:

auto1

Schools will be able to move from Traditional > Autonomous > Innovation status in the following manner:

auto2
More information on the timeline and process:
auto4
The community is largely unaware of this plan at this point in time.  
Help spread the word: the above are slides from public documents concerning this plan, obtained from IPS board docs, from meeting held September 16, 2015 at Broad Ripple High School: http://www.boarddocs.com/in/indps/Board.nsf/Public  Share this blog, or share the link…but the community should be informed of this process so that they can engage.
**UPDATE** I made corrections to some of the language in the original blog.  I was mistakenly under the impression that this would be voted on by the board next month.  I was informed that this would not require a board vote…because it is borne out of the strategic plan.
These views are my own and are not affiliated with the IPS district or board in any way.