Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why Indianapolis School Leaders Think Their Lawsuit Against The State Has Merit

Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

Meeting at Indianapolis Public Schools headquarters on August 25, the IPS board authorized the district to take legal action against the Indiana Department of Education if it goes ahead with its takeover plans.

Hours after the state announced its takeover of seven “failing” public schools, Indianapolis Public Schools officials made good on threats of legal action they’d floated weeks ago Thursday night:  if the Indiana Department of Education takes over their schools, they’ll take the state to court.

The district’s school board authorized the legal action by a 4-3 vote in a regular meeting Thursday night.

Far from painting the potential lawsuit against the state as a last-ditch Hail Mary pass, superintendent Eugene White said IPS attorneys believe the district has a solid case for a discrimination suit.

Why? It all comes back to student performance numbers and how the state calculates them.

IPS officials say the three “high schools” on the district’s takeover list (T.C. Howe, Broad Ripple, and Washington) actually teach students grades 7-12 — it’s a model called the “community high school.” That means, as IPS officials see it, the schools face a double-whammy:  they have to meet the standards of both a middle school and a high school under Indiana’s Growth Model, which holds schools’ to targets for improving their test scores.

Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

IPS superintendent Eugene White at the district's school board meeting on August 25.

White argues making these schools meet two sets of standards shows a “bias” against the community school model.

“I don’t think you should be penalized because you found a model that works in the urban setting,” White told StateImpact after the meeting.

The Indiana Department of Education has argued that rural schools, which often combine middle and high school buildings, are judged by the same standards to which IPS is held.

The board vote was the nightcap of what had been a busy day in Indiana education, with state officials announcing they would turn control of four failing IPS schools and one Gary area high school to three outside “turnaround school organizations,” and assigned state-appointed help for two other underperforming IPS schools. The board authorized a lawsuit to be filed only if the state’s Board of Education approves the takeover plans at its Monday meeting.

IPS board member Andrea Roof, who voted against authorizing the legal action, said during the meeting she felt a lawsuit would be too little, too late.

“Do I think it sucks? Yes,” Roof said of the takeover. “But it’s done, in my opinion.

“It is devastating what’s happening,” Roof continued. “It’s not that I don’t think it won’t be devastating to staff, communities, families, businesses. Devastating. I wish we weren’t in this situation, but we are… My hope now, my personal hope, is for the best for our kids, whatever that may be.”


  • Crystal Dionne Perkins

    I agree w/ Ms. Roof— “Too little, too late”! At this juncture it is indeed a moot point!! IPS should practice what they preach—-How can they expect the state 2 be sympathetic to their plight when they don’t even bestow the same courtesy to their employees!! I was recently terminated from IPS 4 attendance issues that were health-related but were no longer an issue!! IPS basically informed me that it didn’t matter whether or not I had corrected the issue & had no performance problems—the fact remained I had violated their attendance policy & termination was the protocol. That being said, IPS wants to take the stand of “Do as I say & not as I do”!! The fact remains that IPS failed miserably in its task to raise test scores, grades, & enrollment and will have to deal w/ the consequences!! Just as in my situation—it doesn’t matter where things stand now the fact remains these schools have proven to under achievers & scholastically inept!! At the risk of sounding bitter & disgruntled—”You reap what you sow”!!! Doesn’t feel so good when the shoe’s on the other foot–does it IPS?!! Welcome to my world!!

    • Mrskylesway

      It’s about the children. It is not they fault you lost your job.

      • Crystal Perkins

        Clearly. U misunderstood my post or have comprehension issues b’cuz I never said it WASN’T about the children—in fact my comments addressed the concerns discussed in the article!! Is it safe 2 assume that U yourself are a product of their failing educational system?!! Hmmmm…

  • Crystal Dionne Perkins

    Oh yeah! Good luck w/ that appeal process[ha,ha,ha] Let me know how that works for you!!

  • Rovarose

    Dear Friend,

    I only have the free version of a LinkedIn account, and my ability to communicate with you is limited to this kind of email. However, I’ll share the following article I wrote. It appears in the October, 2011 issue of Pen World magazine.


    Many people would argue that handwriting is an obsolete skill, but no one seriously contends that reading is. Robert Rose, M.D., believes that handwriting is the key to literacy — and he’s spent years proving it.

    We retired an moved to Georgia in 1996. I began pushing for the adoption of E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s Core Knowledge Curriculum and eventually made a big enough pest of myself to be interviewed by the then-superintendent of schools in Cobb County. An opponent of Hirsch, he finally admitted that, “ideally, all kids should learn a curriculum like Hirsch’s, but too many kids just couldn’t handle it.”

    After thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that if they couldn’t, it was because they lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills. America used to lead the world in education. Now we lead in high school dropouts.

    In Maria Montessori’s 1912 book The Montessori Method, she claimed that preschoolers learn to read spontaneously once they became “expert” at writing the alphabet. I volunteered to tutor kids with reading problems at a local social agency. Within a few weeks I had cured two “dyslexic” boys, simply by working with them on writing the alphabet.

    By this time listservs were becoming popular. I joined TAWL (Teachers Applying Whole Language) and joined in their discussions. I begged members to count how many letters their first-graders could write in twenty seconds, then multiply by three to get a letters-per-minute (LPM) rate on each child, and to correlate that figure with each child’s reading ability. To my amazement and joy, there was a universal and massive positive correlation — even in classrooms of teachers who didn’t agree with requiring fluency at anything. It turned out that “expert” meant an LPM of more than 39.

    The following school year (2003-04), I began my own free listserv at and enlisted five kindergarten teachers to help me prove Montessori’s idea, which wasn’t new or unique. In the first century, Marcus Quintilianus had written that, with regard to literacy, “too slow a hand impedes the mind”. In the early twentieth century G. Vernon Hillyer wrote, “If you teach a child to write, you needn’t bother teaching him to read.”

    I repeated the experiment with different groups of K-1 teachers in 2008-09 and 2009-10. We always got the same result. This is a very important finding, but virtually no one in the establishment cares to investigate this possibility. Many of my acquaintances, however, are aware of the overarching importance of writing fluency. Children who can identify randomly presented alphabet letters as fast as they can write them, and who have a score of at least 40 LPM or better, are virtually assured of reading success.

    Writing fluency leads to literacy because it forces students to think about the appearances of letters, letter combinations and syllables. That is the secret of becoming literate.

    A cyber pal once mailed me a copy of an article from an obscure journal which purported to prove that if second-graders can give more than forty correct answers to simple addition facts per minute, the almost never have problems with math or science thereafter. And I believe this. It’s true with music and with athletics: early fluency is an immense advantage.

    Robert Rose, M.D. practiced internal medicine in Long Island, N.Y., before retiring to Georgia.
    Further articles on the writing/reading connection are available at these URL’s: (Deardorff in Chicago Tribune) (Graham/Carnegie article) (InTech free ebook, “Reflections on the Haptics of Writing”.

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