Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What Releasing Washington High Back To IPS Could Mean For State Interventions

The first snowpack of the winter on the front lawn of Indianapolis' Washington High School.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana (File)

Indianapolis' George Washington Community High School.

It’s no secret Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz opposes state takeover of struggling schools.

She campaigned against the intensive interventions her predecessor, Tony Bennett, pushed for four schools in Indianapolis and one in Gary. But those turnaround schools and others flagged for state intervention remain on her plate now, regardless of her feelings towards takeover.

Wednesday’s marathon State Board of Education meeting included three hours of discussion on what to do with George Washington High School, where a lead partnership hasn’t worked out. Indianapolis Star reporter Scott Elliott has this recap of the debate:

The core problem comes down to conflicting motivations. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz isn’t a fan of takeover/lead partners. So she was glad to recommend releasing Washington back to IPS control — a first since direct state interventions began in 2011.

But some board members are deeply invested in state intervention. They really did not want to “give up” the school to IPS, in their view. And, right in the center, was a money problem.

And, just to add in one more twist, IPS might not sign on to its own plan, the very one the state board approved.

Washington was nearly taken over by the state in 2011 after six straight years of F grades for low test scores. Instead, the state board chose a lesser intervention — assigning a New York-based company called Amplify as a “lead partner” to help guide reform efforts at Washington.

It didn’t go well.

Representatives from Amplify told the State Board the problem was with IPS. They say test scores at Washington would likely drop this year and earn the school a D, in large part because of students who transferred from the four IPS schools taken over by the state.

But the district’s interim superintendent, Peggy Hinckley, says Amplify could have anticipated the influx because urban students often move schools.

The bottom line? Money. Without federal school improvement dollars — Washington has exhausted its grant, writes Elliott — there isn’t money to pay a lead partner.

(Sound familiar? EdPower, the company in charge of turning around Arlington High School, told the State Board earlier this summer it wouldn’t be able to complete the task without federal money.)

In the case of Washington High School, Ritz suggested turning control over to her department, but the State Board balked at that plan. Instead, board members voted in favor of a second proposal — releasing the school back to IPS. But the IPS school board still needs to approve it.

Perhaps the most telling part of yesterday’s discussion about George Washington is the ongoing tension between Ritz, a Democrat, and State Board of Education members, who were all appointed by Republican governors.

As we’ve written before, Ritz thinks outreach is the best way to help struggling schools. But the State Board — now under the thumb of a new education agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation — may have different ideas.


  • Karynb9

    Why does Broad Ripple still apparently have the money to keep their lead partners, though George Washington does not? I saw where Broad Ripple received another SIG this year, but why did Washington not receive a SIG? Broad Ripple seems to be performing better than Washington, so it seems strange that Washington wasn’t able to secure a grant that Broad Ripple received. Is there a limit on the number of times you can receive a grant and Washington has already exhausted that limit? The data would just suggest that if ANY school were to be released from intervention, it would be Broad Ripple.

    • Elle Moxley

      Great question, Karynb9. Let me do some digging, and I’ll see what I can find out.

      • Elle Moxley

        So here’s what I’ve been able to find: A School Improvement Grant is awarded for a three-year period. George Washington started getting money in 2010-11, so it expired this past year. Broad Ripple didn’t get SIG money until 2012-13, so it has two years of funding to go. I found this PDF from the IDOE with the start dates for each grant recipient. Let me know if that helps:

        • Karynb9

          Makes sense. Looks like you can get a 1003(a) grant that can be renewed for three years (what Broad Ripple has and what has expired for Washington) or a 1003(g) grant that can only go to schools that got a D or F last year. Washington got a C, so they weren’t eligible for that one. John Marshall’s three years of SIG 1003(a) money expired last year just like Washington’s, but since THEY got another F, they were eligible for SIG 1003(g) money. The TSOs are all funded with the SIG 1003(g) money that they will apparently no longer be eligible for as soon as they get a C or above.

          That tends to beg the (rhetorical) question here, that if there is no separate state funding available for interventions…and the TSOs made it quite clear that they would pull out without SIGs this year…are the TSOs going to have to pull out the year after they get a school to a C rating or above since they will no longer be eligible for SIGs and there’s no other money available to pay them above and beyond the state allotted per-pupil-funding that other schools in the state receive? If scores have gone up in the takeover schools, this could be the last year they’re “taken over” simply because the money may be gone.

          This is just my rookie analysis of what I’m reading, so I absolutely may be missing something.

  • Jack Irsay

    Hi. Can someone tell me what the release of Washington back to IPS means for state interventions? I read the story 3 times but I don’t think the author ever says.

  • indyscott

    Before people criticize this board for being republican (and therefore against Ritz) or having a non-education background, here is the makeup of the board.

    “The Superintendent of Public Instruction is a voting member and chairs the Board. Ten members are appointed by the Governor, with one member from each of the nine congressional districts and one member at-large. No more than six of the
    members may be from the same political party, and four of the members
    must be licensed educators currently employed in an Indiana school.”

    Also, almost all of the current board members have a connection to education whether it be as a current teacher, principal, or in higher ed.

    • Karynb9

      Yes, but one can be a registered Democrat and still have traditionally Republican views on education issues. You think the Republican governor has appointed four Democrats who are all completely opposed to his views on education issues? It’s not about what ballot they ask for during May elections. No one cares how they feel about abortion, Obamacare, or gay rights — it’s how they feel on education issues.

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