While we were doing research for our Eight Cities project, I was frequently asked which cities we’d be including. To take the temperature of the sector, I’d turn the question into a nerdy parlor game and ask people to guess which cities they thought made the list.
Indianapolis frequently came up, but it’s not one of our eight cities. Now I’m starting to have second thoughts. Here’s why.
The criteria for being one of the eight cities in our publication was that there was a strategy put in place based on the beliefs and pillars below — and saltatory gains in achievement and reductions in gaps.
Indianapolis scores high on the first criterion. They have a school performance framework, unified enrollment system, influential quarterback organization, broad (but not universal) citywide school choice, and a high-quality authorizer.
On the academic front, things are a bit more complicated.
Indianapolis Public Schools’ (IPS) scores on the state’s iStep test have declined from 29 percent in 2014 to 23 percent in 2018. This isn’t good news for the state’s largest school district, but the city’s families are fortunate to be able to choose one of the city’s 35 charter or 20 Innovation Schools (IPS schools with charter-like autonomies).
Indy’s charter school sector, which enrolls 28 percent of students, has performed well for years in large part because the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office is an effective authorizer. For instance, in 2017, the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office had “the greatest percentage of A and B schools within their portfolio, and the lowest percentage of D and F schools” compared to other authorizers in the state. Continue reading