Blog: Innovation Schools in Indianapolis and Open Systems

In late March, the Indiana legislature passed public law 1321 allowing the Board of Indianapolis Public Schools to contract with school management teams and leaders to turnaround failing schools or establish new schools in IPS.

This kind of legislation marks a significant move in the direction of ‘open system’ models. We have documented in our case study how Lawrence, MA used a new state law “to turn around a “chronically underperforming” system and create a new model for education reform with empowered schools at the center.” This new IN law is similarly encouraging, showing a willingness from the district to engage in a new kind of performance (rather than micro) management of schools.

A couple of key highlights from our perspective:

1. Student enrollment follows current patterns and the school level results are reported as a part of IPS. Getting great results for students should be our number 1 priority in education. If a district is bold enough to make the decision to contract the management of a school to another entity it should be allowed to ‘own’ the results of the school just as it does the results of the many other schools that are traditionally managed. Getting results for students should not be a competition, but a collaboration, and this legislation makes that possible.

2. School teams are not bound by existing CBAs. We believe the freedom to hire the right people for the job is crucial to the success of a school. It is one of the essential autonomies of running a high quality school. Not being bound by current working conditions allows educators to be innovative, meet the needs of students, and take an active role in setting the conditions that govern the school.

Another exciting development is the partnership that the legislation has spurred between IPS, The Mind Trust, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. The Mind Trust will play incubator to up to 9 educators who will be chosen to develop the plans and launch the new or turnaround schools.

We are excited about this legislative development and we will continue to watch closely as The Mind Trust, Indianapolis Public Schools, and leaders and school managers begin to explore just how powerful this open systems approach can be for schools, teachers, and students.