Indiana schools headed for state intervention

July 22, 2011

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(WBEZ/file)
State Superintendent Bennett said he wants to "ensure all students have the skills they need to be successful."

Some Indiana schools are facing the possibility of a state takeover. Indiana's Public Law 221 requires major interventions for chronically under-performing schools.  

Under the law, schools are graded based on student test scores and improvement. Schools that receive an "F" for six straight years are mandated to face state intervention. This morning, Indiana Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Tony Bennett announced that for the first time since the law was enacted in 1999, a handful of schools have reached that benchmark. It will affect one school in Gary and six schools in Indianapolis.

At a press conference on Friday, Bennett said that by setting expectations high and holding schools accountable, "we have seen tremendous results - not just in our underperforming schools but in schools around the state."

The intervention each school receives will be decided on by the Indiana Board of Education. The interventions can range from closing and merging schools, to enacting new school policies based on public hearings, or even having an outside company come in to run the school entirely.

"One of our primary responsibilities going forward regardless of the intervention is ensuring that the community continues to be engaged by whoever it is who is coming in to support the school in question," said Jim Larsen, Indiana's director of School Improvement and Turnaround.

Larson said if an outside company takes over a school, it would have a five-year contract to get the school's academic metrics up to a passing grade. He added that the finer details of the contracts haven't been nailed down yet since they just announced what companies they're considering Friday morning. EdPower, Charter Schools USA and Edison Learning are the finalists for Indiana's TSO's: Turnaround School Operators. The state law requires that if a school is taken over, the new operators can only re-hire 49 percent of its previous staff.

As to what kind of intervention each school will face, Larson said his team and members of the Indiana Board of Education will be deciding on that in the coming weeks. An announcement detailing each school's fate is expected in August.