For many years, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) has faced criticism from our community about schools that are not adequately preparing our children for success. The criticism includes decreased graduation rates, poor standardized test scores and the lack of academic progress over the years, all of which have been well documented and shared openly with families throughout the community.
Fortunately for Indianapolis, it is a new day in IPS. After decades of well-meaning attempts to improve the district, I can confidently say IPS is on a path toward meaningful and long-term change. The change throughout will positively impact our children by preparing them to compete among their peers, not only throughout our state and nation, but also in the world. But change is often difficult to embrace. Effective change requires risk. Most of all, change is frightening at times, but we owe it to our babies to set our fears aside and take the risk, that leap of faith to ensure each and every one of them receives the quality education they deserve.
Our children are suffering while we, the adults, argue relentlessly about which education methods will serve them best. The world has changed. Teaching methods have changed. Laptop computers and tablets have replaced chalkboards and overhead projectors. What worked for us when we were growing up is outdated, and we need to recognize this. We need to empower our schools and those who have made the commitment to educate our children. After all, we didn’t make the decision to pursue a career in education; they did. So shouldn’t we give them our support and allow them to focus on the business of educating our children?
I applaud Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee and the IPS board for stepping out of the box and having the courage to shake up the status quo. They have been visionary leaders who have not been afraid to make tough decisions in order to bring IPS into the 21st century and provide better opportunities for the children of this city.
For the past 15 years, much of the local discussion about school improvement has focused on charter schools. While charter schools have succeeded in Indianapolis and remain a promising way to inject innovation into education, Innovation Network Schools provide another excellent pathway to raising student achievement in Indianapolis.
Innovation Network Schools are autonomous public schools that operate within IPS but are exempt from IPS administrative rules and many state regulations, giving them the autonomy that is the hallmark of high-performing schools. They allow IPS to take the lead role in transforming its own schools, while also recruiting some of the brightest minds in our community and the nation to be a part of the solution.
So please join me on this journey as we strive to find solutions to educate our babies. They deserve the best, and we owe it to them.
Maggie Lewis is president of the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council.