Charter Pulse

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Indianapolis soon to see new charter schools

grant-moneyTwo national groups will receive $1 million each from the The Mind Trust’s charter school incubator to open new charter schools in Indianapolis.

Both are well-known national charter school operators — KIPP, a San Francisco-based network, and Rocketship Education, based in San Jose, Calif.

“The extraordinary track records of both organizations caused them to rise to the top,” said David Harris, CEO of The Mind Trust. “We couldn’t be more excited.”

The incubator grants were announced Thursday by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. The incubator a joint effort of the mayor’s office and The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based non-profit focused on education reform. The mayor’s office has contributed $2 million for the ongoing project from the city’s Rebuild Indy program.

KIPP, or Knowledge is Power Program, has long been a darling of the school reform movement. It’s known for longer school days and school years, sometimes including Saturdays, among other things.

Founded in 1994 in Houston and New York by two former Teach for America teachers, it already operates a charter school on Indianapolis’ east side. KIPP previously operated a school in Gary but parted ways with the board of that school in 2011.

KIPP’s Indianapolis school earned praise in the last year for it’s dramatic turnaround on state test scores. The school’s ISTEP scores fell 18 points over three years to just 30 percent passing both English and math in 2009.

But after an overhaul of the school, led by its governing board, ISTEP scores last year showed 60 percent passed math and English — twice as high as 2009.

Harris said KIPP was chosen both for its national reputation and for the quality of the team managing its Indianapolis operation.

“They took over a KIPP school that had stumbled a bit and turned it into a great school with a great staff and a deep bench of leadership,” Harris said.

Rocketship, founded in 2006, operates nine schools in San Jose and this fall is expanding outside California — to Milwaukee — for the first time. It’s known for a “blended” learning model that combines lessons taught in person and by computer. Its other priorities are teacher training and forging parent and community connections.

Rocketship has plans for eight charter schools in Indianapolis within five years, opening the first school in 2015, while KIPP will expand to five schools over the next 10 years, starting with a second school in 2014.

Preston Smith, co-founder of Rocketship, said the company has been inundated with requests for it to look at other cities for expansion but the incubator was a major factor in making Indianapolis one of its first expansion sites.

“It’s been a very collaborative process and it’s very clear there is a lot of interest in great schools for every family in Indiana,” he said.

KIPP and Rocketship were selected from 30 applicants. They join last year’s two million-dollar winners — Christel House and Phalen Leadership Academies.

Christel House, begun in Indianapolis by local philanthropist Christel DeHaan, opened a second school last year and has plans for five total schools. Phalen is a new charter school management organization launching in Indianapolis with plans for 10 schools here. It was founded by Earl Martin Phalen, who also founded Summer Advantage, a national summer school program that originally launched in Indiana with support from the Mind Trust.

All told, that makes four charter school networks with a combined goal of 30 new schools in Indianapolis. That would more than double the 25 charters operating in Indianapolis right now.

But The Mind Trust isn’t stopping there. Harris said the incubator will likely chose two more charter school operators to locate or expand here next year and hopes to do so for several years after that.

“We haven’t definitively decided that but our goal is to be quite aggressive,” he said. “To a large degree it depends on what our funding opportunities are.”

The incubator could work hand in hand with Mayor Greg Ballard’s Neighborhoods of Opportunity, or NEO, plan which aims to create new high quality schools of any type across the city.

The incubator, Harris said, could be open in the future to helping township school districts or Indianapolis Public Schools to replicate successful programs under NEO.

Source: Indystar.com – by Scott Elliott

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This entry was posted on March 21, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Grants, Indiana and tagged , , , .

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