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Consultant: Broad Ripple, John Marshall need better discipline

Teachers at Broad Ripple and John Marshall high schools are struggling to control student behavior, a consultant assigned by the state to help raise test scores at the schools said Thursday.

Marzano Research Laboratories is the latest company assigned by the state to help the schools improve after a string of failed relationships between IPS and state-mandated consultants. The state stepped in to order changes at the schools after they earned six straight years of F grades on their state report cards.

The Denver-based company led by education researcher Robert Marzano, who specializes in school intervention, started working at the schools in November.

“Classroom management has been identified as a really big issue,” said Marzano’s development director Jennifer Norford during a presentation to the State Board of Education. “Many of the teachers are struggling with that. It seems like the follow-through in the classroom is not as strong as it should be.”

Indianapolis Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Wanda Legrand said better classroom discipline is a priority for the district.

“You just can’t have a school that’s run without some standards and expectations and ways to reward kids with good behavior and ways to redirect inappropriate behavior,” Legrand said.

Legrand said all IPS schools are expected to have standards for how they build relationships with their students and handle discipline. Some schools follow national programs, and others have come up with their own approaches.

John Marshall is trying to implement a new program called Capturing Kids’ Hearts, she said, which according to its website is “a powerful process that allows every member of the school family to foster and become part of a high-performing, learning community.” Legrand said Broad Ripple High School uses another program centered around reinforcing good behaviors.

“It removes the ambiguity around how we approach things with students,” Legrand said. “Having a standardized program gives you a standardized approach. All the teachers understand expectations for adults, and kids understand expectations for kids.”

IPS board member LaNier Echols, who taught at John Marshall during her stint at Teach for America and now serves as a charter school principal, said she couldn’t comment on the quality of classroom management at the school. But Echols said improving relationships between students and teachers is needed at all IPS schools to create better classroom environments.

“Rules without relationships breeds rebellion,” Echols said. “That’s something I would definitely say any school could work on.”

Since the state began assigning troubled schools lead partners in 2012 — an alternative to state takeover, in which the school is turned over to be managed by an outside group — IPS has had several companies work with schools. Broad Ripple was paired for a time with with Scholastic and The New Teacher Project. John Marshall worked with Voyager.

Those partnerships have been fraught with problems, and only Broad Ripple High School showed test score gains as a result of the work.

IPS last year asked the state board to drop lead partners so it could manage the two schools with its own improvement plan. The state instead assigned Marzano.

Norford said it is apparent that teachers are frustrated by all the changes.

“They’re not very happy we’re coming in the middle of the year,” Norford said. “We’ve gotten a little bit of that, but we’ve tried to address that the best we can.”

But Norford said much of the company’s work at Broad Ripple and John Marshall is going well — especially with training that is tailored to the schools’ needs. IPS teachers recently complained that teacher training at the district needs to improve.

“(They) have been really positive about receiving feedback and reflecting on their practice,” Norford said. “We’re not trying to come in and do something totally different. We’re trying to make it consistent with what’s already happening in the schools.”