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A class of young students sits on the floor interacting with a teacher, with a couple of them raising their hands.

Global Prep is one of the district’s growing stable of innovation schools.

Shaina Cavazos / Chalkbeat

As Indianapolis Public Schools looks to close high schools, 2 new innovation high schools win support

Four proposed Indianapolis Public Schools innovation schools got a boost today when their founders were chosen as Mind Trust innovation fellows. The award puts them on the fast track to join the district’s growing innovation network.

The fellows will receive funding to help plan their schools and assistance from the Mind Trust, an Indianapolis nonprofit that supports innovation schools.

It’s likely that some — if not all — of the leaders will eventually lead IPS innovation schools. Although some innovation school proposals supported by the Mind Trust have fallen through, other fellows have founded innovation schools that offer blended learning and Spanish immersion. IPS staff, including superintendent Lewis Ferebee, and board members helped select the fellows.

The four schools that won support include two high schools that are part of Indianapolis charter networks and two K-8 schools headed by educators from out of state.

Mind Trust founder David Harris told Chalkbeat in March that the nonprofit expects most of the innovation schools it supports to be new iterations of existing charter schools.

“On balance it’s smart to have more replications of successful models than just brand new ideas,” he said.

The proposed innovation high schools are likely to draw criticism because the move comes at the same time that IPS is aiming to close three traditional high schools as a result of low enrollment.

Advocates tout innovation schools as a tool for dramatically improving IPS. They are controversial, however, because they are a hybrid between charter and traditional public schools. IPS gets credit from the state for the test scores and other data from innovation schools, but they are managed by outside nonprofits or charter operators. Because teachers at the schools don’t work directly for the district, they are not part of the IPS union.

The IPS innovation network includes independent charter schools (such as KIPP Indy), successful schools that converted to innovation status (such as Cold Spring) and struggling schools that were restarted (such as Global Prep at School 44).

These are the new fellows:

  •    KIPP Indy high school

Emily Pelino, who heads the KIPP Indy elementary and middle schools on the northeast side, will work with David Spencer of Illinois to found a high school that aims to serve the same community. The school is expected to open in 2019.

  •    Purdue Polytechnic High School

Scott Bess is the founder of Purdue Polytechnic High School, which is expected to open this fall. The school has not yet opened its doors, but as Chalkbeat reported earlier this year, Purdue is already planning for a network. The second campus will be led by Keeanna Warren, and it is expected to open in 2019.

  •    Matchbook Learning

Founded by Sajan George of New York and Amy Swann of Georgia, the school will be the third addition to a network that currently runs schools in Detroit and Newark, N.J. The school would serve K-8 and open in 2018.

  •    pilotED

Jacob Allen and Marie Dandie founded after-school programs in two Chicago neighborhoods. Now the aim is to bring the same approach, which uses a curriculum based on sociology and identity, to a school in Indianapolis. The school would run K-8 and open as early as 2018.