State poised to pick Denver company to help John Marshall, Broad Ripple high schools

A Denver company with experience helping troubled schools completely redefine how they approach teaching will be proposed Wednesday to be the new “lead partner” for Indianapolis’ John Marshall and Broad Ripple high schools.

Marzano Research Laboratories has a plan to improve the schools and might end up with more power over the teaching staff than the school’s prior lead partner.

The Indiana State Board of Education has played a role in managing both schools since they reached six straight years of F grades for low test scores, but they managed to avoid the stiffer penalty of state takeover that was the fate of four other Indianapolis Public Schools.

In state takeover, schools are severed from district control and handed off to be managed by outside groups. Lead partners are a lesser sanction, under which outside companies act as consultants to help guide turnaround efforts, but the district continues to manage the school.

Lead partners have not always gone well. IPS earlier this year asked the state board to drop lead partners so it could manage the two schools with its own improvement plan. Superintendent Lewis Ferebee later balked at the state’s plan for lead partners at the two schools, which he thought gave the partners too much power. That led The New Teacher Project to back out of the plan, prompting a search for a new partner.

Marzano was founded in 2008 and is based in Denver. Its CEO, Robert Marzano, is an expert in “competency-based” teaching, which focuses less on what is taught at each grade level to advance students to more challenging work as they demonstrate mastery. In Colorado, for example, Marzano played a role in a Colorado school district’s decision to drop traditional K-to-12 grades as part of a wider effort to turnaround its low-scoring schools. The district was praised earlier this year for the dramatic improvement of those schools.

The company’s lead partner proposal doesn’t suggest such radical changes for Marshall and Broad Ripple. The group submitted a three-step plan to the board, detailing how it will identify weaknesses in instruction, make steps toward improvement and carry out continued communication with the schools and the district throughout the course of the partnership. The proposals for each high school total $149,500 so far.

The three steps include:

  • Improving teaching: Marzano offered to create a model for teachers to talk about teaching and how to make it better. Although they will collaborate about how to use the model, Marzano would have the ability to choose “non-negotiable strategies” that the schools must use. Then teachers who learn the model can teach it to their colleagues and give feedback for a final draft.
  • Auditing instruction: Marzano would survey teachers and students about their perception of teaching quality in the school and observe classes to develop individual teacher profiles to show where teachers’ strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Evaluation: The group would track data from the whole process to see the impact of the partnership.

IPS and The New Teacher Project failed to forge a partnership after a debate in September over who would have control and be held accountable for student performance. The group said it didn’t want to work with a school that didn’t share its vision for how to improve test scores.

Ferebee at the time said the district wanted more control over instruction at its schools, as IPS would ultimately be held accountable for improvements. The disagreement and subsequent dissolution of the partnership prompted the board to ask the department of education to go back through the original applicants to find a new partner.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.