Future of Schools

New Spanish language immersion charter school gets OK

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
The IPS board gave approval for the district to house a new dual-language immersion charter school next year.

Just a year after she was selected by The Mind Trust as an education entrepreneur fellow to develop a dual-language school, Mariama Carson got the go-ahead to launch today.

The Indianapolis Charter School Board unanimously approved Carson, a former Pike Township principal and wife of U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, to launch a 220-student charter school in Lafayette Square on the city’s Northwest side in 2016.

The School will be called Global Prep and eventually serve roughly equal numbers of native English and Spanish speakers in grades K to 8. It will start with grades K to 2.

Carson said she will begin aggressive recruiting, which might include inviting teachers from Puerto Rico to Indianapolis, to seek teachers who are bilingual.

“The quality of the teachers in front of the kids is paramount importance,” she said. “That’s a big hurdle.”

Carson’s idea was featured in Chalkbeat’s recent series about English language learning, Lost in Translation, in a story from its reporting partner, WFYI Publc Media. She said innovative schools like Global Prep are needed to serve Indianapolis’ fast-growing Hispanic community.

The city has a few dual-language immersion programs, in which students speak in the language they are learning while taking their other subjects, including the private International School on the North side and Lawrence Township’s Forest Glen Elementary School. Forest Glen has followed a foreign language immersion program for 20 years.

Alyssa Luna, an education specialist at the Hispanic-focused social service agency La Plaza, hailed Carson’s approach as the most effective way for children to learn a second language.

“Bilingual education not only increases Spanish comprehension, but is a community-building bridge for those who grow up with Spanish in the home,” she said.

Other new charter schools approved tonight include:

  • Herron High School’s second campus. The A-rated charter school with more than 300 on its waiting list is looking to open a second location in 2017. The new school would also be modeled after Herron’s classical education program and serve about 575 students in grades 9 to 12. Herron has about 750 students in those grades. The school has targeted the Heslar Naval Armory as its first-choice location for the new Herron, but it must raise an estimated $4.5 million for renovations.
  • Avondale Meadows Middle School. The high-scoring Avondale Meadows charter school, which serves elementary school grades, won approval to open a middle school. The new school will start with sixth graders in 2016 and eventually serve 330 students in grades 6 to 8.

Finding a home

Denver school board permanently co-locates charter elementary in middle school building

Students and staffers at Rocky Mountain Prep's first charter school in Denver cheer in 2012. (Photo by The Denver Post)

A Denver elementary charter school that was temporarily granted space in a shuttering district-run middle school building will now be housed there permanently.

The school board voted Thursday to permanently place Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest charter school in the Kepner Middle School building, where it is sharing space this year with three other school programs. Such co-locations can be controversial but have become more common in a district with skyrocketing real estate prices and ambitious school quality goals.

Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest is part of a homegrown charter network that has shown promising academic results. The network also has a school in Aurora and is expected to open a third Denver school next year in the northwest part of the city.

Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest was first placed at Kepner for the 2015-16 school year. The placement was supposed to be temporary. The district had decided the year before to phase out low-performing Kepner and replace it a new district-run middle school, Kepner Beacon, and a new charter middle school, STRIVE Prep Kepner, which is part of a larger network. The district also temporarily placed a third charter school there: Compass Academy.

Compass has since moved out of Kepner but the other four schools remain: Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest, Kepner Beacon, STRIVE Prep Kepner and the Kepner Legacy Middle School, which is on track to be completely phased out and closed by June 2019.

In a written recommendation to the school board, district officials acknowledged that permanently placing Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest at Kepner would create a space crunch.

The Kepner campus has the capacity to serve between 1,100 and 1,500 students, the recommendation says. Once all three schools reach full size, officials expect the schools will enroll a total of approximately 1,250 students. Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest currently serves students in preschool through third grade with a plan to add more grades.

“DPS facilities staff are currently working with all three schools to create a long‐term vision for the campus, including facility improvements that ensure all three schools have what they need to continue to excel,” says the recommendation from Chief Operating Officer David Suppes and Director of Operations and Support Services Liz Mendez.

District staff tried to find an alternate location for Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest but were unsuccessful, the recommendation says. The district does not have many available buildings, and competition for them among district-run and charter schools can be fierce. In northeast Denver, seven secondary schools are currently vying for the use of a shuttered elementary.

Future of Schools

Indianapolis needs tech workers. IPS hopes that George Washington will help fill that gap.

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy

Indiana companies are looking for workers with computer expertise, and Indianapolis Public Schools leaders want their students to fill that gap.

Next year, George Washington High School will launch a specialized information technology academy designed to give students the skills to pursue careers in IT — and the exposure to know what jobs even exist.

“Half of what kids aspire to be is either someone they know does it or they’ve seen it on TV,” said Karen Jung, president of Nextech, a nonprofit that works to increase computer science preparation in K-12 schools. Nextech is partnering with IPS to develop the new IT program at George Washington.

For teens who don’t know anyone working in computer science, meeting role models is essential, Jung said. When teens see women of color or artists working in computer sciences, they realize there are opportunities for people like them.

“Once we put them in front of and inside of workplaces … it clicks,” Jung said. They believe “they would belong.”

The IT program is one of three academies that will open in George Washington next year as part of a broad plan to close nearly half of the district’s high schools and add specialized focus areas at the four remaining campuses. In addition to the IT academy, George Washington will have programs in: advanced manufacturing, engineering, and logistics; and business and finance.

The district is also moving to a model without neighborhood high schools. Students will be expected to choose high schools based on focus area rather than location. This year, many current high schoolers were required to reapply in an effort to make sure they enroll in academies that fit their interests.

The district will host a showcase of schools to help parents and students with their selections. The showcase runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Indiana State Museum.

Stan Law, principal of Arlington High School now, will take over George Washington next year. (Arlington will close at the end of this year.) He said the new academies offer an opportunity for students to see what they need to master — from soft skills to knowledge — to get good jobs when they graduate.

“I want kids to really make the connection of the purpose of high school,” Law said. “It is that foundation for the rest of your life, in terms of the quality of life that you are going to live.”

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Stan Law

When the IT academy launches next year, students who select the program will be able to spend about one to two classes per year focused on information technology, said Ben Carter, who runs career and technical education for IPS.

Carter hopes the academies will reshape George Washington and other IPS campuses by connecting potential careers with the work students do everyday at school. Students who share a focus area will be in a cohort, and they will share many of the same core classes such as English, math and history, said Carter. Teachers, in turn, will be able to relate what students are studying in their history class to projects they are working on in the IT program, for example.

To show students what a career in information technology might look like, students will have the chance to tour, connect with mentors and intern at local companies.

“If I’m in one of these career classes — I’m in software development, but then I get to go to Salesforce and walk through and see the environment, to me as a student, that’s inspiring,” said Carter. “It’s like, ‘oh, this is what I can have.’ ”

He added. “It increases engagement but also gives them a true sense of what the career is.”