The Indiana State Board of Education on Friday, April 15, approved a one-year contract extension with EdisonLearning, setting the stage for a new, long-term plan to restore the academic health of Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
By a unanimous 11-0 vote, the Board voted to extend the contract with EdisonLearning for another year to allow the education company to work on a long-term agreement with the Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC). The contract is viewed as a transitional move to help the two organizations create a solid plan to help improve the school’s academic performance.
While the move quelled concerns about the future of Gary’s most storied Black institution, the decision also signaled a fresh beginning between EdisonLearning and the GCSC, which will have a bigger role in shaping the future of the 95-year-old school.
For the past five years, Roosevelt has been under state control after it received six consecutive F grades on the Indiana accountability report. While under state control, Indiana partnered with EdisonLearning. Under EdisonLearning’s leadership, Roosevelt’s academic performances improved slightly, but the school continued to get failing grades by the state. With
EdisonLearning’s contract set to expire in June, parents and students at Roosevelt voiced concern about the school’s future at a public hearing on March 23.
At that hearing, some Roosevelt students and alumni voiced their support for EdisonLearning, saying they liked some of the organization’s teaching techniques. Other speakers wanted the state to return Roosevelt back to the GCSC.
Eddie Melton, who represents Northwest Indiana on the state board, said Roosevelt has made improvements under EdisonLearning. Although Roosevelt still received an F grade while the company operated the school, Melton said math ISTEP Plus scores increased 27 percent and English/Language arts scores are up 11 percent.
State officials believe Roosevelt needs more time to improve academically with the help of the GCSC. The one-year contract will allow EdisonLearning to manage Roosevelt during this transition. EdisonLearning and the GCSC will create a transformation zone, which will help turnaround low-performing elementary schools, which would become feeder schools to Roosevelt.
Once they have reached a long-term agreement, the two organizations will bring their formal plan and agreement before the Board for a final decision during the 2016-17 school year, according to Marc Lotter, spokesman for the Indiana State Board of Education.
Lotter said Roosevelt would still remain under state supervision. He said part of the long-term plan for Roosevelt would include benchmarks and metrics that can be used to measure continued improvement.
GCSC’s new role in Roosevelt’s future is a vindication for the school district, which did not have say in the school’s curriculum or operations when the state took control of the school in 2011. GCSC recently turned around Gary West Side Leadership Academy, a school that state wanted to closed after five consecutive years of failing grades. In the most recent state report, the school improved to a C grade.
While under state control, EdisonLearning clashed with the GCSC on some issues. But after the board’s decision on Friday, leaders from both schools, GCSC Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO Thom Jackson issued a joint statement:
“It is our firm desire to address all aspects of school improvement; building leadership capacity; enhance the learning environment, engage families and students; improve teaching; and promote intelligent use of data to best address the personalized needs of all students.”
Melton expressed his support for the partnership.
“Roosevelt is a historic institution with a long tradition of producing outstanding students and distinguished alumni,” he said. “This contract extension allows EdisonLearning and Gary schools to partner with community stakeholders to provide the best possible outcome for Roosevelt students.”
Roosevelt was one of seven turnaround academies whose futures were decided by the state officials at their monthly business meeting in Indianapolis.
Gary's Roosevelt College and Career Academy will remain under state control for at least one more year following unanimous approval of a resolution Friday by the Indiana State Board of Education in Indianapolis.
The state's five-year contract with EdisonLearning Inc. ends this year, but the state board extended the contract for one year, allowing EdisonLearning to continue to operate the school as it transitions to a new model with the Gary Community School Corp.
In 2011, the state labeled Roosevelt as a turnaround academy after it received a grade of F for six straight years. It installed EdisonLearning as its education manager.
At a March 23 public hearing, the school district and EdisonLearning received support for their plan to transition Roosevelt into an innovative school network, an education reform that provides autonomy to create charter-like innovations to increase achievement.
In addition, the transition plan will create a transformation zone, another education reform aimed at turning around low-performing schools by grouping them together and providing them with extra support. Students from those elementary schools would feed into Roosevelt, officials said.
Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO Thom Jackson issued a joint statement: "It is our firm desire to address all aspects of school improvement; building leadership capacity; enhance the learning environment, engage families and students; improve teaching; and promote intelligent use of data to best address the personalized needs of all students."
They stressed to parents that Roosevelt will remain open "and continue the legacy of the remarkable individuals in Gary who graduated from, attended, taught or worked in its distinctive colonial revival building, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places."
Pruitt and Jackson also said in the statement they're seeking revenue sources from state, private and federal sources for their reform initiative.
Eddie Melton, who represents Northwest Indiana on the state board, said Roosevelt is making improvements under EdisonLearning although it's still an F grade while the company has operated the school.
Melton said math ISTEP Plus scores increased 27 percent and English/language arts scores are up 11 percent.
He said the transition plan will be a good opportunity for collaboration in Gary.
The resolution stipulates Roosevelt will remain as a turnaround academy under state law, still subject to state intervention at the discretion of the state board.
The resolution encouraged EdisonLearning and the Gary district to reach an agreement for the operation of Roosevelt as a transformation zone and innovation network school during the extended year of operation. That agreement must be approved by the state board.
The resolution also praised Roosevelt, recognizing its progress and applauding EdisonLearning and the school district for their collaborative approach.
Gary's school superintendent and EdisonLearning's president and CEO have jointly recommended a collaborative plan to work together — and with the Indiana Department of Education — to transform Roosevelt College and Career Academy. This deserves notice throughout Northwest Indiana.
At the Indiana State Board of Education public hearing March 23 at the high school, residents had the opportunity to comment about the school's future and how to improve students' academic performance.
Student Princess Tucker told the board that before EdisonLearning took over management of the school, she used to get into a lot of fights. She has since learned to become a better person. "I went from fighting every day to making As and Bs. I'm the valedictorian," she said.
EdisonLearning was hired in 2011 to serve as a turnaround specialist at the school after Roosevelt was rated as a failing school six straight years. It was one of the first schools taken over by the state under Indiana's school accountability law.
After initial tussles between Gary Community School Corp., which previously operated the school and remains its landlord, and EdisonLearning, we're heartened to see improvements.
EdisonLearning President and CEO Thom Jackson said when his company began operating the school in 2011, 75 percent of students didn't read at their appropriate grade level, and 87 percent were below their grade level in mathematics proficiency.
In the last two years, he said, student achievement has improved 26 percent in math and 12 percent in English.
Roosevelt faces the same challenges as other schools in Gary. Its attendance rate is a dismal 65 percent, and there are more than 100 disciplinary and truancy cases a month. The building is in poor shape, too, including ancient heating and cooling systems and restrooms in disrepair.
Now that EdisonLearning has made significant progress, it's time to evaluate the process and plan the future for that school.
The school transformation zone plan presented to the state board is a good start. Just to see the stakeholders working together is a refreshing sight, but we're eager to see more progress.
We're also eager to see how this model can be applied elsewhere.
Working together sends a strong message to students and parents.
Northwest Indiana has the resources to provide excellent educational opportunities to every student if we can just agree to work collaboratively together for their benefit.
Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy has been recognized by the Indiana Department of Education as a school of Promising Practice for its effective implementation of innovative and inclusive education practices.
Roosevelt was specifically cited for “Building a Culture of Celebration,” in which students are not only recognized for academic progress and achievement, but for social and emotional growth; and is one of 200 education or wrap-around service programs being highlighted by the Department in honor of Indiana’s bicentennial celebration.
As stated by Teresa Brown, Assistant State Superintendent for School Improvement, “Promising Practice programs, like Theodore Roosevelt’s, are student-centered and focus on positively impacting students through innovative programming and activities that provide a high-quality learning environment and experience. All Promising Practice programs will be shared with educators across the State of Indiana as an example of best practices that are having a positive impact on Hoosier students.”
The Capital Area Intermediate Unit (CAIU) is pleased to announce the selection of five local schools to receive blended learning grants.
- Oak Flat Elementary in the Big Spring School District;
- Hershey Elementary in the Derry Township School District
- Lenkerville Elementary School in the Millersburg Area School District
- Halifax Elementary School in the Halifax Area School District
- Paxtonia Elementary in the Central Dauphin School District
The above schools will each receive a grant of $20,000 to plan for the implementation of blended learning practices in their schools. The term blended learning refers to teachers fusing the best of online learning practices with the best of traditional face-to-face teaching practices in the 21st century classroom.
“We are excited to be able to award these grants to these five schools,” said Brian Griffith, director of curriculum services at CAIU. “With this planning grant, each of these teams will research the latest in innovative teaching methods and begin planning for implementing them in their schools,” he said. “There are model schools throughout the country who have implemented such programs, and this grant will serve as a catalyst to spur such innovation here.” “These five schools will open their doors to other schools in our region to share what they’re doing. So, our whole region will benefit,” Griffith added.
Pending the availability of funds, a second competition for an implementation grant will be conducted in the fall of 2016. This competition will again be open to public elementary schools in the CAIU region to apply.
This second grant will support a school in actually implementing the new teaching and learning practices in its building. “These sizable grants are only possible with the help of our Partners of Education, led by EdisonLearning,” said Griffith. Thom Jackson, EdisonLearning’s President and CEO, said, “CAIU has been an innovator in helping to provide students with the tools they need to maximize their learning potential. As a partner of CAIU’s in online learning since 2009, EdisonLearning is pleased to offer financial support and technical expertise for this initiative – being fully aware that students throughout the region will benefit.”
CAIU is modeling the use of some blended learning practices in this grant process. Each district was invited to participate in both web-based and face-to-face meetings to learn more about the grants. CAIU staff members have also created online learning modules for building teams to learn more about the design attributes and various models that are being used across the country.