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.
Vania Johnson, a tenth-grade student at the George V. Voinovich Reclamation - Bridgescape Academy in Cleveland, recently put her strong commitment to helping the less fortunate into action. Last week, Vania arranged a bake sale to benefit the City Mission of Cleveland. The City Mission provides shelter and other services to the homeless.
Although she has thought of several projects to help her cause, Vania spoke to Program Director Jennifer Morrison about her idea and Morrison arranged for the staff to contribute baked goods to the cause.
Vania baked chocolate cupcakes and recruited Brooke King, a 9th grader, to manage the bake sale table with her on the day of the bake sale. The bake sale drew buyers from our entire building including students, teachers and staff from organizations that share the building. Vania raised $73.00 during the bake sale. The next day, she took her donation to the City Mission and got to learn more about how her money will be used to service the Cleveland community.
The Gary Community School Corp. and EdisonLearning want to operate the Roosevelt College and Career Academy jointly next year, with support from the state.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz chaired a public hearing Wednesday at Roosevelt where officials laid out a broad-based transitional plan for the school, which was established during the 1920s to separate black students from white students in public schools.
The Indiana State Board of Education will consider the proposal at its April 15 meeting in Indianapolis.
EdisonLearning, a private, for-profit company, has run Roosevelt since 2011, winning accolades from students and parents. The state turned to EdisonLearning after the school posted six straight F report cards. The state's contract with EdisonLearning runs out in June, and it's up to the state to determine the next step for the school.
At the outset, the school district and EdisonLearning bickered over the operation of the school. Since then, they've developed a collaborative transition plan for the 2016-17 school year that officials hope the state approves. A state accountability law dictates several options for the state.
The district and EdisonLearning are proposing the creation of a "transformation zone," an education reform model aimed at turning around low-performing schools by grouping them together and providing them with extra support. Students from those schools would feed into Roosevelt, said Assistant Superintendent Cordia Moore. The model has been used with success in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp. since 2012.
Gary officials also want to create an "innovative school network," which gives schools autonomy to create charter-like innovations to improve struggling schools. Previously, only the Indianapolis Public Schools could use the reform, but a 2015 state law extended it statewide. Indianapolis Public Schools used the measure to partner with charter schools, including the Phalen Leadership Academy. Indianapolis Public Schools officials hoped the reform would slow the exodus of students to charter schools.
On Wednesday, few speakers addressed the specific plans outlined by school officials. Many students said they liked the improved climate at Roosevelt under EdisonLearning and they want it to continue. Other adults praised the legacy of Roosevelt and wanted it continue.
Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, a Roosevelt graduate, said the proposal is aimed at restoring academic excellence while maintaining Roosevelt's legacy.
Thom Jackson, the president and CEO of EdisonLearning, pointed to academic improvement under his company's watch. Student achievement has increased 26 percent in math and 12 percent in English, although the school still received a grade of F on its last report card. Jackson said 85 percent of graduates are enrolled in college or other post-secondary schools, or have jobs.
The size of the school is a challenge, Jackson said. The enrollment of 651 students is small for a space of 427,000 square feet, he said. The annual utility cost is $1.14 million.
At recent forums, citizens suggested a multipurpose use for the rest of the building that involved support from Roosevelt alumni.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, also a Roosevelt graduate, said she felt discouraged in 2011 when EdisonLearning arrived. Since then, she's seen the cooperation between the state, school district and EdisonLearning.
"I know we are on the right track. Everybody cares about not just what happens to our school, but to our children," Freeman-Wilson said.
Ritz listened to the steady parade of comments until the hearing concluded. "I know you care passionately about your children and the education they receive," she told the audience.