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 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.
GARY — Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt of the Gary Community School Corp. and the president/CEO of EdisonLearning presented a daring plan to work together, along with the Indiana Department of Education, to continue improving Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
The Indiana State Board of Education held a public hearing Wednesday night at the high school to give residents an opportunity to comment about the school’s future and how to improve the academic performance of students. Members of the SBOE made no comments, and will make a decision at a later meeting.
After six consecutive years of failure, the Indiana Department of Education, led by former state Superintendent Tony Bennett, selected EdisonLearning in 2011 to improve educational opportunities at the high school. Although the law had been on the books since 1999, the state had never taken over a school before.
Pruitt and EdisonLearning President/CEO Thom Jackson stood united and said they wanted to create a Roosevelt that was “reflective of the voices of all stakeholders.” They recommended a collaborative plan that would allow the Gary schools, EdisonLearning and the Indiana Department of Education to work together.
Pruitt and Jackson talked about creating a transformation zone, allowing the district to look holistically at school improvement by forming a transformation zone where other schools would feed into Roosevelt.
Ivy Tech Gary Campus President Marlon Mitchell and Purdue University Northwest’s Roy Hamilton said they supported the collaborative plan.
Mitchell said there was an opportunity to use the 427,306-square foot building for a variety of services. He said the community supported additional services in the vast building including the GCSC administration relocating to Roosevelt, an integrated arts program, an alternative school, a sports hall of fame and the Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and retiring Gary Sen. Earline Rogers both supported the idea of collaboration.
Several Gary Roosevelt students signed up to talk. Senior Princess Tucker said she supports keeping the school open. Tucker said before EdisonLearning took over, she used to get in a lot of fights but she said she’s learned how to be a better person through EdisonLearning. “I went from fighting every day to making As and Bs. I’m the valedictorian,” she said.
Jackson said this plan is just the beginning, and he and Pruitt have been working together for 18 months. He said there are still numerous issues to work out.
Jackson also talked about the challenges EdisonLearning faced when it took over Gary Roosevelt in 2011. He said 75 percent of students did not read at the appropriate grade level, and 87 percent were not at their appropriate grade level in mathematics. He said in the last two years, student achievement has increased 26 percent in mathematics and 12 percent in English.
He said some of the challenges have included a 65 percent attendance rate, more than 100 instances a month of disciplinary and truancy cases, antiquated cooling and heating systems that do not function properly, disorganized learning spaces, bathrooms that were in disrepair and grounds that had not been properly managed.
He said attendance is now up 25 percent, and EdisonLearning hired a full-time truancy officer to work with students and families. Jackson said discipline and truancy cases have been reduced by nearly 70 percent, and EdisonLearning has increased cleanliness and organization within the facility.
If the state board approves the proposal, Jackson and Pruitt said they would clearly identify roles and responsibilities, hire a transition officer, develop a transition and implementation plan, a strategic timeline and a communication plan.