By Erick Johnson, Gary Crusader
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.
After receiving four consecutive “B” grades on the State’s accountability system, the Board voted unanimously to release Board Ripple Magnet High School in Indianapolis from turnaround status.
The Board also unanimously voted to reaffirm its previous decisions to extend the contracts with Charter Schools USA to operate Thomas Carr Howe Community High School, Emmerich Manual High School, and Emma Donnan Middle School, and return day-to-day operations of George Washington Community High School and Arlington High School to Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).
In other action, the Board voted to name Dr. Byron Ernest, State Board Member appointed by Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis), to the committee created by HEA 1395 to propose a new state assessment and accountability system following enacted of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).