Indianapolis Mayor’s Office

05 May, 2016

In 2001, at the urging of then-Mayor Bart Peterson, the Indiana legislature approved a law making Indianapolis the first U.S. city where the mayor can authorize charter schools. The Indianapolis Mayor’s Office (IMO) currently authorizes 33 charter schools on 39 campuses which serve just under 14,000 students. The IMO authorizes 73% of charter schools in Indianapolis and almost 40% of charter schools in Indiana. During the 2014-2015 school year, 74% of students enrolled in Mayor-sponsored charter schools identified as students of color, while 83% qualified for free/reduced lunch, and 12% were students with disabilities. Two IMO-authorized charter schools, Marion Academy Hillside Campus and Paramount School of Excellence, serve students from the IndyEast Promise Zone. A Promise Zone is a high-poverty urban, rural, or tribal community where the federal government partners with local businesses and leaders to increase economic activity, create jobs and private investments, improve educational opportunities, and reduce violence.

In December 2015, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) ranked Indiana as the best state for charter school oversight policies. Around the same time, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a report that ranked Indianapolis as the 4th friendliest city for school choice policies in the country. Indianapolis has successfully merged friendly school choice policies while remaining strong in its oversight of public charter schools. This video provides a brief overview of their authorizing practices.  

Indianapolis Mayor’s Office Monitoring Process  

The IMO strives to provide access to a high-quality education for all children, enabling the children to define their life path. It believes education is key to creating an opportunity for students, to strengthening neighborhoods, and to revitalizing the city.  In 2015, 75% of mayor-sponsored charter schools were rated as an A, B or C under the state accountability system, compared to 59% in 2013 and 61% in 2014. Through the Neighborhoods of Educational Opportunity (NEO) Initiative, the city aims to create 30,000 seats in the next decade in order to bring high-quality educational opportunities to children. The initiative implements four core elements to achieve this goal: (1) Create and replicate high-performing school options through grants; (2) Expand proven teacher and principal leadership pipelines; (3) Engage in robust, neighborhood-based advocacy efforts by providing families with access to greater information about school options; and (4) Monitor and evaluate performance. The IMO grounds its decisions for charter schools in what is best for students in Indianapolis and focuses on long-term success for its schools.   

The IMO collaborates with the Indianapolis Charter School Board to review and approve charter school applications, although the authorizer responsibility for monitoring remains under the Office of Education Innovation (OEI). The authorization process begins after the Indianapolis Charter School Board, who is only responsible for granting or renewing charters, issues a seven-year contract to new or renewing schools. Once a charter school is authorized, the OEI begins its monitoring cycle. In this cycle, OEI issues annual performance reports, a mid-charter review, and a renewal report over the course of seven years. These reports are then used to make renewal decisions once the seven-year cycle has concluded. The steps in the OEI’s monitoring process include:

  1. Each year, the school receives quarterly school reviews on the three performance areas and an annual performance review at the end of the school year. These quarterly reviews focus on the core questions of academics, finance, and governance.
    1. Is the educational program a success? (Academics)
    2. Is the organization in sound fiscal health? (Finance)
    3. Is the organization effective and well-run (Governance)
  2. In year three or four, the school contracts with an OEI-approved consultant to provide a summative evaluation based on IMO’s fourth core question through a site visit.
    1. Is the school providing the appropriate condition for success? (Summative)
  3. OEI aggregates information from the first four years of performance reports to write a mid-charter performance review of the school.
  4. During the sixth year of the charter contract, the school again contracts with a consultant to conduct another site visit.
  5. Going into its seventh year, a school applies for renewal and OEI compiles a full renewal report using the data collected over seven years. A decision is made to renew or not renew a school’s charter based on this report. If the school remains open, the cycle repeats from the beginning.

A key factor in the OEI monitoring process is the communication between the authorizer and the charter school. For example, the school leader meets with OEI each month to review the school’s quarterly ratings. The meeting engages the school leader with OEI staff to ensure there are no surprises in the annual performance review.

This whiteboard video walks through the authorizer’s process for monitoring. The video displays the process following a charter school application approval, the seven-year monitoring processes, and school renewal or non-renewal paths. The video focuses on OEI’s performance framework and school intervention processes. 

One of the OEI’s strengths as an authorizer is its monitoring practice. The video created explains OEI’s process in an effort to provide examples for other authorizers across the country. OEI sets high expectations and clear criteria for its charters school from the beginning of each schools charter term. These expectations and criteria are reasonable and clearly communicated to the schools. Further, OEI provides additional contextualization for performance measures and works to develop transparent relationships with the charter schools so there is a clear understanding. 

Below, you will find links to download IMO/OEI-developed materials and templates which they use for school oversight and accountability processes.


Tools and Resources