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Aurora Institute

Indiana Law Expands Innovation Network Schools

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Dale Frost, Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issue(s): State Policy, Create Pilots and Innovation Zones

iNACOL Policy Update
May 16 – May 21, 2015

An important policy lever for states to catalyze the development of personalized, competency-based learning models is to establish “innovation zones.” These programs provide the flexibility to waive certain state regulations and requirements that act as barriers to schools ready to implement innovative learning approaches.

Since the beginning of session, we have tracked Indiana HB 1009. Originally, this bill was the “Freedom to Teach Act”, which would have allowed a governing body of one or more school districts to establish a freedom to teach school, zone, or district. Through the amendment process, this bill gradually evolved (through 7 versions) into the final version that expands Innovation Network Schools to schools outside of Indianapolis.

The Indiana Innovation Network Schools emerged from a partnership between Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, and an education organization called “The Mind Trust.” In Indiana, a mayor has the ability to authorize charter schools. In 2001, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson created “The Mind Trust” to assist with, among other things, the creation of excellent charter schools to “enable every child in Indianapolis to have the opportunity to receive a life-changing education.”

In 2014, Indiana passed a law allowing the governing board of Indianapolis Public Schools to authorize Innovation Network Schools within the district. These schools are given increased autonomy and agree to performance benchmarks set by the district. This allows these schools to be able to innovate to provide personalized learning that better meets students’ needs. Innovation Network Schools are freed from requirements around the use of funds, the length of the school day, class size restrictions, and the use of technology in the classroom.

So far, nine schools have been chosen to become Innovation Network Schools in Indianapolis over the next three years. For the first Innovation Network School, the Phalen Leadership Academy, a charter school, will take over operation of an east side Indianapolis public elementary school in August that for years has failed to improve. The Mind Trust recently received a $2.5 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to help advance this work.

Indiana HB 1009 was signed into law by Governor Pence and is now Indiana Public Law 214. PL 214 expands authority to create Innovation Network Schools to school districts throughout the state.

A summary is below; a more detailed version with additional legislative information is available in the members-only iNACOL Member Forums. We track policy priorities and issues related to the field’s needs as outlined annually in the iNACOL State Policy Frameworks. This report provides background information and recommendations for issues on the critical policy shifts needed to transform K-12 education.

State Policy Highlights

  • iNACOL is currently tracking 98 bills in 31 states.

Legislative Calendars

  • Minnesota adjourned May 18, 2015.

Bills on the move

  • The Ohio Senate Finance Subcommittee for Education considered the state budget bill for a second time on May 20, which includes a provision to allocate $2.5 million to create up to ten competency-based education pilot schools.
  • The Illinois Course Access bill program language was struck and replaced with a Virtual Education Review Committee, negating the bill’s potential to close equity and opportunity gaps for Illinois students through a high-quality course access program.
  • A bill in Colorado that would allow districts to pilot local assessment systems, pending approval by the US Department of Education of the state’s ESEA waiver, was signed into law by the governor on May 20.
  • In California, a bill that would provide charter schools with increased flexibility surrounding the amount of time students must receive direct instruction in a physical classroom was originally scheduled for a hearing on May 13, but has been placed on the calendar for May 20. The measure was put in the Suspense File, meaning the bill will be considered when the state has a better sense of available revenues.

iNACOL 2015 Blended and Online Learning Symposium

The iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will be held November 8-11, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Registration is currently open.

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