Another overhaul ahead for John Marshall High School

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee isn’t getting what he wants for John Marshall High School next year.

The State Board of Education last month rejected his idea to have Indianapolis Public Schools lead the transformation there by acting as its own state-designated “lead partner” to improve test scores and student performance at the low-performing East side school, which nearly was taken over by the state into 2012 after earning six straight years of  F grades from the state because of low test scores.

The district, however, will get to work with an outside partners that helped make changes elsewhere in the district.

The New Teacher Project, an organization founded by the controversial Washington, D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee, has been credited with helping improve test scores at Broad Ripple High School. The Indiana State Board of Education approved a nearly $300,000 contract with the New York-based nonprofit Wednesday to serve as lead partner for both schools.

Ferebee has asked the state to drop its contracts with lead partners including Scholastic Achievement Partners, Voyager Learning and The New Teacher Project, saying that his plan for the schools is a better use of resources and will be just as effective at performing high-need schools. He partly succeeded in June, getting the state to approve his plan to lead the takeover effort for only George Washington High School.

State officials hesitated giving the district back total control over John Marshall.

“I’d like to see a full school year of demonstrated success by IPS,” state board member Tony Walker said in June. “Quite frankly, we’re in the position of having to intervene because of IPS’ past failures with these schools.”

Schools that receive D or F letter grades from the state for six consecutive years risk state takeover, but when Broad Ripple and George Washington reached that point in 2011, the state gave them a lower level of intervention than four other IPS schools that were severed from district control to be run independently.

When John Marshall High School earned its sixth straight F grade from the state in 2012, the state board took a different route by signing onto former IPS superintendent Eugene White’s plan for the school. White hired Texas-based Voyager Learning under a $4 million contract in 2012 to work with nine schools that feed into the district with the option of eventually expanding to more.

At White’s urging, a skeptical state board agreed to try his plan, and allowed Voyager to become Marshall’s lead partner, routing federal dollars to support the plan.

The investment hasn’t paid off as board members had hoped. Marshall was rated a D last year on its state report card. Its students saw a three-point decline in the percentage of students passing high school end-of-course tests. Just 25 percent passed the exams.

While disappointed the state didn’t endorse his own plan, Ferebee told the board he could work with The New Teacher Project.

“I would say that The New Teacher Project is probably one of our stronger partners compared to Scholastic and Voyager,” Ferebee said in June. “We have a  situation where we have a lead partner that has been (at Broad Ripple) for a longer period of time compared to the others. We believe that … it’s important for us to have a strong model for transformation.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.