2020-2023 ICS Strategic Plan
As noted in our last update in winter 2020, the ICS Leadership Team was preparing to release the 2020-2023 ICS Strategic Plan when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and the city of Indianapolis shutdown on Friday, March 13, 2020. Progress on many school-related projects ground to a halt as we turned our attention to delivering an effective eLearning program to our K-12 students.
As we continue to regain our footing going into the 2021-2022 school year, we have made some progress in most areas of the plan, and we are turning our full attention to every goal in each of the plan’s five pillars, if not making some significant adjustments in direction due to the impact of the pandemic. For example, although it was not represented in the original Strategic Plan, ICS held its first summer school session in the corporation’s history. We realize that learning loss should be addressed as quickly as possible, and this was a logical, essential next step in the right direction. With generous federal funding for schools for Covid-19 relief, ICS will be adding English Language Learner, Special Education, and classroom aides; instructional coaches (one per school); and support staff specializing in Restorative Practices, Social and Emotional Learning, and remediation to give our students all the help they need to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic both academically and socially.
The ICS Strategic Plan is a living document, meaning, based upon significant and often unpredictable factors that can and do occur in the life of a school, the plan is subject to changes in direction. Of the many lessons the pandemic is providing – a “silver lining” of sorts – one is that our plan has the built-in flexibility to pivot as necessary. The pandemic also provided us confirmation that the course we have set is the right one for our school community. That said, following is the most recent Strategic Plan update (July 2021):
Objective #1: “Classroom Differentiation Efficacy”: The TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement rubric has been updated for the first time in at least a decade by its creator, the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. Five ICS staff members will be receiving training later this summer, including the three instructional coaches (who will be hired over the summer). This training, though not directly addressing classroom differentiation, does cover how we score the pedagogical goals we set for teachers, and differentiation is high on that list. Worth noting, we will be purchasing Bullseye, a program we will be using for providing teachers informal observation feedback, for the coming school year. This should also assist in offering useful feedback regarding improving differentiated instruction.
Objective #2: “Project-Based Learning and Authentic Learning Experiences”: The ICS mentor teachers received an orientation to our new MakerSpace (located at Irvington Preparatory Academy) last spring. Our K-12 teachers will begin scheduling classroom orientations for students in the first quarter of the coming school year. Last spring, IPA’s mentor teachers held some informal how-to sessions with their high school colleagues. This school year, IPA High Ability and Advanced Placement classes will require that 20 percent of the course grade hinge upon Project-Based Learning. Thereafter, as more teachers get trained on PBL, the program expansion will ripple across all three ICS campuses.
Objective #3: “School-Specific and Cross-Corporation Instructional Practices”: At present, we are wrapping up a corporate-wide audit of K-12 curriculum and assessing strengths and weaknesses. The audit will highlight any gaps or other curricular areas in need of attention, as we strive for greater consistency in this foundational aspect of instruction.
Objective #1: “Maximize Student Enrollment”: For both the first and second semesters during the 2020-2021 school year, ICS came in above our budgeted enrollment targets. We attribute this to our families’ confidence in their school of choice. Notably, IPA attracted a significant number of new students, which largely occurred due to word-of-mouth by current IPA families and students and because of our conservative approach to pandemic safety that appealed to these families. At present, ICS is well underway with our 2021-2022 school year enrollment marketing campaign (including but not limited to radio spots featuring both English and Spanish versions, billboards, social networking, yard signs, and upgraded ICS website).
Objective #2: “Refine Advancement Efforts”: Out of respect to the impact of the pandemic on the families we serve and local businesses, we have slowly begun to revisit our fundraising efforts. One recent effort, the ICS Spring Flower Sale, a first-time and easily facilitated event, cleared more than $2,000 in profit. Due to the popularity of the sale and the outstanding quality of the plants, we anticipate doing this in the fall and repeating it next spring. As well, the annual cookie dough sale will take place in November, and other opportunities for community support for ICS’s educational mission are being considered.
Objective #3: “Make Realistic and Achievable Adjustments in the ICS Compensation Plan”: Due to ICS’s commitment to managing its budget with the utmost fidelity, the corporation is financially sound. Additionally, with the Indiana General Assembly’s demonstrated support for public education represented in the biennial budget, schools will receive increased per-student funding for the next two years (4.5 percent increases each year), and public charters specifically will see a notable increase in facilities funding through the Charter and Innovation Network School Grant from the current rate of $750 per student rising to $1,000 next school year and $1,250 the following year. This allows us to make increases in compensation wherever warranted.
In reviewing our rates of compensation across the corporation, our Director of Human Resources recently conducted a market audit of Indianapolis-area public schools. For the 2021-2022 fiscal year (starting July 1), a compensation market adjustment has been made for most teachers and a number of non-certified staff. We recognize how important it is to stay competitive in the K-12 educational marketplace, and now ICS has the ability to provide increases to our deserving staff members.
Community Engagement Pillar:
Objective #1: “Expand Programs”: The framework for a phased expansion of the ICS Service-Based Learning Program has been developed and is ready for implementation with the return of ICES, ICMS, and IPA to full-time on-campus learning during the 2021-2022 academic year. The expansion to ICES specifically involves club-based participation and other age-appropriate opportunities. The expansion to ICMS includes both club- and classroom-based SBL activities. Service-Based Learning at IPA will be supported as part of an expanded Social and Emotional Learning curriculum delivered in students’ advisory classes. Students will also be afforded the opportunity to connect with SBL community projects focused on place-making, community engagement and public art.
Objective #2: “Serve as the Lead Implementation Partner for Community-Based Planning”: Under the guidance of the ICS Director of Community Engagement, and in partnership with several community partners, IPA graduating seniors served purposeful roles in three significant service projects during the fourth quarter of the 2020-2021 school year. The three projects involved partnerships with the local Irvington community, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and the school’s Little Free Library initiative. The participating students tackled issues involving food insecurity and access to healthy foods; community building through storm water mitigation and tree planting; and, community outreach through literacy access. All three projects were youth-centered and designed to exceed the Indiana Department of Education’s Graduation Pathways standards.
Objective #3: “Create and Formalize School, Family, and Community Partnerships”: ICS developed several virtually based partnerships with our families and local community members including the expanded ICS Social Media Ambassadors Team. Further, three additional parent and community engagement opportunities now include a team of 11 families serving on the ICES Adopt-A-Garden greenspace initiative; four families serving as part of the ICS Family Resource Team; and, nearly 30 families committed to the enrollment and branding identity team helping to support strategic enrollment efforts for the 2021-2022 school year. Additionally, follow-up to the recent 2021-2022 ICS Parent Satisfaction Survey will include invitations for parents/guardians to attend structured focus groups or roundtable discussions, with the goal to create purposeful ICS Parent Advisory Groups.
Objective #1: “Resume Implementation of Restorative Practices”: Pre-pandemic, all three ICS campuses were invested in various stages of integrating Restorative Practices as the primary means of student behavior management and relationship-building. Even during this atypical school year with students working entirely or mostly in a distance learning framework, we continued to use RPs with students who might be struggling behaviorally and/or academically, while bringing their parents into the conversation to seek better outcomes. We asked students to check in daily through their attendance “Question of the Day,” often a way to anecdotally measure the social and emotional well-being of each student. Teachers and instructional assistants held daily ongoing Google Meets to support students academically and serve as a caring, listening ear for students who may have been especially impacted by isolation.
“Porch Visits” by our teams of Deans, Assistant Principals, Counselors, and School Resource Officer are another restorative technique that has been implemented this school year to assist disengaged students at home during their eLearning experience. We also implemented a daily SEL curriculum (Second Step for K-8 and Wyman Teen Outreach Program for high school), sharing age-appropriate information about dealing with difficult emotions, getting along with one another, and working together. All of these practices coupled with free breakfast and lunch at school and weekly meal deliveries to homes; free EduKits with all school supplies provided; relaxed dress codes on Wednesdays so as not to burden families financially; free virtual after-hours tutoring implemented during second semester, with plans to continue the program throughout the summer and into next year; take-home Chromebooks and Internet hotspots for any family in need; and our ongoing relationship with Community Health Network’s school-based therapy services — a convenience and a blessing for many ICS families — have been foundational in the relationship-building we value as an organization. With the addition of new personnel funded by federal grant dollars, student well-being will remain front and center as we move into our new school year.
Objective #2: “Craft an Organizational Development Plan”: It is absolutely critical that we work even harder than ever to assess and improve culture and camaraderie among our staff members in such a challenging environment. Principals, assistant principals, mentor teachers, and ICS Human Resources staff are collaborating on measures to continually improve organizational cohesion. Every year we administer the Teacher Engagement and Retention Survey as well as a survey for support staff. Additionally, the ICS Leadership Team has formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Team with representatives from each school to participate as members of the Indianapolis Equity and Inclusion in Schools Cohort, sponsored by The Mind Trust and presented by Beloved Community. This team’s objective is to analyze data; reflect upon current practice; consider strategies to recruit, retain, and welcome a more diverse population of students, staff, and families into our school community; and foremost, to close the achievement gap for students of color. This work will be ongoing and lead to the creation of a three-year DEI plan of improvement. This will inform the creation of our corporate Organizational Development Plan.
Frankly, our workplace culture has certainly been challenged by the pandemic. We have all been affected by this 17-month period of extraordinary caution, isolation, and decision-making. With the hiring of the first HR professional in the corporation’s history (as of January 1), we have signaled to our employees that we are committed to a thoughtful, intentional approach to organizational cultural development. The timing couldn’t be better. Once the new school year is underway, the CEO will collaborate with the HR Director on our first steps in crafting the ICS Organizational Development Plan.
Objective #1: “Determine the Feasibility of Developing a Pre-K Program”: The ICS Pre-K Planning Team’s efforts over the course of the past school year have come to fruition: ICES launched its Pre-K on July 26. The 15 seats filled quickly – within 10 days of opening availability – confirming demand. Significantly, ICS Pre-K students will secure a kindergarten seat for the following school year. And looking past the coming school year, possible expansion of the Pre-K program will be considered.
Objective #2: “Conduct a Feasibility Study to Expand the Current Number of Middle School Seats”: In December 2019, ICS entered into a Letter of Intent with Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), in collaboration with The Mind Trust, to explore what opportunities might be available to increase the number of high-quality middle school seats at ICMS. Because of the pandemic, IPS tabled this discussion. Meanwhile, ICS will be researching expansion options. As this study progresses, findings will be reported on at upcoming board meetings.