Indianapolis Public Schools

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) is the largest school district in Indianapolis, and the second largest school district in the state of Indiana as of 2021, behind Fort Wayne Community Schools.[2] The district's headquarters are in the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services.[3]

Indianapolis Public Schools
120 East Walnut Street
Indianapolis, Indiana
United States
District information
Established1853; 170 years ago (1853)
SuperintendentAlessia Johnson (elected in June of 2019)
Students and staff
Students31,885 [1]
Athletic conferenceIPS Conference
Pioneer Conference
District mascot
Other information
High School Graduation Rate (Class of 2016)76.9% [1]
High School Graduates (Class of 2016)869
Location of public school districts within Marion County; IPS is in  
Location of Marion County within Indiana

The district's official name is the School City of Indianapolis, and it is governed by a seven-member Board of School Commissioners. It generally serves Indianapolis' closest-in neighborhoods—essentially, Center Township and a few portions of the surrounding townships. Indianapolis Public Schools is the only school corporation in central Indiana to offer choice programs at no cost to students[citation needed].

The Indianapolis Public Schools district operates a number of public schools that are significant to the history of both Indianapolis and Indiana. In particular, Indianapolis Public Schools operates Shortridge High School, the first public high school in Indiana; Arsenal Technical High School, a multi-building campus located on the grounds of a former U.S. Civil War Arsenal; and Crispus Attucks High School, the first public high school in Indiana to serve black students in compliance with school segregation.


Public schools in Indiana (1800s)Edit

The state of Indiana was admitted to the Union in 1816, with Indianapolis receiving its charter in 1847. That same year, the people of Indiana voted in favor of public schools, in part due to efforts by Indiana citizens; one of these citizens includes Caleb Mills, for whom the current Shortridge High School auditorium is named. As a result of the referendum, a tax levy of 12½ cents per $100 of assessed valuation of property tax was established.

Foundation and early beginnings (1850s-1900s)Edit

In 1853, Indianapolis incorporated its school system. A few years later, however, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in an 1858 decision that it was unconstitutional for cities and towns to levy taxes in support of public schools. As a result, all public schools were closed and rented to teachers, although many reopened in 1860.

From 1864 to 1916, three high schools opened under the school district. The first was Indianapolis High School (later renamed Shortridge High School in 1885) in 1864, as the city's first public high school. The school opened in the Marion County Seminary Building, although it was later moved to its present location. The second school was Manual Training High School, later to be known as Emmerich Manual High School, and it was opened in 1895. In 1916, Arsenal Technical Schools, which had opened four years earlier on the grounds of a former U.S. Civil War Arsenal, was incorporated into Indianapolis Public Schools and became Arsenal Technical High School.

Expansion (1920s - 1960s)Edit

The first wave of expansion came during the early part of the 20th century, the city of Indianapolis expanded as it annexed nearby towns such as Broad Ripple. In unison, Indianapolis Public Schools underwent an expansion of its school boundaries, and opened new schools such as Thomas Carr Howe and George Washington high schools. Indianapolis Public Schools also opened an all African-American high school known as Crispus Attucks High School; it was the only African-American high school in Indiana at the time.

The next wave of expansion came during the 1950s and early 1960s, when unprecedented enrollment levels occurred. As a result, three high schools were constructed in a period of seven years: Arlington High School in 1961, Northwest High School in 1963, and John Marshall High School in 1968 (which currently operates as a middle school).

Civil Rights era (1960s - 1980s)Edit

The movement of Caucasian citizens outside central Indianapolis at the time resulted in a decline of enrollment and a change in racial composition in schools such as Broad Ripple High School, which went from having virtually no black students in 1967 to becoming 67% African-American by 1975[citation needed]. At the same time, institutional racial segregation was coming to light in Indianapolis as a result of Civil Rights reformation. U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillin issued a ruling in 1971 which found the district guilty of de jure racial segregation.

Beginning in 1973, due to federal court mandates, some 7,000 African-American students began to be bused from the Indianapolis Public Schools district to neighboring township school corporations within Marion County. These townships included Decatur, Franklin, Perry, Warren, Wayne, and Lawrence townships. This practice continued on until 1998, when an agreement was reached between IPS and the United States Department of Justice to phase out inter-district, one-way busing. By 2005, the six township school districts no longer received any new IPS students.[4]

Population decline (1970s - 1990s)Edit

The population of Indianapolis continued to become less concentrated within IPS district boundaries. As a result, between 1971 and 2005, the district lost nearly 70,000 students, and closed some 100 schools[citation needed].

Harry E. Wood High School closed in 1978. Shortridge High School closed in 1981, and reopened as a middle school in the late 2000s, and now serves as a traditional high school. John Marshall High School closed in 1987 after just eighteen years of service. It later reopened as a middle school in 1993, and in 2008 was converted a high school before returning as a middle school in 2016. Crispus Attucks High School closed in 1986, but reopened as a middle school. George Washington High School and Thomas Carr Howe High School both closed in 1995, which both reopened their doors in 2001.

Socioeconomic issues (1990s - 2000s)Edit

Throughout the 1990s, worsening budgets contributed to problems common to inner city school districts. While the city had a graduation rate higher than the national average in the 1950s, it now had the worst dropout rates in the state[citation needed]. Test scores declined precipitously.

Citizens' task forces studied how to combat school violence, low academic achievement, and persistent racial segregation. In 1992, then-superintendent Shirl Gilbert initiated a "Select Schools" plan, allowing parents the option of selecting which school they wanted their child to attend within the district. While theoretically promising, in practice the plan did not lead to general improvements.

Gilbert was removed from his post by the school board in 1994 and replaced with Esperanza Zendejas in 1995. Zendejas pursued an aggressive program of reform and improvement, removing several administrators from their positions and attempting to implement performance standards upon remaining school administrators. After repeated conflicts with administrators, school board members, and parents, Zendejas resigned from her post in 1997.

The succeeding superintendent was Duncan N.P. "Pat" Pritchett, who had occupied the superintendent's seat in a locum tenens capacity between Gilbert and Zendejas. Under both Gilbert and Zendejas, Pritchett had been an assistant superintendent for facilities management. Under Pritchett, the district saw eight years of steady academic improvement thanks to a number of initiatives, including a partnership with the National Urban Alliance to strengthen literacy and a math/science initiative that set algebra as the eighth-grade gateway math course. Pritchett also brought the concept and planning of the Small Schools Initiative to the district's traditional comprehensive high schools, turning five campuses into 24 schools within a school.

Upon Pritchett's retirement in 2005, the post was offered to and accepted by Eugene G. White, who had been serving as superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township in Marion County. White began to implement several reforms, including re-establishing high school programs at two historic schools (Crispus Attucks and Shortridge) as academies devoted to medicine and law/government, respectively. In August 2006, White informed IPS middle school principals that their continued employment depended upon improvement in discipline and test scores.[5]

As of 2006, approximately 36,000 students were in IPS. Many of the facilities in IPS were outdated and in need of renovation, with some facilities being over 70 years old. In 2001, the IPS Board of School Commissioners approved an $832 million plan to upgrade each of the district's 79 schools, in some cases totally replacing outdated buildings with new facilities. The plan has been completed within the last few years.[when?]

The Indianapolis Public Schools district lost some schools to outside groups for the improvement of academic and overall performance in the 2000s. A charter management system such Charter Schools USA took over three locations[when?] and currently operates Emma Donnan Middle School, Emmerich Manual High School, and Thomas Carr Howe Community High School. In 2012, the state took over Arlington in 2012, after six straight years of “F” grades. Tindley Accelerated Schools, a local nonprofit charter school operator then known as Ed Power, was hired to run Arlington.[6] In 2015, Indianapolis Public Schools retook control of the school after Tindley Accelerated Schools announced in 2014 that it could no longer afford to run the school,[7] and in 2015 Arlington High School was returned to Indianapolis Public Schools control under a State Board ruling.[8]

High schoolsEdit

Current high schoolsEdit

As of the 2018–19 school year, Indianapolis Public Schools maintains four public high schools. They are as follows:

Official Name Nickname Choice Programming Offered?
Arsenal Technical High School Tech Yes
Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School Attucks Yes
George Washington Community High School Washington Yes
Shortridge IB High School Shortridge Yes

School closures and restructuringEdit

Official Name Nickname Choice Programming Offered? All-Choice School
Arlington High School Arlington No -
Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Humanities Broad Ripple Yes Yes
Northwest High School Northwest No -

In an effort to remake its high school programs and address declining enrollment that has left its high school buildings two-thirds empty, the district in early 2017 announced plans to close Broad Ripple High School, Arlington High School, and Northwest High School. The plan proved controversial by students, teachers, and alumni of these three schools, especially among the Broad Ripple High School community. That same year, a September vote by the Indianapolis Public Schools board that same year finalized in the plans to close these three high schools by the end of the 2017–18 school year.[9] In June 2018, the three high schools all graduated their final classes.[10]

Indianapolis Public Schools plans to move to an all-choice high school model at the remaining four high schools: Arsenal Technical High School, Crispus Attucks High School, George Washington High School, and Shortridge High School. Under this high school model, students can choose their school of attendance based on personal preference, and not geographic location.


  1. ^ a b "IDOE: Compass".
  2. ^ "2022 Largest School Districts in Indiana". Niche. Retrieved 2021-11-08.
  3. ^ About Us Archived 2013-06-20 at Indianapolis Public Schools. Retrieved on June 19, 2013. "Main Office The John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services 120 E. Walnut St., Room 114 Indianapolis, IN 46204"
  4. ^ Denne, Author Rebecca (February 16, 2017). "Inequality Remade: Residential Segregation, Indianapolis Public Schools, and Forced Busing". The Indiana History Blog. Retrieved August 18, 2019. {{cite web}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  5. ^[bare URL]
  6. ^ Weddle, Eric (2015-08-19). "Principal, Teachers Strive To 'Rebirth' Arlington High School". WFYI Public Media. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  7. ^ "Arlington High School operator says it can no longer afford to run school". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  8. ^ Weddle, Eric (2015-04-01). "State Board Approves IPS Transition Plan for Arlington, Emma Donnan Expansion". WFYI Public Media. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  9. ^ "IPS board votes to close Broad Ripple, Arlington and Northwest high schools". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  10. ^ "Broad Ripple, Arlington and Northwest students say goodbye as their high schools close for good". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2018-06-08.

External linksEdit