Autonomy in IPS

  • As a cornerstone of IPS Strategic Plan 2015, IPS is creating a system where schools can make site-based decisions around how to allocate resources to address the specific and unique needs their students and families in order to increase student achievement.


    What is autonomy? This is a question that many have. In March of 2015, the IPS Board of School Commissioners unanimously approved Core Commitments and Beliefs that include moving toward an academic model where teachers and school leaders control and are responsible for what happens in their schools. In this framework, each school will make instructional and operational decisions that are in the best interests of the students that they serve.

    We recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to student achievement; each school is filled with talented teachers that have various innovative approaches to engage students. By empowering principals to make most or all decisions at the school level, our central office supports will fulfill our mission of supporting school needs. Autonomy in IPS can currently be viewed as a continuum, with all schools being held accountable by the IPS Board of School Commissioners. Our Innovation Network Schools are on the far end, having the greatest amount of operational and academic flexibility. Then, our Autonomous Schools Cohort is next, having increased academic flexibility but not as much operational flexibility as Innovation Schools. Starting in the 2017 school year, all IPS schools will have increased school-based flexibilities as we move to a Student-Based Allocation school funding and budget-planning model.


    The IPS Board of School Commissioners’ Core Commitments and Beliefs serve as our “North Star” for the creation of our framework. There are several parts of the Core Commitments and Beliefs that directly align to our roadmap for achieving our vision of school empowerment.

    • All IPS schools must be great places to teach and great places to learn.
    • Teachers and principals control and are accountable for what happens in their schools, and have the power to make decisions in the best interests of the students they serve.
    • IPS Central Administration exists solely to support the work of teachers and schools, and must be a high-performing organization. All district functions are aligned to support and empower a system of autonomous schools that are held accountable to clear performance standards.

    Beyond the Core Commitments and Beliefs, our strategic plan also includes very specific benchmarks to achieve as it relates to this work:

    • Establish a portfolio of autonomous schools
    • Develop and implement an autonomous school framework that will allow schools greater flexibility by 2016, as measured by district data
    • Expand Innovation Network Schools to provide a wider range of choice options for families

    Keeping these benchmarks in mind, the transformation to autonomy began during the 2016-2017 school year with a pilot group of six schools. This transformation now continues with the formation of a cross-functional Autonomy Transition Working Group that will help shape the conditions for greater school autonomy in the future. IPS will remain transparent and open to community feedback throughout this process. Principals will be urged to engage in conversation with their school communities to discuss what this means for their school and how it can improve educational experiences for all students.