Claire Fiddian-Green is the President & CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.
A well-educated population is critical to the vitality of Indianapolis and the continued competitiveness of our state. Unfortunately, too many students graduate from high school unprepared for college or careers. For example, according to the latest report from Indiana’s Commission for Higher Education, 18 percent of students who graduated from high school in Marion County required remediation in math and/or English/language arts upon enrollment in a public college.
To help address this challenge, in November 2015 the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation established new funding priorities, one of which is to improve academic outcomes for Indianapolis students. Being better prepared in core academic subjects by high school graduation means that students should be better equipped to succeed in college and in the workplace.
The Foundation’s primary grantmaking focus for the past sixteen months has been supporting the teacher and school leader talent pipelines that students need to thrive in the classroom. The research is clear and compelling: principals and teachers have a profound impact upon student learning. For example, one study found that “highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year; ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount.” Another study using data from more than one million students found that good teachers lead not just to higher performance on standardized tests, they also cause higher rates of college-going and improved earnings later in life.
Two grants illustrate the Foundation’s focus on talent. One is our support for the implementation of Opportunity Culture at Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). Opportunity Culture engages teachers in developing school models that extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, while creating meaningful career pathways for teachers. A second example is our grant funding to The Mind Trust to provide Indianapolis school leaders with training and leadership development through the acclaimed Relay Graduate School of Education. Here is a complete summary of the Foundation’s work since 2015 to tackle education challenges in Indianapolis.
There are no easy answers when it comes to improving student learning outcomes in Indianapolis, but it’s critically important that we continue to seek and support effective solutions. We are grateful for the hard work of teachers, principals, administrators, the Foundation’s grantees, and so many other community partners who work tirelessly to help every student in Indianapolis reach their full potential.