Could Hinckley’s instructional focus be what IPS needs?

Peggy Hinckley, the new interim superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, doesn’t much sound like she plans to be a caretaker. Could that present a dilemma for advocates of big-idea education reform in Indy?

Hinckley takes over from Eugene White, who accepted a buyout after he lost school board support. She retired last year after 11 years as superintendent of Warren Township schools.

The Indianapolis Star’s Scott Elliott recently pointed to reasons that Hinckley and IPS may not be a good match even for the short term. Her approach is “laser focused on standardizing instruction,” he writes. The dominant vision of reform in Indianapolis, by contrast, involves choices for parents and autonomy for schools. It’s modeled on the Mind Trust’s “opportunity schools” plan and the Center for the Reinvention of Public Education’s portfolio schools concept.

This approach seems to go hand-in-hand with a yearning for visionary, “cage-busting” leaders. Mind Trust founder and CEO David Harris argues in a recent Star op-ed that IPS should be free to hire non-educators as superintendents. Star opinion editor Tim Swarens adds that the district’s new leader should be a “reformer.”

But Hinckley suggests that meaningful reform involves what happens in the classroom. Continue reading