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Mayors Challenge Finalist: Indianapolis (Video, Vote)

02/19/2013 02:36 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2013

Idea Summary: Neighborhoods of Educational Opportunity brings together an unprecedented community coalition to strengthen neighborhoods and revitalize Indianapolis by launching a holistic, standardized process to double the number of high-quality student seats. Click here to vote for this idea.

Education is the key to a positive future for individual students, their families, neighborhoods, and cities. It has been at the forefront of community discussions in Indianapolis in recent years, as policy initiatives and innovative stand-alone programs focused on improving our city's schools have laid a critical foundation for continued efforts. Even with these improvements, many Indianapolis students do not have access to a high-quality education, which we define as a "seat." High-quality seats are created by a school achieving proficiency on state standardized tests or having a high percentage of students classified as college or career ready. We have far too few of those in Indianapolis, which means that many students and families are leaving our urban neighborhoods in search of better schools. This trend leads to fewer life prospects for children, higher crime rates in neighborhoods, and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.

However, across Indianapolis there are schools, school leaders, teachers, and community members who are reversing this trend and changing expectations for urban education. These schools are providing a high-quality education to children of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our city's Neighborhoods of Educational Opportunity (NEO) Plan aims to expand and replicate these successes by providing a holistic, systematic process to create 30,000 high-quality seats over 10 years, thus setting the city on a path to bring great schools to every neighborhood. The NEO plan represents a shared vision of a diverse coalition of community partners, with proven track records of success, who have put individual interests aside, to provide every student in every neighborhood access to a high-quality seat. It is a unique partnership among traditional public, magnet, charter, and private schools, and the people and organizations that support them.

The NEO plan systematically and simultaneously unleashes four core elements, built from national research and local success, to produce a holistic process for creating high-quality seats. First, we will create new high-performing school options by providing schools with grants to start up or replicate while ensuring accountability for results. Second, we will expand talent pipelines by scaling proven preparation programs to ensure every school has effective teachers and outstanding leaders. Third, we will provide robust support to schools, students, and families. Finally, we will monitor and evaluate our performance.

Indianapolis is unique for a city its size in that we already possess a combination of strengths to achieve transformation: a new school incubator that is attracting promising talent; an established and growing presence of proven teacher and leader pipeline organizations; a favorable political climate including recent, helpful policy shifts; and a critical mass of driven individuals and nationally-recognized organizations vocally advocating for improved educational options. The NEO plan capitalizes on these strengths by engaging a coalition with the ability to simultaneously scale the core elements in a phased approach. This unprecedented coalition is working towards a shared vision, to provide every student in every neighborhood access to a high-quality seat.

Through NEO, Indianapolis is poised to dramatically improve the quality of schools, the health of neighborhoods, and the economic and social vitality of the city. We believe that our city will become a national model for what is possible in urban education and demonstrate how education can play a catalytic role in economic revitalization.

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This post is an entry in the Mayors Challenge Fan Favorite Selection, a partnership between The Huffington Post and Bloomberg Philanthropies that allows readers to vote on their favorite idea among the 20 Mayors Challenge finalists. The Mayors Challenge is a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life. To view the ideas from the 20 finalists, click the grid below -- and then vote for your favorite here! And follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #MayorsChallenge.

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