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At Work in Indianapolis

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Now a year into her tenure, Indianapolis Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas has enacted broad reforms in the 44,000-student district. Aimed at holding staff members more accountable for the outcomes of their work, most of the changes are spelled out in her 19-page accountability plan and in a 1995 Indiana law mandating an overhaul of the district by the 1996-97 school year. Major pieces of the reforms include:

Schools, teachers, and administrators are evaluated based on a series of performance indicators, including staff and student attendance, student performance on assessment tests, graduation and remediation rates, and the amount of contact with parents.

Based on many of these criteria, about 90 percent of the district's schools have been placed on academic probation or given a warning. Monitors from the central office were placed at each school on probation to help staff members improve performance and to report progress to the district's administration.

Schools on probation also received a minimum of $10,000 to help with staff development or assistance for at-risk students.

All of the district's schools have been required to form a committee made up of the principal, teachers, support staff, and parents. The committees have limited control over their schools' budgets and are required to prepare and submit school-improvement plans for school board approval next month.

Educators will be eligible for incentive pay of up to 8 percent of their salaries if their schools meet their improvement-plan goals. Educators who have unsatisfactory evaluations are not eligible, even if their schools are.

The staff, parents, and students at each school next fall must sign a "school compact" drafted by their school committee. Similar to a mission statement, the compact will outline briefly the importance and responsibilities of staff members, parents, and students.

Esperanza Zendejas

Age: 43

Education: Bachelor's degree, San Diego State University, 1975; master's degree, University of San Diego, 1977; doctorate, Stanford University, 1985.

Career: 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade teacher, Calipatria (Calif.) schools, 1975-77. Counselor, Central Union High School in El Centro, Calif., 1977-79. Staff development coordinator, Riverside County Schools, 1979-81. Dean of Students, Gilroy (Calif.) schools, 1981-82. Principal, Oak Grove Elementary School District in San Jose, Calif., 1984-86. K-6 principal, Calexico (Calif.) schools, 1986-88. Superintendent and principal, Westmorland (Calif.) Elementary School District, 1988-90. Superintendent, Desert Sands, Calif., 1990-92; Brownsville, Texas, 1992-95; Indianapolis, 1995-present.

Salary: $135,000.

Indianapolis Public Schools:

Students: 44,000 Teachers: 3,100 Schools: 86 City population: 818,000

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