Press Releases | March 21, 2013

The Mind Trust awards $2 million to grow top national charter networks in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS -The Mind Trust will invest $1 million to help a cutting-edge, California-based charter school operator open eight schools in Indianapolis and another $1 million to enable one of the nation’s best charter school operators to expand its footprint in the city.

The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit, is making the investments in Rocketship Education and KIPP Indy through its Charter School Incubator. The Mind Trust uses its incubator to entice top charter operators to start or expand networks of best-in-class public charter schools in Indianapolis by providing $1 million in funding and key startup support.

The investments in Rocketship and KIPP will support the launch of two high-quality school networks. Together, these two networks will add 12 schools serving 6,250 students to the Indianapolis landscape by 2020.

Rocketship will launch an eight-school network that serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade. KIPP Indy, which currently operates a middle school, KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, will add two elementary schools, another middle school, and a high school to become a five-school network.

“We started our Charter School Incubator to create more schools in Indianapolis that are truly transformational -schools that help students, regardless of circumstances, achieve outstanding results,” said David Harris, Founder and CEO of The Mind Trust. “Rocketship and KIPP are two of the best charter school operators in the country, and we’re thrilled that our incubator helped entice them to grow schools in Indianapolis. We are grateful to Mayor Greg Ballard, the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, Jane Pauley and Garry Trudeau, and the Dave and Jessica Lindsey Family for their financial support of our Charter School Incubator and our shared vision of growing more high-quality educational options in Indianapolis.”

Rocketship, a nonprofit charter operator, was founded in San Jose, Calif., in 2006. Its schools have attracted widespread national attention for their success in helping low-income students achieve outstanding results. A recent independent study conducted by SRI International found that Rocketship’s blend of individualized and computer-based instruction is leading to significant gains in student achievement.

Across its seven California schools, 90 percent of Rocketship students receive free and reduced-price lunch, yet 82 percent of Rocketship students are proficient in math. That pass rate is higher than California’s statewide rate and that of the neighboring San Jose Unified School District, where half as many students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. Because of its success, cities across the U.S. are trying to lure Rocketship, and Indianapolis is Rocketship’s third expansion city outside of California.

“The Indianapolis community has invested a great deal of time and effort in providing excellent educational options for all students, and we are excited to have the opportunity to partner with a city with this amount of positive momentum,” said Preston Smith, co-founder and CEO of Rocketship. “The Mind Trust’s Charter School Incubator really caught our attention as we seek to partner with local innovators who are committed to rethinking elementary school from the ground up.”

KIPP, which operates 125 schools in 36 cities, is one of the nation’s best charter school operators. A study released this year by independent research firm Mathematica showed that on a national level, KIPP helps the middle school students it serves make significant learning gains in multiple subjects.

Over the last three years, KIPP Indy has increased student proficiency on the ISTEP+ by 30 points in English and 39 points in math and received an “A” school grade because of its consistent improvement.

“Support from The Mind Trust’s Charter School Incubator enables us to accelerate our goal to reach students earlier and serve them longer,” said Emily Pelino, Executive Director of KIPP Indy. “We know that providing rigorous academic instruction and focusing on character will help our students to reach college-ready levels. We look forward to partnering with more children and families in the Indianapolis community on their path to and through college.”

The Mind Trust selected Rocketship and KIPP after reviewing more than 30 applications for the awards over four months with the help of 12 local and national experts. The Mind Trust announced the launch of its Charter School Incubator in October 2011 and made its first two $1 million awards in June 2012. This is the second round of incubator awards.

The Mind Trust plans to make additional rounds of Charter School Incubator awards in the next few years.


The Mind Trust is a nonprofit striving to ensure that every student in Indianapolis has the opportunity to receive an excellent education. The Mind Trust is building a network of the nation’s highest-impact education initiatives, helping to launch life-changing schools, and advancing bold plans for transforming the city’s education system. Since its founding in 2006, The Mind Trust has impacted more than 77,400 students through its work and has raised more than $31 million to advance education reform in Indianapolis.

Rocketship Education was founded in 2006 as the first elementary blended school model in the country. It has become both the highest growth charter school system in the country and the highest performing low-income school system in California. Rocketship creates transformative schools using a model that combines teacher development, parent engagement and personalized learning to improve student achievement. Rocketship serves more than 3,800 students across seven schools in San Jose. It plans to open two new schools in San Jose and its first school in Milwaukee in the fall of 2013, with the first school in Nashville to follow in 2014.

KIPP Indy operates a public charter school, KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, that was founded in 2004 and is authorized by the Mayor of Indianapolis to serve students in fifth through eighth grades. KIPP Indy is part of a national network of 125 free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for academic achievement and college success. The schools, launched in 1994 as a fifth grade public school program with 48 students in inner-city Houston, today serve more than 39,000 students in 20 states and the District of Columbia. KIPP schools were featured in the 2010 critically acclaimed documentary on the state of education in America, “Waiting for Superman.”