Education

Minority parents to IPS leaders: Address equity gaps before vote on ‘Rebuilding Stronger’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A group of 19 Indianapolis Public School’s parents, grandparents, guardians and teachers wrote a letter to the IPS district wanting the board to address equity gaps for Black and brown students before they vote on the “Rebuilding Stronger” proposal.

After nearly two years of advocating for the growth of school models and programs that are data-proven to close racial achievement gaps, parent advocates expressed deep concerns about the plan in the letter sent last week to IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson and the Board of Commissioners.

The group said the recently released strategic plan by IPS does not do enough to meet the needs of children of color.

The letter from the families come after all four school board candidates on the November ballot said they would vote “no” on Rebuilding Stronger plan.

Parents asked the board for clear and direct evidence on how this strategic plan will help IPS get closer to its academic achievement goals for Black and Brown students.

“The disparities that exist in Indianapolis have persisted for decades. So kids not getting a quality education can determine their life trajectory,” said Latoya Tahirou, one of the parents on the signed letter, “We are all advocates for an organization called Stand for Children. It’s an organization that equips parents to know their power when it comes to supporting their kids education.”

The letter offers recommendations, including IPS partnering with Paramount Schools of Excellence, a local public charter network, which was recently honored by the Indiana Department of Education for its academic success in serving underserved students.

  • Across all three locations, Paramount is averaging a 44.6% combined ILEARN passing rate for Black students.
  • Across all locations, Paramount is averaging a 41% combined passing

Two of Tahirou’s three children attend a Paramount school.

Parents pointed to “a community-wide crisis with just 5.1 percent of Black IPS students passing both sections of the ILEARN assessment.” The data is equally troubling for Latino students, who are passing the state test at a rate of 7.9%.

“Were very disappointed that our feedback has not been acted on to this point. As we have stated in the past, the inclusion of Paramount Schools of Excellence in the Rebuilding Stronger plan’s replication strategy should be a top priority. By adding this data-proven model for students of color to the plan, it would show a clear commitment to scale programs that are working for OUR children. There are parts of the IPS plan we do appreciate. The expansion of preschool, the investment in special education, funding for building renovations and the growth of dual-language offerings are all ideas we support. We also think the move toward enrollment zones can give us more choices in selecting schools, but our main concern is: are those school options ones that truly support Black and Brown children?

The group say that within the two years of advocating for their cause, they’ve:

  • Delivered more than 1,200 petition signatures from IPS taxpayers supporting our request to grow data-proven school models;
  • Gathered additional community support in the form of more than 4,000 emails being sent to the IPS board over the last two years;
  • Spoken directly to the board at IPS meetings, giving testimony nearly monthly for a year-and-a half; and
  • Attended and presented feedback at numerous IPS-hosted community meetings.
  • Despite these steps to gather larger community support for their requests for schools that are closing achievement gaps between white students and Black and Latino students, the recently released IPS strategic plan calls for expanding a school model that has among the worst racial achievement gaps in the state of Indiana.

“When kids leave a school system and they’re not adequately prepared for life, then they stay stuck in the cycles of poverty,” said Tahirou.

“There is no way to rebuild stronger unless we are growing the schools where all kids are doing well and getting a great education,” said IPS dad, Dontia Dyson. “Time and time again, we have spoken at IPS meetings and pointed to Paramount schools because they are clearly doing amazing things for Black and Brown students. The fact a partnership with Paramount has not been prioritized is disappointing, but we’re hoping IPS will hear our feedback.”

When looking at the data it is very troubling when considering the district’s push to expand CFI schools in more neighborhoods. While these schools may be in demand among some parents, results for Black and Latino students in CFI schools have not been good:

• According to the most recent ILEARN results, the racial achievement gap
in 2022 at the CFI network of schools increased by 12 points for Latino
students and 9.4 points for Black students.
• When compared to test scores for white students, CFI currently features
a 47.3 point gap for Latino students and a 46.8 point gap for Black
students.

As a school network, the group said Center for Inquiry schools is among the worst in the state when it comes to the opportunity gap. If the CFI network were a standalone school district, it would
have the largest opportunity gap in Indiana.

“We’re waiting for them to give the green light that they plan to implement the schools and the changes that we said as parents, that we would like to see happen,” said Tahirou.

So far there hasn’t been a response from the district.