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Parents raise concerns over racial achievement gap at Washington Township

Achievement gap in Washington Township schools

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Several parents are raising concerns over what they call a “large racial achievement gap” at Washington Township Schools.

“There’s good teachers, there’s good administrators. I get it, but if we continue to ignore it, then we’re being complicit in the outcomes that it creates and that’s a problem,” said Roderick Wheeler, a parent whose son was a student at Washington Township Schools.

Low passing scores from Hispanic and Black students at Washington Township Schools is alarming for parents like Wheeler, who says his son struggled for years getting good grades, forcing him to leave the school system and change schools.

“Ultimately, we found out. I asked the question: ‘Do you believe that Roderick can be successful, prepared for Harvard if he had the right intervention?’ The teacher responded, ‘I don’t believe that all children can make A’s and B’s,’” said Wheeler.

According to the Indiana Department of Education, 18.6% of Hispanic students and 20.7% of Black students in Washington Township are proficient in English/Language Arts.

Their White counterparts are 68.8% proficient.

Meanwhile, 17.2% of Hispanic students and 13.1% of Black students are proficient in Math.

Their White counterparts are 60.9% proficient.

“Washington Township. Any township in Indianapolis needs to think ‘hey, if we’re going to have quality in education outcomes, then we need to be able to differentiate our interventions and our instruction to be able to either close gaps or accelerate learning,” said Wheeler.

To help close the gap, members of the group “Concerned Residents of Washington Township” are asking school board members to step up and hold educators accountable.

Their spokesperson, Francesca Brady says “the belief of the group is that all kids deserve access to an excellent education. Race and income should not be barriers to achievement, whether it’s achieving success in school or achieving long term success, and they’re concerned.”

The group says they also want to see the school system truly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“It has implications for the city’s future, for the future of the children who all deserve access to equal opportunities, and what the group wants is really to see is the district take this seriously,” said Brady.

“As a district, Washington Township Schools (WTS) is dedicated to providing all students with opportunities and resources aimed at equitable outcomes. We are constantly working to determine how to meet the needs of ALL of our learners, understanding that we face the same challenges as our peers in urban education. We are proud that our district has continued to see growth on IREAD-3, ILEARN, SAT, and Graduation Rate. At the same time we recognize the racial achievement gap and have strategies in place to improve this area. Equitable achievement action plans and comprehensive data outline details of the work we are doing and the impact it is having on our ILEARN results as well as our plans for diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools. WTS educators and leaders feel a sense of urgency to continue improving our academic disparities. Using our District Strategic Plan as a guide to action for equitable achievement, which was developed with significant public input. WTS continues to demonstrate improvement in many areas, including two of our four main priorities that specifically address equitable achievement and the hiring and retention of a high-quality and diverse staff. Board President Mrs. Deirdre George Davis, “The Washington Township Schools Board of Education is committed to the important work of closing the achievement gap. On a regular basis, the Board reviews individual School Improvement Plans, and we are diligent about understanding what building leaders are doing to follow through with those plans. In addition, the Board continues to approve plans for programs that use individualized support and instruction aimed specifically where the data is showing the gaps.” Working to close the achievement gap is a long-term investment that is not monolithic of schools. Many societal issues impact student achievement. WTS has been fortunate to receive support from our community through the passage of referenda in 2016 and 2020, but there is more to be done. We welcome the support of civic groups interested in investing in the success of our current students and future generations by committing to supporting their local public schools.”

Washington Township Schools