Reaven Allen Cooper
Stand Indiana Fellow

As a mom of four children in IPS schools, I am glad to see the district focus on having a racial equity mindset. However, it startles me to know that only 7% of black children passed ILEARN when 32% of white children did. That’s why I toured two public Indianapolis schools. I wanted to see public schools that showcased what I believe: all kids can succeed.

One of the schools I toured was Paramount School of Excellence. This public school has it all: a farm with chickens where kids learn the lifecycle of the egg, goats that the kids help care for, a planetarium, gardens on the walls, and a world-class robotics program. I didn’t just learn that Paramount was a great public school when I toured it; I also learned that all kids can succeed if they go to a school that truly aspires to make sure it happens.

But even without all the features available at Paramount, public schools can still be models of excellence and equity. I also toured IPS 87, a Montessori school in the district. This public school doesn’t have a planetarium or live chickens and goats, but it does have an amazing leader, dedicated staff, and the most inclusive environment I have experienced on a school tour. As I toured IPS 87, I saw kids learning together in groups, learning individually, and asking questions. I saw kids being kind, using manners, and exploring the world through their classrooms. I saw engaging teachers and overheard meaningful discussions in classrooms that were filled with hands-on material.

These two public schools, as different as they are, have some big things in common; they care if ALL kids succeed, and they are getting results.

The public schools I toured were in neighborhoods that looked like mine and had student bodies that matched. There is crime in these areas. But somehow these schools are giving all children opportunities, not just white children. How? By focusing on every child – making sure no one falls behind – and by going the extra mile to get all parents engaged.

The biggest thing I never saw in these schools — I never saw a child being treated differently because of their skin color. These schools, like IPS schools and all schools, had children with different needs. The difference was that the staff seemed ready and trained on what to do when a student was acting out or struggling. Both public schools were quiet and disciplined in a positive way.

Should all IPS schools aspire to make sure students of all races and backgrounds succeed? I think they should and with your help, they can.

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