Every day, I wake up and teach Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) children who are learning English because I believe every person deserves an equitable education. I have seen language learners receive less than that and I want to make sure I am doing my part to see that this growing population has equity in education. By equity, I mean that despite a student’s status, race, first language or socioeconomic class, all learners deserve access to great teachers and the resources, technology and supports that are right for them to learn.
I signed the petition in support of the parent vision for a more just and equitable IPS. There are two important things in the document that matter a lot to me: the need for language justice and equitable funding. While I teach at an innovation school, these issues impact the entire district.
My hope after the last IPS board action session is that IPS leaders will truly consider the dire need for language justice throughout the district. This includes ensuring parents are getting multi-lingual and accessible messages in a timely manner. Parents want to be involved, especially ELL parents. We need to make it easy for them to be engaged.
I believe it would be beneficial for all teachers to be trained in the best practices for ELL students because these practices are good for all learners. Some of these methods include talking with your hands (semiotics), highlighting key words in reading pages, pre-teaching vocab, and using word walls. Curriculum should be culturally responsive and include Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocols (SIOP).
To me, language justice means instruction delivered in comprehensible ways so that home languages are embraced and seen as additive and not subtractive. It means the language of a student’s heart is encouraged as well as growth in their new language. It means students have the ELL support they need. It means bilingual texts are used when possible.
Beyond what I have already noted, language justice means having enough ELL teachers to ensure students can be fully supported. There are four ELL instructors and one director for the 270 ELL students in my building.
This brings me to the next point: equitable funding. This may mean different things to different people. While I can’t speak to that, I can tell you what it means to me and my story.
I voted for the referenda because I felt that all teachers deserved a raise. IPS teachers won a 9% raise in 2019 and a 5% raise last year. Last year, I received a 1.5% raise. That did not cover the cost of the increased property taxes, homeowners’ insurance or other increases for the year, essentially leaving me with a pay reduction. I didn’t receive enough to cover the increased cost of living. I have a master’s degree and a certification in ELL. My friend who works in the deli at Meijer makes about the same pay as I do and has better benefits.
This is not to say that I believe my friend should not make this salary or have those benefits. I believe we should all make livable wages.
I still consider myself a part of this district and would like to see these funds shared equitably with all schools, no matter the type. I realize the IPS board does not set the pay for innovation school teachers like me. I do still believe we should give all school types in this district the same ability to attract and retain talent, especially when those funds were voted on and supported by this community.
Please join me in my push to make IPS more just and equitable by emailing district leaders today. Hearing from community members like you can make a big difference.