In September I spoke to the IPS board to tell them about the importance of replication and closing the opportunity gap for Black and Brown students. IPS students today are not getting the quality education they deserve. Data tells us which schools are getting results and which are not.  

So, it is reasonable to say, we can’t replicate just any school. Replication should be used for the schools that are getting results for ALL students, schools that prove they close the opportunity gap.   

While it is NOT included in IPS’ “Rebuilding Stronger” plan, I believe replicating Paramount is vital because data shows that they are effectively closing the opportunity gap for Black and Brown students three times more than other schools in the city.  

The plan IPS released on September 13 does not include partnering with data-proven schools like Paramount.  

As a grandparent who has joined many other parents at the IPS podium for months calling for growing schools that work for children of color, I am very disappointed. I don’t feel like parents – especially Black and Brown parents – are being listened to when it comes to this plan.  

Instead of our suggestions, the plan calls for more CFI schools being added to the district when data shows they have among the largest opportunity gaps in the state of Indiana for Black and Brown students.  

These schools may be in high-demand with some families, but I’d like to know where is the evidence that parents of color are asking for more CFI schools?   

It is imperative that the board takes a deeper dive into the Rebuilding Stronger plan to ensure there will be more equitable school options for our children and grandchildren.  

I hope you’ll stand with me and ask IPS leaders to halt the vote on the Rebuilding Stronger plan until changes are made.

In September, right after Superintendent Johnson released the Rebuilding Stronger plan, I spoke at the IPS action session. I used my voice because I was upset, and I felt unheard. You can read what I said below.  

Alongside other parents, I have been pushing for this district to replicate schools with similar demographics to most IPS schools that close the opportunity gap for a LONG time.  

In March of 2021, we released our Vision for a More Just and Equitable IPS. Before this, we spent months working on the document. We asked IPS leaders to not only set goals for closing the opportunity gap, but to grow schools, like Paramount, that were proven to get results. 

MARCH 2021 | Parents want more action from Indianapolis Public Schools on racial equity goals 

The July after we shared our vision with the district, we held a press conference and delivered over 1200 signatures from community members and parents supporting our plan.  

JULY 2021 | Parents deliver petition to IPS, outline steps to create a more equitable district 

While we are grateful the IPS board set bold goals for closing the opportunity gaps, we know that bold goals alone won’t help students who are behind. We need models that are closing the opportunity gap. We hoped to see Paramount be a part of the Rebuilding Stronger plan. We hoped the schools the district decided to replicate would be proven models.  

Did you know the CFI model has among the largest racial achievement gaps in the entire state?  I don’t understand why IPS would choose this model for ALL students.  

As a parent group that has only grown since we first launched our vision, we are now taking another stand. We are launching a new petition asking IPS leaders to halt the vote on the Rebuilding Stronger plan until changes are made. I hope you’ll join us.

READ MY SPEECH TO THE IPS BOARD: 

Good evening Superintendent Dr. Johnson and IPS board members.   

My name is Dontia Dyson and I am an IPS father. My daughter Dayonna is in the 8th grade at Longfellow. She plays many sports and has a goal to get straight A’s.   

I also have a five-year-old son, Dontia Jr., who is soon to be attending Pre-K at a program designed for kids with autism — to support them before they attend mainstream public schools. My youngest son is not school-aged just yet.  He’s only two.  

My five-year-old will attend IPS schools here in about a year. And because I have advocated for so long for a more just and equitable IPS, I was really hopeful about your Rebuilding Stronger plan and the future it could allow my sons to have in IPS.   

Now that you’ve released the plan, I am a bit less hopeful and to be honest, I feel unheard.   

Alongside other parents, I have been pushing for this district to replicate schools with similar demographics to most IPS schools that close the opportunity gap.   

Time and time again, we have pointed to the Paramount schools because they are clearly doing amazing things. I was hoping you’d work toward pursuing a partnership with them. I think those schools are the best way to close our opportunity gaps. I know replicating a school outside the district takes building that partnership and coming to an agreement, but if it is what is BEST for IPS kids, I think we have to keep pushing to make it happen.   

THERE IS NO WAY to rebuild stronger unless we are growing the schools where all kids are doing well and getting a great education.   

Thank you for your time tonight. I really hope to see this board consider a partnership with Paramount and the schools that will close the opportunity gap for our kids. I hope you then reconsider what that means for Rebuilding Stronger.   

Megan-Poisel

I know that the IPS board’s job is difficult and complex, especially now, but I also know that I’m watching my kids and their classmates grow up together in a system that doesn’t support them all equitably. I hear these statistics about the opportunity gap and it hits me hard.

According to state data, only 3.1% of Black IPS students in grades 3-8 are testing on grade level in English and math, and that number is only 5.4% for Latino students.

To me, these are not only statistics. I know these kids and I want the best for them. They each deserve to live within a system that not only sees the best in them but plans for it and supports it.

We have schools in our city that are already successfully closing the opportunity gap for their students. In fact, there is a public school in Indianapolis where children of color are eight times more likely to achieve at grade level than their peers in our district.

I appreciate that IPS leaders have included replication in the “Rebuilding Stronger” plan, but I don’t think schools should be replicated just because they are popular. Replication should be based on data that shows which schools, regardless of type, close the opportunity gap and not on the demand for a school. Popular programs don’t all necessarily close the opportunity gap.

I have asked the IPS board to consider conducting research in the next month to identify and showcase public schools—charters, innovation schools and traditional schools—that are already closing the opportunity gap in our city.

We need to take swift and clear action to let our students know that we see the best in them. Replicating what’s already working seems to me like a logical place to start and one that could make huge impacts for low-income students and children of color who are being left behind in our current system. As a parent seeing these statistics repeatedly, I can’t stomach the idea of one more school year beginning without a plan in place.

Please join me, ask IPS leaders to replicate school models of all types that are data-proven to close the opportunity gap. Be clear that the measure for replicating a school should not be based on demand alone.

While I can’t speak for every parent who helped draft the “Parent Vision for a More Just and Equitable IPS” with me, I can tell you that I continue to show up at IPS board meetings because I would like to be hopeful. I want to believe there is a future IPS that is filled with high-quality schools that are proving our kids are capable of being challenged, of not only meeting the standards—but exceeding them. An IPS where all our schools close the opportunity gaps.

I know IPS is planning some big changes and I appreciate those changes includes replication. I want to make sure that by replication, the district plans to grow schools and programs that close the opportunity gap. I don’t believe the choice of which schools to replicate should be based on popularity.

The data parents like me have been requesting is about making sure schools that are replicated are data-proven and working for all kids –including Black and Brown children and low-income children.

The IPS plan does not yet address this. Join me in asking IPS leaders to update their Rebuilding Stronger plan. The measure to replicate schools should not be based on the demand for a school. It should be based on schools of all types that are data-proven to close the opportunity gap.

If the time comes when one of my kids struggles, I want them to be given what they need—the supports to help them. If kids are doing well academically, they grow up to have more options –they grow up to be successful.

I’m passionate about this because our children’s education today is about their futures tomorrow –all our futures tomorrow. Please join me. Ask IPS leaders to grow schools that work, schools of all types that align with their goals to close the opportunity gap, even if they don’t already exist in the district.

One of my children attends IPS and I want to be able to send my son there when he is of age, but I also want to know I can send him to a school that closes the opportunity gap. To me, that is the best way to show we care about these kids and their futures.

I got involved with advocacy because my children weren’t getting the type of education I wanted them to have – the type of education that will set them up for success. Even if you don’t have children in IPS, creating more equitable schools in this district is important for the entire community now and for future generations. Do you also want to see better, more equitable schools?

Watch my video:

When I see communities with great disparities, I know it’s not by accident. We have to be honest that disparities exist in our community and our schools because of racist oppression.

I can no longer accept discipline disparities in this district because there should not be gaps in opportunities between races. And I’ve seen these differences firsthand, with my children experiencing low-quality educational instruction after good teachers left and were never replaced in their schools. I can no longer accept that some children are being failed by our schools when there are models that are proven to be working for children of color, so I am doing something about it — and I hope you do too.

All IPS kids can achieve if they are given the right supports, which is why I am asking you to add your name to this petition to IPS leaders. Parents like me submitted a plan for a more just and equitable IPS to district leaders back in March and your signature will help us gather enough support to show the board they need to act now.

I believe:

  • IPS needs to set clear expectations for student attainment in their 2025 strategic plan that address the barriers standing in the way of universal and unbiased student success;
  • The district should grow schools and programs that have dramatically improved results for children of color and traditionally underserved students;
  • All schools within IPS should be funded equitably, including the distribution of public referendum dollars;
  • There should be a clear goal set to increase the number of teachers who reflect the diverse student population;
  • A language justice policy should be established that supports and celebrates parents and children with language differences; and
  • The board should publicly review if the millions of dollars being spent on police in schools would be better used to address the social and emotional health of students.