As a parent, I know our voices become stronger and can make a positive impact when work together. This year has proven that.
Last legislative session, over 6,000 of you joined parents like me and asked our legislative leaders to oppose a dangerous bill that would have stifled our children from receiving an accurate education. This year I’ve seen thousands more join this movement in the name of equity and justice for Indiana kids.
Maybe this year you signed a petition, emailed a school board member or participated in a workshop. Perhaps you donated or volunteered your time. No matter which actions you took, I want to thank you for being part of a movement dedicated to supporting Indiana children and teachers. It’s because of you that parents like me feel comfortable raising our voices. It’s never been more important that we address racial inequity in our schools and ensure all our children receive a high-quality education.
This work is made possible because of you, and the entire Stand family is so grateful to have you be part of this movement.
We hope you have a healthy, safe and peaceful holiday this week.
Despite your advocacy, and despite the heroic parent voices who have spent years fighting for IPS to make data-driven decisions focused on closing tragically large opportunity gaps in our schools, the IPS board on Thursday approved a strategic plan that fell well short of what our children need. I know it’s frustrating when it feels like our leaders don’t listen.
Personally, I joined Stand for Children nearly 10 years ago to be an ally to parents of color, who have been underserved and underappreciated for generations when it comes to decisions made by our K-12 public school system. And to have this result, it brought tears to my eyes. Because the parents and advocates at Stand – and especially their children – deserve better.
But as the hours have turned to days, my frustration has transitioned to hope and a strong resolve that the changes parents have been fighting for are still 100% achievable. Here’s why:
- Parent advocates at Stand are among the best leaders I’ve ever seen. They inspire me every day, and they will inspire IPS leaders to eventually listen and act on their ideas.
- I believe this IPS board has members who are listening and are committed to evolving this plan in its implementation – especially when it comes to growing the top schools for Black and Brown student achievement.
- And we will welcome new leaders to the IPS board in January – three amazing women who Stand parents endorsed back in September. All of them expressed opposition to the IPS plan that was approved on Thursday.
Thursday’s vote is disappointing, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a moment in time. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” At the root of advocacy is the belief that things can and will change. My belief in our mission and the advocates I’m blessed to walk alongside has never been stronger. The fight for a more just and equitable IPS – for a district that truly serves the needs of ALL children – is still ahead of us.
Parents affiliated with Stand for Children Indiana spoke against Indianapolis Public Schools’ (IPS) Rebuilding Stronger plan at the district’s Action Session last night.
“I am speaking my truth, but I know many other parents, teachers, and community members have told you something similar to what I will — which is that the schools we choose to grow under this plan matter,” said IPS parent LaToya Hale-Tahirou. “And I cannot support your plan unless it includes growing data-proven models that are closing the opportunity gap. You’ve heard this before, but I need to say it again: Paramount has more Black students passing both sections of the state assessment than all IPS direct-run schools combined. I realize your plan mentions a potential partnership now, but it needs to be something more concrete.”
Parents have been advocating nearly two years for the district to partner with and replicate schools that close the opportunity gap, specifically Paramount Schools of Excellence. Those who addressed the board last night called out the extent of their advocacy and the importance of selecting data-proven schools that work for all children.
“Even before this planning process started, many parents like me stood at this podium and made the clear request for IPS to grow models that are data-proven to close the opportunity gap for children who look like mine,” said IPS parent Sherry Holmes. “I’ve lost count of just how many times I’ve spoken in this room, or how many emails I have sent. What I do know is that it wasn’t just me. Many parents – Black and Brown families from across this district – showed up, held meetings with school board members, sent hundreds of emails – all asking for IPS to grow Paramount, one of the best schools in our state for Black and Brown student achievement.”
As a mom of children who attend the Paramount Online Academy, I am asking the IPS district why they are not expanding this partnership with Paramount to serve more children who look like mine.
Paramount schools are averaging a 44.6% combined ILEARN passing rate for Black students. This is four times better than the state average for Black student proficiency. Despite evidence of Paramount getting solid results for kids of color, the IPS strategic plan does not recommend expanding Paramount. Instead, IPS leaders want to grow a school model that has among the largest opportunity gaps in the state.
Parents like me want IPS to halt their vote on the Rebuilding Stronger plan. They need to consider what is BEST FOR OUR CHILDREN before they move forward in growing a model that does not have a proven track record of success for ALL students.
We need you to add your name to our petition if you agree. The IPS board will vote on this plan soon. It’s so important we have a huge show of support for pausing the plan so IPS does not move forward with a proposal that will not serve all students.
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.
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.
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.
I sent this summary of the Rebuilding Stronger plan to parent advocates this afternoon. Stay tuned for opportunities to provide feedback on the IPS plan and for any announcement on Stand’s position once parent feedback is gathered.
Click here to read the email:
Dear IPS advocates,
First of all, apologies for this long email. There are major changes being discussed in IPS, and I wanted to ensure we cover them at length so you have the information you need to make decisions and better serve the kiddos you love and care for.
I want to thank you for taking time to advocate for a more just and equitable IPS over the past two years. Your voice has helped shape meaningful progress in the district, including a more equitable funding policy and specific academic goals for children of color.
The draft IPS Rebuilding Stronger strategic plan was released yesterday. This email is an overview of the plan with the goal of detailing those components that relate to the important recommendations that you have been advocating for over the past two years.
Unfortunately, despite clear and overwhelming support from you and other community stakeholders, the IPS administration did not include a plan for growing and replicating our city’s best performing school network for students of color – Paramount Schools of Excellence. There are other school models that IPS is pushing to grow and/or replicate – some of which currently serve several Stand-affiliated families. But leaving out a potential partner like Paramount is concerning for any person or organization focused on equity. One Paramount school is performing more than six times better than the state average for Black student achievement. For Latino students, the results are also strong – with Paramount scoring up to three times better than the peer average for proficiency across the state.
The exclusion of Paramount from the IPS plan runs counter to feedback you and many parents of color have provided for years – during countless speeches at board meetings, through a petition signed by more than 1,200 IPS taxpayers, numerous emails to the administration and board, and many other actions taken to support growing what’s working for all kids.
The plan prioritizes growing models like IPS’ CFI schools, which have been known to have long enrollment waitlists but have troubling records related to academic support for Black and Brown students. For instance, every CFI school saw its racial achievement gap for both Black and Latino students grow, according to state assessment data. And these racial opportunity gaps were already significant — one CFI location has a 59 point achievement gap between Black and white students. To put this in perspective, the state average for the opportunity gap between Black and white students is a tragic 26.7%. The gap by this CFI school is more than double that average. The gap between white and Latino students widened in another CFI school by 17.7 percentage points in one year. These results are concerning and seemingly inconsistent with the IPS board goals that call for dramatic increases in Black and Brown student achievement.
Also missing from the plan is any mention of a Language Justice policy, which has also been a point of tremendous advocacy from IPS parents. This is not too surprising, given the Rebuilding Stronger plan is mostly focused on facilities plans and other factors aimed at ensuring the district’s financial viability. But I know many parents are disheartened there is still no date for this policy to be taken up by the board this fall, despite support from numerous board members and the passionate advocacy from many of you.
There are parts of the Rebuilding Stronger plan that are consistent with the values and recommendations of Stand IPS parents:
- The move to enrollment zones and an all-choice approach will increase equitable access to more schools that parents can choose for their children.
- The support for expanding dual language programming is encouraging, as this model has shown evidence of improving student outcomes over time.
- The growth of innovation schools like Edison, Global Prep Academy and Purdue Poly-Tech will offer more opportunities for children to attend these growing programs that are showing promise.
- The focus on boosting supports and programs that help focus on the whole child, including access to more mental and physical health supports and exposure to diverse extracurriculars outside of the classroom.
One of the most challenging and impactful parts of Rebuilding Stronger is the recommendation to shutter seven school buildings next school year. There is a page on the IPS website that lists how the plan will affect each school in the district. While this is an incredibly tough decision by the district, IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson made clear last night that there are some buildings in the district that are simply in such disrepair and too costly to operate that they are causing more harm than good when it comes to serving students.
Our plan organizationally is to take the next several days to thoroughly review the Rebuilding Stronger plan and seek feedback from you. We will not take an official position on the plan until we hear from parents and stakeholders, who are the ones who have led Stand’s vision for a more Just and Equitable IPS. Please take time to review the plan for yourself. There is a lot of information we didn’t have space to cover in this email.
Stand has enjoyed a strong partnership with IPS over the years. We put more resources behind the district’s referenda in 2018 than any other organization. And parents have stood up to back IPS’ high school restructuring and partnered with district leaders on more equitable funding for all schools in the IPS family. We want to maintain this partnership with the district, and we hope IPS leaders will use these next few months to truly listen to community and parent feedback about the plan.
Thank you again for all you to do stand up for students and work toward a better, more equitable IPS. Look for opportunities in the next several days to voice your feedback to us about the draft Rebuilding Stronger plan and feel free to reply to this email in the meantime. The IPS board will vote on the plan in November, so it’s important we activate around any changes you want to see.
Standing with you,
Stand for Children Indiana
As an IPS parent who has spoken to our current board several times over the last few years, I know who sits in those seats makes a huge difference. I know our board members determine if positive changes happen or not. They determine if the next steps the district takes will bring us closer to having equitable schools and closing the opportunity gap or not.
That’s why I joined a group of IPS parents, teachers and guardians who are all deeply invested in IPS and want to see the best possible candidates elected to the IPS board.
After our thorough review process, which even included vetting those who we have recently learned are running unopposed, we have decided to endorse three candidates. Only one of those candidates, Hope Hampton in District 3, is running opposed. We decided to endorse District 5 candidate Nicole Carey and At-Large candidate Angelia Moore even though they will stand alone on the ballot because of their responses to our survey. All the candidates we endorsed impressed us with their comments. Each candidate detailed a clear dedication to equity and positive change for IPS students and teachers.
Please take a moment to read our endorsements and let us know if you have any questions by emailing [email protected].
WE SUPPORT HOPE HAMPTON FOR IPS BOARD DISTRICT 3
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Hope Hampton (District 3) is an IPS graduate, the mom of an IPS high school student, a community leader and a small business owner. We support Hope because of her stance on pushing for positive change in IPS schools and our belief that she will put kids first in every decision she makes as a school board member.
Hope is running for IPS school board in District 3 because she wants every IPS student to have excellent and equitable opportunities to succeed. As a first-generation college graduate and also a mom, she values family involvement and communication, equity and school safety.
If elected, Hope will fight for all students to have access to high-quality schools and the services and supports they need to succeed.
WE SUPPORT ANGELIA MOORE FOR IPS BOARD AT-LARGE
Angelia Moore is running unopposed for the At-Large IPS board seat. “Anjee” is the proud mom to four children, three who are IPS graduates and one who currently attends school in the IPS district.
Based on her responses to our survey and her lifelong commitment to the service of others, we are excited to see Angelia step up to run for the IPS board. We believe she will actively champion positive changes, with a focus on closing opportunity gaps, and ensuring our students have great teachers and schools.
WE SUPPORT NICOLE CAREY FOR IPS BOARD DISTRICT 5
Nicole Carey is running unopposed for the IPS board in District 5 and is the proud mom of five children, three who are school-age and current IPS students. As a school board member, she values racial equity, language justice and ensuring community voices are heard. Her top priority is ensuring every student in every ZIP code has access to high-quality public schools.
Nicole completed her survey in both English and Spanish and our parent group truly appreciated her stance on ensuring every IPS family felt welcomed and heard, no matter their first language.
I hope you’ll stand with me and the other IPS parents, teachers and community members by voting for these endorsed candidates who will represent your district.
Sunday is Juneteenth – a day that validates the lived and historical experience of Black Americans and American Descendants of Slavery. For me, it’s also a bittersweet day.
On one hand, it’s a day to recognize thousands of enslaved people who were notified of their freedom. On the other hand, it is painful to know there were systems and infrastructures in place that intentionally kept people enslaved.
I recognize Juneteenth by acknowledging those who came before me and honoring the trials and triumphs of their lived experience.
I also think about the last legislative session. We all fought so hard to ensure our educators were allowed to teach and students were allowed to learn an accurate history. Understanding the full history, as well as the present-day structure of the United States, means talking about and accurately recounting major Black historical events — and not just during Black History Month. And let me be clear, these aren’t just Black historical events, these are American events. American events that all students have the right to learn.
I didn’t learn about Juneteenth until college. I believe I ONLY learned in college because I minored in African American studies. My story is sadly not uncommon.
If you are already planning to learn about Juneteenth or to teach your kids, comment below to share what you’re doing.
If you need ideas for ways you can recognize and learn about the importance of Juneteenth and how it connects to the present, check out this brief list to get started:
Websites and articles:
- EJI On this day – June 19, 1865
- NPR: Slavery Didn’t End on Juneteenth. What You Should Know About This Important Day | June 17, 2021
- Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
- Also check out the Indianapolis Public Library recommended Juneteenth reads
- And if you’re purchasing a book, don’t forget to support Black-owned bookstores
- How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Between The World And Me by Ta Nehisi Coats
- Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
- The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee
- The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
Listen and Watch:
The Parent Vision for a More Just and Equitable IPS, which I helped draft, called for the district to grow schools of all types, even ones not currently in the IPS family of schools, that close the opportunity gap.
In May, I provided the board with copies of over 100 emails from community members and parents like myself. These emails asked IPS leaders to urgently research nearby schools of all types that close the opportunity gaps too many of our schools face and then provide a plan by July to grow those models. We need to do everything we can to partner with schools that close the gap and to learn from the schools where all children are thriving.
The school my oldest son, Marell, now attends is just one example of a school not currently in the district that is closing the gap. I couldn’t be happier or more pleased with his experience at Paramount. They have offered him opportunities he has never had. He even has a job there for the summer. He is thriving. They awarded him as the most improved student. His teachers tell me he is the hardest working SPED student they have. I am beyond proud of him and am affirmed in my choice to send him to Paramount.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll join me and ask IPS leaders to take action on this parent request with urgency, especially knowing the district could face school consolidations or closures. In my opinion, if there’s a building that can’t be repaired, I hope to see IPS replace that school with a model nearby that can improve the education of children in that neighborhood. We need to make sure any plan to consolidate schools is one that leaves our communities better off.