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.   

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:

  1. The move to enrollment zones and an all-choice approach will increase equitable access to more schools that parents can choose for their children.
  2. The support for expanding dual language programming is encouraging, as this model has shown evidence of improving student outcomes over time.
  3. 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.
  4. 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,

Justin Ohlemiller
Executive Director
Stand for Children Indiana

As a teacher, I have seen English Language Learner (ELL) students all over our city be an afterthought and not a priority. Our ELL students come to us so hard-working, on grade level much of the time, and with the ability to outperform their monolingual peers. Yet, we fail to recognize their greatness and serve them adequately. I’ve seen this with many student groups, which is why I joined a group of parents who are focused on ensuring equitable candidates get elected to the IPS board this November.  I want our community to elect leaders who will be equitable for all students and who will help us move all our students forward.

After the legislative session and the dangerous bills that were luckily not passed, I fear that someone who may not be committed to equity or committed to the truth could be seated on the IPS board. Someone might run and be elected that doesn’t have the best interest of kids.

I don’t want someone who doesn’t have a heart for the work, for equity, or for language justice to be elected. We need strong leaders that care about kids and understand the importance of prioritizing teachers. This is important because someone could be elected which slows the progress we have started and so desperately need to continue.

What’s the process of the parent and educator group?

A group of us came together to talk about what we wanted to see in IPS board candidates and the importance of these local roles. From our combined opinions, we developed a questionnaire to get to know the candidates better. We did this because we want to make informed decisions about who we believe would make the best candidates for the position.

We then came up with ideas to disseminate that information to our sphere of influence and let others know as well. We want to let everyone know what the candidates stand for and who they are as people and why they would or would not be good candidates.

At the moment, we have sent surveys to the candidates and are planning to follow up with them once we receive all of them back.

In the future, we plan to meet with them to ask in-person questions.

After the group has made a decision, we will share that as widely as we can. We hope that from this, more people vote for the most equitable candidates for the IPS board.

What do you like about the group?

I like that this process has been a group of diverse volunteers who care about IPS.

The group contains many parents, all with diverse backgrounds, opinions, and perspectives. We have come together to determine what we think is the best way to move our kids forward and our schools forward. It is so needed right now.

What kind of candidates are you seeking?

This is a very important election. From it, our group would like to see IPS board members elected who are wholeheartedly invested in the work of moving education forward for our kids.  

We want to choose candidates that reflect our values. Our values all center around equity. We want to close the opportunity gap. We want to see language justice practiced and normalized. We want candidates focused on what is best for kids, families, and teachers. We want board members who will make the changes we need to have a just and equitable IPS, an IPS where every kid gets a great education.

Why would you encourage other people to get out and vote?

At one time, I didn’t think voting for local school boards was that important. Now, I see the biggest changes are made in the perceived smallest places. Local elections are more important than ever. This is where some of the changes that will be the most impactful for us as a community and as individuals will occur.

We won’t see changes we want, or we may see changes we don’t want—that don’t represent our voices—if we don’t vote.

It is so vital people get out and vote for local elections and vote for the school board.

Dontia Dyson

Last legislative session, I was one of many advocates fighting to stop House Bill 1134. I am proud of the effort I put in alongside so many other advocates. Our hard work paid off, but with the 2023 legislative session being just around the corner, I want this next session to be different.   

I want our lawmakers to focus on equity and closing the academic opportunity gap for historically underserved students like mine. I want to continue standing alongside all the advocates who care about Indiana kids and the education they receive. I want us to make positive change together because if last session taught me anything about advocacy, it’s that there’s strength in numbers and together we can make a difference.  

So today, I’m happy to announce the Stand for Children Indiana 2023 education agenda will be centered on feedback from advocates like me.  

Here are some highlights from the survey that was used to craft the below education agenda: 

  • 77% of the people who took the Stand Indiana survey this year said they want our lawmakers to focus on equitable funding for public schools.  
  • Nearly 60% of survey takers want to ensure school curriculum and teaching practices align with scientific research. 
  • 60% of survey takers said they wanted lawmakers to focus on legislation aimed at closing achievement gaps between privileged/underserved students. 
  • 44% believed it should be a top priority to increase the number of young people applying for 21st Century Scholarship. 
    • Only 7% thought the state should take no action regarding the scholarship. 

I hope you’ll continue advocating this year and take a stand for the things listed on the 2023 education agenda:  

  • Ensuring our public schools are equitably funded and that the school funding formula considers low-income and traditionally underserved students as well as our SPED and ELL populations.  
  • Advocating for our public schools to be equipped with the curriculum and best practices in teaching reading that aligns with scientific research as our state faces a literacy crisis.  
  • Supporting legislation aimed at increasing the number of young people applying for 21st Century Scholarships.   

Thank you for your continued input and support. Look for more details on all of these issues in the coming weeks, and be sure to follow Stand Indiana on social media for ways you can get your friends involved. 

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.

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.   

IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO EMAIL IPS LEADERS

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.   

JOIN ME, EMAIL IPS LEADERS TODAY