Change comes amid national study giving some of Indiana’s largest teachers colleges ‘Fs’ for their training approach to teaching literacy

INDIANAPOLIS – A new law passed in April by the Indiana General Assembly calls for a review of whether educator preparation programs are training their teacher candidates in the science of reading, a vast body of research that details how the human brain learns to read and write. According to a newly released national study, this state review is desperately needed when it comes to some of Indiana’s largest teacher prep programs.

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) issued a report this week that gave educator preparation programs at Ball State University and Indiana University-Bloomington — among the largest teachers colleges in the state — an “F” grade for not introducing key concepts related to evidence-based reading instruction. NCTQ’s research also detailed higher education institutions doing the best when it comes to training future educators on the science of reading, including Marian University, Evansville University and Purdue University – Northwest.

Under HEA 1558, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) will review accredited educator preparation programs specifically for whether curriculum and teaching practices align with the science of reading. Under the law, the IDOE can require an improvement plan from any institution falling short in its instruction around teaching literacy, as well as revoke state accreditation from educator preparation programs that fail to meet requirements.

“NCTQ’s recent report shows that some of our largest teacher prep programs appear to be virtually ignoring teaching evidence-based literacy practices to future educators,” said Stand for Children Indiana Executive Director Justin Ohlemiller. “If we’re going to address the literacy crisis in our state, it’s going to take a significant change in approach from those who are responsible for training our educators of the future.”

Only 33% of Indiana 4th graders are reading proficiently according to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).

Indiana’s review of teacher preparation programs will take place in 2024, according to the new science of reading law passed by lawmakers in April.

Stand for Children Indiana joined with partners last legislative session in rallying parents, teachers and education leaders to support HEA 1558, which creates new guidelines and requirements to ensure instructional practices in classrooms align with the science of reading.

In addition to the changes to Indiana law, the IDOE is leading a significant effort to support early literacy improvements — including targeted investments to help higher education institutions improve their instruction around the science of reading. 


About Stand: Stand for Children Indiana is a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all. For more information, please visit:

INDIANAPOLIS – The following statement was issued today by Stand for Children Indiana’s Executive Director Justin Ohlemiller after the passage of House Enrolled Act 1558, along with funding in the state budget for early literacy grants. The legislative package, in its entirety, aims to dramatically improve the state’s approach to classroom instruction related to reading. The legislation is now headed to Governor Holcomb for signature.

“We are grateful to the Indiana General Assembly for their work to address our state’s literacy crisis through House Enrolled Act 1558 and the creation of a $20 million annual grant fund to improve classroom instruction grounded in the science of reading. It is nothing short of a tragedy that only 31% of Hoosier students are proficient readers, according to NAEP data. The system has failed so many of our young people for generations, relying on unproven – and even harmful – instructional approaches to reading. We’ve also failed our educators too, having sent them into classrooms without the training and knowledge needed to help struggling readers.

“We cannot address the huge gaps in educational opportunity until we ensure all children have a strong foundation in literacy. We know from decades of brain research that there is a right way and wrong way to teach children to read. House Enrolled Act 1558 sets the stage for schools to use curricula and instructional practices rooted in science. The bill and as well as the grant fund support the ongoing work of Secretary Katie Jenner and the Indiana Department of Education to give educators the tools and training they need to help struggling readers much more effectively.

“Stand for Children Indiana is so appreciative for the work and leadership of legislators like bill author Rep. Jake Teshka, bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Freeman, Chairman Bob Behning, Chairman Jeff Raatz, Sen. Linda Rogers and Sen. Andrea Hunley. Their diligent work will ensure Indiana’s approach to literacy gets a significant boost from the policy outlined this legislative session. We also want to thank Secretary Jenner for her leadership on the issue, as well as the Lilly Endowment for their significant investment in increasing evidence-based reading practices in Indiana classrooms.”


About Stand: Stand for Children Indiana is a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all.

Sherry Holmes, George Washington Carver School 87 parent, pictured above.

INDIANAPOLIS – Stand for Children Indiana (Stand Indiana) today announced a gift of $50,000 to the Vote Yes for IPS political action committee to support the district’s 2023 Capital Referendum.

The PAC contribution was supported by Stand Indiana parent advocates, who met in March to discuss the organization’s position on the May 2 referendum. During their meeting, parents discussed the dire need for improvements and their ultimate wish for every student enrolled in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) to have facilities that support learning and the health and safety of young people. 

Some Stand Indiana parents have children in buildings that are slated for improvements as part of the capital referendum, while others spoke to the community benefits of having improved facilities in neighborhoods across Indianapolis.  

“I support the capital referendum because all IPS kids deserve a safe place to learn,” Edison School of the Arts parent Swantella Nelson said. “I hate to think that any IPS kid is learning in a building that isn’t secure or has major safety issues.”  

“There are huge disparities between IPS and school districts just north of us,” George Washington Carver 87 parent Sherry Holmes said. “My kids attend a school that I love, but [the building] needs much better security and classrooms that are a comfortable temperature.  

“Kids 30 minutes away attend schools that are luxurious in comparison and give them huge advantages solely based on their ZIP codes,” Holmes continued. “Those advantages equal opportunity. I support the IPS capital referendum because our kids deserve an upgrade, and they even deserve more.”  

“As parents, we want our children to have quality buildings and attend safe schools,” Ana Delgado, a parent at The PATH School at Stephen Foster 67, said.

“Sometimes it feels like we are so far from reaching the things other districts in higher income ZIP codes have but I think if we all vote to pass it, this referendum helps so many IPS children have better places to learn,” Delgado said.  

In December 2022, the IPS Board of School Commissioners unanimously approved a $410 million capital referendum, which will be placed on the May 2 ballot. A facilities study conducted by IPS shows that more than 30% of IPS buildings are currently rated in “poor” condition. If passed, the 2023 Capital Referendum will allow IPS to bring all IPS elementary and middle school buildings to “good” status within eight (8) years.

Justin Ohlemiller, Stand for Children Indiana Executive Director, released the following statement today regarding the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Board of School Commissioners delaying the vote on the proposed operating referendum:

“Advocates and parents affiliated with Stand for Children Indiana appreciate the decision by IPS Superintendent Dr. Johnson and the board of commissioners to delay the operating referendum vote today.

“We know this was a tough decision to pause the referendum. Dr. Johnson’s comments this morning were on point: we have a complex education system that doesn’t always prioritize the best interests of children, and we have to come together to address the myriad challenges.

“This move today by IPS leaders will allow the tough but critical community conversations to happen to get this plan right.

“Stand for Children and our network of parents are committed to supporting IPS and its leaders as the hard work continues to create a plan that funds our public schools equitably and prioritizes closing opportunity gaps.”


January 18, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS – Parent advocates affiliated with Stand for Children Indiana (Stand Indiana) asked the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) board last night to continue delaying the proposed operating referendum until a plan to equitably share funding is presented.

The current proposal being considered by the IPS Board of Commissioners would give nearly double the funding from the referendum to direct-run IPS schools, leaving innovation schools in IPS with significantly less money. Innovation schools are IPS schools operated by non-profit partners. These schools serve a higher percentage of Black and Brown students, as well as a higher ratio of children from low-income backgrounds compared to IPS direct-run schools.

“The fact is more students of color attend our innovation and charter schools. But IPS’s plan would send nearly $1,000 less per child to innovation schools,” said IPS dad Dontia Dyson. “As a parent – and taxpayer – how can I support a plan that means my child might not benefit as much depending on the school they attend? How can I be expected to pay for a plan that picks winners and losers among our kids?”

Parent advocate LaToya Tahirou told the board that her experience as childcare provider provides a perspective that the board should consider when making its decision.

“[Being a childcare provider] has allowed me to love and care for kids who may not share my blood, but are still part of my family – part of my community,” Tahirou said. “When they are in my care, I would do whatever is needed to keep a child safe and [to support them] . . . Because every child is worthy of love and deserves our collective effort to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed.”

Tahirou continued, “We need a plan for this operating referendum that is founded on this core value: All children in our community are part of the IPS family, worthy of our love and our resources. Right now, the plan for this referendum picks winners and losers among our young people – all because of a label we place on the building they enter. This is not moral. And it’s not right.”

Stand for Children sent a letter to the IPS board in December signed by several parents, teachers and stakeholders asking for the board to hold off on any vote until all schools received an equitable share of the referendum proceeds. To date, the IPS plan still leaves a more than $900 gap per child between innovation schools and traditional schools. That gap equates to millions of dollars in additional money being sent to certain schools in IPS, while others are left to operate with less resources.


About Stand: Stand for Children Indiana is a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all.


INDIANAPOLIS – The following statement was issued today by Stand for Children Indiana’s Executive Director Justin Ohlemiller in response to the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) board of commissioners removing the operating referendum from the meeting agenda tonight:

“We appreciate Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson and the IPS board for removing the referendum from tonight’s agenda. With a major investment like this, which taxpayers will be asked to pay meaningful dollars on the promise of improved opportunities for IPS students, it’s critical that we get this right. That means ensuring the funding is shared to benefit every IPS student equally, no matter what type of school they attend.

“There’s certainly more work ahead to address concerns that have been voiced these last few weeks. That work will hopefully be made easier by giving parents and community partners more time to ask questions and share feedback on the referendum. We look forward to the ongoing discussions between the district, parents, school leaders and community partners. We remain hopeful that changes can be made that will allow our organization to eventually get behind this major investment in IPS. The dialogue over the next few weeks will be crucial.”


About Stand: Stand for Children Indiana is a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all.

INDIANAPOLIS – Parents and community advocates affiliated with local education advocacy organization Stand for Children Indiana are praising district leaders for the language justice policy set to be voted on at the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) board action session this evening.

Parents have been steadfast in their advocacy surrounding the need for schools to breakdown language barriers that prevent parents and students — especially immigrants— from fully realizing educational opportunity. Parents also raised the need for more cultural competency in IPS, accounting for the unique challenges that come with the immigrant experience. Parents believe this policy is a solid step in the right direction, and they applauded Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson and the IPS board for their commitment to better serving IPS families.

“Parents, including myself, have fought long and hard for a language justice policy,” said IPS parent Ana Delgado. “I am grateful with all my heart that the district took the time to hear our concerns and thoughts. Thank you for listening to us.”

“I truly appreciate IPS leaders for taking this step towards addressing gaps in serving the ELL community,” said Stand for Children Indiana organizer and IPS parent Carolina Figueroa. “I am proud of the community and IPS parents for speaking up and seeking this language justice policy. As long as we keep working together, we will be on the right path to create a more inclusive environment for our immigrant communities. Thank you IPS leaders!”

The policy, if approved, will:

  • Establish that IPS recognizes the impact of language differences and sees language justice as a key part of the district’s DEI values.
  • Set forth a process for IPS to create a plan to move toward language justice, which “is the practice of ensuring people can communicate effectively, understand information, and be understood using the language in which they feel most comfortable,” according to the IPS draft policy.
  • Establish a community taskforce to inform the planning process.
  • Call for annual updates on language justice from the superintendent to the board.


About Stand for Children Indiana: Stand for Children Indiana is a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all.

INDIANAPOLIS – A group of parents, teachers and community advocates affiliated with local education advocacy organization Stand for Children Indiana have sent a letter to IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson and the Board of Commissioners requesting that they delay any action on the $800 million referendum until key questions and concerns can be addressed.

The letter states three clear reasons for delaying the vote:

  1. The district’s strategic plan, which the referendum will fund, still ignores the board’s own goals around Black and Brown student achievement by growing school models that actually feature increasingly large opportunity gaps while leaving out plans to scale data-proven public school models like Paramount.
  2. Innovation schools in IPS will get significantly less money compared to traditional schools, despite being part of IPS and serving district students. The funding gap means non-innovation schools in IPS would receive approximately $1,650 more per student.
  3. The significant tax increase to fund the referendum could have a disproportionate impact on low-income families in IPS – the very communities the district is trying to serve. There needs to be more study on the economic impact the referendum will have on those struggling to make ends meet as inflation remains at historic levels.

The letter also makes clear that the parents, teachers and grandparents who signed want to get to a place of supporting the referendum, provided their concerns are addressed:

“We are supportive of investing in our public schools. We believe in IPS and we want nothing more than this district to become the best in our state when it comes to student achievement,” the letter reads. “Some of us actively supported the 2018 referenda as a part of local advocacy group Stand for Children Indiana, which was the single largest supporter of that initiative. We want to get to a place of supporting this plan too. Our request is simply to slow this process down to allow for the public to appropriately review the referenda proposal and to also allow time to address the concerns we’ve raised . . .”


Stand for Children Indiana is a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all.