I spoke at the State Board of Education meeting today because I support our teachers and schools having science-based training and curriculum that will support all Indiana children in becoming skilled readers. 

Watch the video of my testimony here:

I have always admired teachers. I know how hard they work and how much they care about students. My time tutoring only reinforced how much I appreciate the work of our educators.  I believe that in the long-run, changing how our state teaches children to read will only benefit our classrooms and our teachers, who I know care about our kids and want all the tools they can get to help struggling readers in their classrooms. 

I know there has been some pushback about the new literacy endorsement teachers need, and I won’t pretend to know all of the politics at play here. But as a parent who cares about kids in Indiana and as a person who has seen firsthand how the reading crisis in our state is impacting children, I wanted to be here to say our kids deserve more. Our kids deserve proven methods in reading instruction so they have fair chances at successful futures. 

That’s why I support the efforts being made by state leaders to ensure our tremendous educators have the support they need to help our most struggling readers.    

I want to see Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) close the opportunity gap by growing schools that work, regardless of the type of public school.

Watch this to learn why:

All children are capable of amazing achievement in the classroom. It comes down to the opportunities provided by our public education system.

In my last video post, I shared some of the details surrounding my journey with advocacy.

I know that a child getting a quality education can be the difference between them having a life of poverty or a life of prosperity.

Watch this short video to learn why I want to see IPS schools grow school models that are proven to close the opportunity gap. After you watch, please join me and ask IPS leaders to grow schools that work. I know that all children can thrive if given equitable opportunities to succeed.

For years now, I’ve advocated that kids in every neighborhood have access to a great school. I’ve advocated for failing schools to model after successful ones that close the opportunity or achievement gap because I know all too well the gaps that exist in many of our schools.

This January, I testified at the State Board of Education meeting because I want to see that change and because I believe it is important to keep our state’s A-F letter grades and relaunch an accountability system that puts the proper focus on closing unjust opportunity gaps.

WATCH MY TESTIMONY HERE:

READ MY SPEECH

I would like to thank Secretary Jenner and the State Board of Education for the opportunity to speak today. My name is LaToya Tahirou. I have 3 beautiful children, two are school-aged and one has graduated.

For years now, I’ve advocated that kids in every neighborhood have access to a great school. I’ve advocated for failing schools to model after successful ones that close the opportunity or achievement gap because I know all too well the gaps that exist in many of our schools.

I am here today because I want to see that change and because I believe it is important to keep our state’s A-F letter grades and relaunch an accountability system that puts the proper focus on closing unjust opportunity gaps. A-F grades for schools and districts are a system people know, and these grades, when they meant something, helped parents like me choose our schools, as well as advocate for positive changes in our struggling schools. It provides a sense of urgency around the schools that need more supports and resources and our children receiving a great education is urgent.

The quality education my children do or do not receive is a catalyst for them to have a better life.

Consider single-parent households, consider the kids who come from great disparities, and consider families who do not speak English before you consider moving forward with an accountability system. People who live in struggling communities are already bogged down with life’s struggles. These families need a simplified system – that’s why A – F grades in school accountability are important.

I remember sitting in a board room, not unlike this one, when my oldest daughter was still in elementary school. I sat there crying as they told me that the school she was attending, a school I was at one time excited for her to attend, had been failing for years.

As they read their statistics, I felt hopeless – she had already been in several schools—all in an effort to find the right fit for her. But I knew that my voice mattered in making positive change. I also knew that the school was in transition. A model was put in place to help turn the school around.

I learned about our A-F grading system around this time and it was a driver for the change I would continue to advocate for.

Since that meeting, I’ve spoken at too many press conferences and school board meetings to count. I’ve advocated for high-quality schools in every corner of my community in every way I know how. I was able to place my two youngest children in a school that is the right fit for them – a school doing a much better job of closing opportunity gaps compared to the other schools around us.

As you work to revamp the current system that has been stuck in giving out null-grades, I hope there are no plans to abolish the A-F system. Instead, I would like to see it improved. I would like to see more transparency around the data that determines the letter grade. I would like to see opportunity gap data count toward a school’s grade.

Parents need to know how schools are doing.

Thank you.

I spoke at the IPS board meeting in December because I want to see the IPS board create a values statement that details how IPS can deepen and strengthen partnerships with our public charter schools. We are so much stronger when we work together.

WATCH MY TESTIMONY HERE:

READ WHAT I ASKED IPS LEADERS

Good evening Superintendent Johnson and IPS board members,

My name is Dontia Dyson and I am an IPS father. My son attends Matchbook Learning and is in kindergarten. My youngest son will attend the same school when he is of age.  My daughter previously attended this school as well as Longfellow –she is now in high school.

I have stood at this podium several times over the past few years. At times I have advocated for our innovation schools to have equitable funding. Other times, I have advocated for you to grow schools that are closing the opportunity gap. I have advocated for more funding and resources for SPED students and staff.

I am here tonight with a request that I think touches nearly everything I have ever advocated for – something I know many parents are asking you to consider.

I see that this district is doing some excellent and innovative things – I see many of our public charter schools doing the same – and I want to see this board create a values statement that details how IPS can deepen and strengthen partnerships with our public charter schools. We are so much stronger when we work together.

It shouldn’t be public charter schools versus IPS schools. At the end of the day—what truly matters is that every student in Indianapolis gets a great education –gets an equitable education. The debate over public school type is causing friction where there needs to be collaboration.

I understand attempts to partner have had bumps in the road at times – but I also think we need to put the past in the past. We need to do whatever it takes to move forward. We must reconcile for the sake of the kids.

We should all be striving to ensure every school is a great place for our kids. We should all want to learn from schools that are doing great things—closing opportunity gaps –and providing a world-class curriculum for our students. We should all want to learn from the school doing the best for our SPED students and ELL students –regardless of the school type. We should be partnering with, growing and learning from schools that are closing the opportunity gaps.

We truly are better when we work together. Please create a statement that spells out how IPS plans to strengthen our partnerships with public charter schools.

Thank you.

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is witnessing the power of believing. Whether it’s a child’s joy from their belief in the magic that comes with this time of year, or a parent’s focus on the hope of what the New Year will bring – there’s a belief that powers us.

But when we don’t believe – in each other or in ourselves – it can drain us and make it hard to find hope. I was a parent who didn’t believe in my ability to advocate and make a difference.

I knew my kids were not getting what they needed in their schools, but I didn’t think I was educated enough or the right person to push for changes. I didn’t know the power of my personal story. But those days are over thanks to my hard work and the support of Stand for Children Indiana.   

Thanks to the training, coaching and compassion of my “Stand family,” I believe I am more than enough to lead the change I seek in our schools and community. I have made advocacy a top priority, and we’re seeing critical improvements by pushing the system to truly put kids first.   

As this year comes to a close, please consider making a tax-deductible donation. It is through donations that Stand Indiana is able to help parents like me believe in the innate power and gifts we hold inside ourselves to stand up and push for more just and equitable public schools.

If you’re unable to donate but have two minutes, please consider posting this donation page to social media: https://donate.stand.org/a/c3-iN

I hope you have a warm and peaceful holiday season and a Happy New Year.

I know firsthand what is on the other side of not getting a great education that sets you up for success. I know what it is to work multiple jobs and still struggle to pay bills. I know how hard it was to get my life back on track.


I went to an IPS high school, and I dropped out my junior year. I went down a path in the name of survival but eventually found my way back to solid ground. I went back to school and received my diploma after my daughter was born. It was both incredibly hard and incredibly rewarding.

My daughter is now an IPS student.

As a parent, I want to see the opportunity gap close in IPS because I want my daughter to have a better life than I had. I don’t want her to struggle—to have to work as hard. I want her to be more successful at a younger age. I want her to graduate with a great education and go on to fulfill her dreams.

But more than just for my daughter, I believe that all kids in the IPS district deserve an equitable education.

There are schools here in Indianapolis that are doing a better job of closing opportunity gaps and I hope IPS will look at those examples and decide to partner with them or grow their models.

If we don’t close this gap, we are handing our kids right on over to the streets. We are inviting the school-to-prison pipeline. Closing the opportunity gaps in the IPS district would not only help end the cycle of poverty, but it would also help our community thrive. Closing the opportunity gap gives our children something incredible. It gives our children and our community hope.

If you also want IPS to close the opportunity gap by growing proven schools, please join me and add your name to this petition before it closes.

All children are capable of amazing achievement in the classroom. It comes down to the opportunities provided by our public education system.