The email we sent advocates about the Rebuilding Stronger plan

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

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