June 25, 2020

IPS Leaders Lean Into Position On Racial Equity

The IPS Board of Commisioners at its action meeting, Thursday, June 25, 2020. - Vimeo

The IPS Board of Commisioners at its action meeting, Thursday, June 25, 2020.

Updated 9:49 p.m. Thursday, June 25, 2020

Indianapolis Public Schools leaders are leaning into their position on racial equity and racism.

The Board Of Commissioners approved a policy approach Thursday that directly addresses institutional racism. It seeks to end disparities among Black and Latinx students, compared to their white peers.

Superintendent Aleesia Johnson already sought to make equity the lens for all district decisions, since becoming superintendent last year. She says the goal is to provide an environment where student outcomes cannot be predicted by race or ethnicity.

She said, while racial equity has been the goal, the national and local movement for racial justice make it apparent the district should more clearly stakeout its stance.

“How we are working to become an anti-racist organization, and the fact that racial equity is the foundation, really, of being a district that can serve all of our students well,” she said Tuesday.

The document states the IPS Board acknowledges the history of racism and legalized segregation in Indianapolis and the district’s own past of “actively participating in maintaining a system of racial inequality” in the city.

The document calls for the district to reduce “bias, particularly racism and cultural bias, as well as factors affecting student achievement and learning experiences, and to promote learning and work environments that respect and value diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”

Commissioner Diane Arnold said it’s important for the district to recognize and discuss racist board policies of the past.

“Our children have been harmed, and we’ve made progress, and I’m so optimistic that moving forward with this we are going to be at a place we need to be for our students," she said.

Johnson said the document will help guide future policy decisions, such as how to address enrollment inequity at high performing magnet schools, or how certain school buildings should be used as the district considers possible closures.

The IPS Board Of Commissioners unanimously approved the document Thursday. Johnson asked the board to waive a 30-day review period and take action Thursday.

Some of the actions detailed in the proposed Racial Equity Mindset, Commitment & Action Policy include:

  • Annual disaggregated reports on student academic performance, attendance and discipline.
  • Teach students with culturally relevant curriculums.
  • Increase the diversity of candidates for job openings.
  • Advocate for legislation addresses inequities, such as poverty, homelessness and food insecurity.

“We are being intentional about supporting teachers of color, staff of color and being a part of the district,” Johnson said. “How we are addressing disparities and disproportionality.”

The policy also defines a set of words, such as ethnicity, racism, privilege, implicit bias, racial disparity and white supremacy.

The board also approved the "Black Lives Matter" resolution.

In part, the resolution states: "Black lives matter. Every student is capable of success, deserving of respect, and valuable to our community. To believe that black lives matter – and to put that belief into action – means to commit ourselves to a radical refusal to give up on any student, to hand them over to a criminal justice system that doesn’t share our values, or return them to communities that lack the resources to support the realization of their fullest potential."

The resolution calls for the district to recognize Juneteenth as a district holiday and review the names of all district buildings during the upcoming school year.

Additionally the district will hire a Chicago-based education management company, Promise 54, to conduct a diversity audit, equity and inclusion audits, and other internal reviews.

The disparity revealed in passing rates on standardized tests for students of color and white students has persisted for years at Indianapolis Public Schools and other Marion County school districts. IPS results from last year’s ILEARN exam found 32 percent of white students passed both the English and math portions of the test, compared to less than 7 percent of Black students.

Since 2015, IPS has sought to bring racial inequities to the forefront of its reform efforts. Through a partnership with the national Racial Equity Institute, it also increased training for teachers and staff.

The values laid out in the document are for all IPS employees, Innovation Network School employees and community partners.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.


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