Feb 8, 2024 - News

Parents call on IPS to replicate high-performing charters

A group of people standing in front of a microphone. Some are holding signs.

Parents presented a petition with more than 1,000 signatures to IPS board members (right). Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

A group of parents has collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition calling for Indianapolis Public Schools to move more aggressively in partnering with high-performing charter schools.

State of play: The group delivered the petition, which asks the district to expand access to school models where Black and Latino students are performing well — in part by partnering with successful charter schools — to school board members yesterday.

By the numbers: Only 5.4% of Black students and 8.3% of Latino students in IPS passed both the English and math portions of the ILEARN exam in 2023.

  • Yes, but: Pass rates were 5-10 times higher at Indianapolis schools where Black students performed best.
  • Schools where Latino students did best had pass rates 3-8 times higher.
  • In each case, four out of five of those schools were charter schools unaffiliated with IPS.

Between the lines: IPS has historically cooperated with charter schools — typically seen as competitors to traditional public schools — but tension that has grown over the last year doesn't seem to be easing.

  • The petition comes after months of public demonstration at school board meetings, and a statement from the district called the parent group "local representatives of a national advocacy group."
  • The parents were organized by nonprofits Stand for Children Indiana and EmpowerED Families with support from The Mind Trust – groups that work to teach parents from underrepresented communities how to advocate for their children.

What they're saying: "This is a petition rooted in hope, and a belief that we can and will do better to educate our most underserved and under-resourced students," said Ashley Thomas, a parent who moved her children from IPS to area charter schools.

  • Those who signed the petition are calling on the district to prioritize children's education, rather than school type, she said.

The other side: Board members who accepted the petition said it was too soon to say how, if at all, the requests would change the district's plans.

  • "Every family in Indianapolis wants great choices at great schools, and that is what our district has been wholly focused on since 2015," superintendent Aleesia Johnson said in a statement. "Our North Star will continue to be keeping our commitment to great schools, in every neighborhood, for every student."

Context: Johnson joined IPS to lead its partnership with charter schools, but the district has slowed the pace of adding new schools and partnerships to its innovation network.

  • The Rebuilding Stronger plan IPS began implementing last year was launched in response to the educational damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to better serve the minority students that IPS primarily serves.

Threat level: The parent group said it wants to see a plan by June and would not support any future property tax hikes without it.

  • IPS spiked an operating referendum ballot initiative last year after pushback from charter schools and parents over how the district would share the proceeds with charters.
  • An existing operating referendum is in place through 2026.
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