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Indiana NAACP releases plan to address racial inequities in education | Politics








Rep. Robin Shackleford, chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, speaks at the April 21 Facebook Live release of the Indiana Black Academic Excellence Plan. The plan details ways that the governor, legislators, the department of education and community members can help Black Hoosier students reach equity in education.



INDIANAPOLIS—Black Hoosier students perform worse on standardized testing than their white peers. The Indiana State Conference of the NAACP is calling upon lawmakers, the governor’s office, the department of education and the community to work towards equity for these students.

Gwen Kelley of the Greater Indianapolis NAACP served as lead editor of the plan. Kelley displayed data from school testing to show the disparities between Black and white students.

In 2019, only 8% of Black 10th graders passed the state’s math standardized testing. Nearly half of all students in the state passed the same test.

“This data speaks volumes,” Kelley said. “This is a problem, and if it is not addressed, it will not be fixed.”

One benchmark of the plan is to realize double-digit increases in test results. The comprehensive, multi-step document includes concepts like mandating full-day kindergarten and offering full-day pre-K, supporting social and emotional learning, and providing equitable funding and adequate support personnel in schools.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson spoke in support of the plan, saying that a lot of the ideas are ones IPS has implemented or intends to.

“We should not accept as normal data that overwhelmingly shows that we must act with boldness and urgency,” Johnson said.

A major goal outlined in the plan is to address the divide caused by access to technology and internet for schoolwork. One speaker said they know of students who sit in the McDonald’s lobby in order to get homework done.

Working with Holcomb and the Department of Education

The plan requires the governor to establish closing the academic and opportunity gap as a strategic target, along with the department of education.

Some items on the list are directed towards the Indiana Department of Education, like making the department’s data more transparent and accessible for community members. The plan suggests the department provide culturally responsive professional development to staff and hire a legislated education equity officer.

In 2020, Holcomb announced the state would have its first chief equity, diversity and opportunity officer and later chose Karrah Herring for the role. Kelley said Herring is doing wonderfully in the role, but the state needs someone specifically focusing on diversity and inclusion in education.

Parts of the plan seek to refocus on implementing Indiana’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act. The next is to establish regular meetings between the Indiana Department of Education, the governor’s office and Secretary of Education Katie Jenner. 

Addressing issues in the legislature

Some speakers during the webinar said the legislature did not adequately address issues in education in the 2022 legislative session. Instead, the focus was on bills like House Bill 1134, which ultimately died.

“We need to take this plan very seriously,” Mark Russell, director of education and family services for the Indianapolis Urban League said. “We need to stop being sidetracked by issues that are not relevant and are just political games that are being played upon students who are the most vulnerable.”

Members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, including chair Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, attended the Facebook Live Event. Shackleford said this issue will be a legislative priority for the caucus in the 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

“The 15 strategies here are a start, and the IBLC is here to help,” Shackleford said.

Taylor Wooten is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

Taylor Wooten is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.



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