Tonight’s briefing session: 10-27-2015

The outcome may not have been perfect, but I think that the community’s involvement in the current agenda before the board has had some positive effect.  Following the forcible removal of Larry Vaughn, a well-known community activist, the board heard several other thoughtful delegations from community members on both sides of the issue.  There was a sizeable crowd present.  All seats appeared to be taken, and there were a few folks standing in the back and out in the lobby.  There was some media coverage of the issues before and after the meeting via WRTV6, Chalkbeat, and WFYI.

The result?

  1.  The board agreed to postpone voting on the move of school 70 to locate CFI #4 in Meridian Kessler.  That vote will take place FOLLOWING community conversations with schools scheduled November 2, 3, and 4.  However, voting on the closure of the Key School will continue as planned for Thursday.
  2. The board also agreed to retain some critically important policy language that speaks to diversity and inclusion:

“The Board believes that a high quality education is most effective in a diverse setting. Therefore, a major purpose of this policy is to promote diversity and avoid the isolation of students of both genders and different racial, ethnic, socio­economic, limited English proficient, and other special needs backgrounds. Diversity for purposes of this policy refers to the inclusion of students of both genders and different racial, ethnic, socio­economic, limited English proficient, and other special needs backgrounds. IPS must respond to the needs of all children in a setting that does not isolate, stereotype, or fail to educate them effectively. Diverse and integrated schooling has inherent educational value from the standpoint of education’s role in a democratic society. The survival and vigor of democracy depends upon an educated citizenry with shared concerns about the welfare of society, its members, and the democratic principles that govern it. Diversity brings different viewpoints and experiences to classrooms discussions and thereby enhances the educational process. It also fosters racial and cultural understanding, which is particularly important in a racially and culturally diverse society. In addition, research shows that integrated education expands post­secondary opportunities for diverse populations. A policy that supports quality education in a diverse and integrated setting for all students will positively affect students who will live and work together in a culturally diverse society and enhance their educational success.”

The same policy language also directs the Superintendent to enact targeted recruitment if there is under-representation of any student groups in magnet enrollment.

Rather than do away with all of the policies addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion, the board agreed to have a revision drafted for consideration on Thursday which will include the language above.  (YAY!!)


Here are my commissioner comments in their entirety:

“Tonight’s agenda is problematic on a number of levels.  It’s problematic because 1) it marginalizes children of color in order to accommodate a small select group of white, middle to upper class children and families – 2) the process by which we assign students to magnet schools in this district does not alleviate DOCUMENTED disproportionate numbers of white students in our most desirable magnet programs and 3) it’s a huge problem for me that no input was sought from school communities and families on this important decision to close a school, move a school, and locate a new CFI about a mile away from an already existing CFI school.

So, to my first point, the proposal from the administration that was just introduced to the board last Monday will close the Key School (80% minority pop), move school 70 (90% minority pop), in order to be able to locate another CFI school on the north side. Despite the claims from the IPS administration that the students on the waiting list primarily live on the north side, only about ¼  to 1/3 of the 310 kids waiting live in Meridian Kessler, Butler Tarkington, or Broad Ripple areas.  Besides, the north side already has several high performing school options including CFI 84 (which is 82% white) and the Butler Lab School, (58%) white.  Keep in mind that the entire district is 20% white – which speaks to a high concentration, or disproportionality, in relation to the overall enrollment of students in the district. 

This move is continuing a pattern of “building grabs” that was initiated last year when Gambold, the CFI-feeder high school, was moved from out on west 38th Street to displace an existing program at Shortridge High School. 

My second point is that we need to examine the root cause of this inequity.  How did we get to this point?  It lies in the way in which students who apply to magnet schools get placed into the schools.  This week we will be asked to vote to remove language from an existing policy on assignment to magnet schools- board policy 5120 – this language reads, “5. The Superintendent shall evaluate the extent to which the applicant pool for each magnet and option program reflects the diversity of the District as a whole. If an identifiable group of students is substantially under-­represented in the applicant pool for any magnet or option program, the Superintendent shall direct targeted recruiting of applicants from the under­-represented group before the random selection process begins.”  I see a huge problem in removing language from this policy which serves to protect the kinds of demographics that we see now.

Further, the tiered system of preference that determines who gets seats in our magnet programs perpetuates inequity.  The first seats go to siblings of currently enrolled students.  After they are placed, then seats go to kids living within the proximity boundary, which right now is a mile.  After that a larger geographical boundary is considered, and finally preference is given to IPS employees children.  Only then are remaining seats available to the broader magnet school applicant pool.  This current tiered system of preference does nothing but perpetuate huge gaps in access for students of color, and all but ensures that our magnets do not become more racially integrated.  One of the intended purposes of magnet schools nationwide was to integrate urban school systems, and other cities have achieved some success.  That is not the case in Indianapolis – and it will not be if we are eliminating language from our policies to address under-representation.

Third, in the age of ‘IPS transparency’, I am very disappointed in the fact that the IPS board (or, at least, I) was unaware of this plan until last Monday.  Even more disconcerting is the fact that families at all of the affected schools are not scheduled to have any discussion until the week after the vote is already done. 

Look, I am just one voice up here.  When I am done speaking, the audience will be inundated with plenty of reasoning as to why this is a good idea. A lot of that commentary will choose to focus on grade level configurations on the setup of different buildings.  Comments may also include data about the high number of minority children enrolled in other schools or magnet programs – WHICH – is NOT disproportionate BECAUSE IT CLOSELY REFLECTS THE OVERALL ENROLLMENT OF IPS AT 75% MINORITY.  But it’s past time for us to confront the real, underlying issues at hand here.  Are we going to continue to marginalize and disenfranchise our 75% black and brown kids for the comfort and convenience of a few?

I WILL NOT.”


Thanks, community, for your support and attention to what is happening with IPS.  Stay engaged!!  The vote on the fate of school 70 and the new CFI will be taken at 6pm on November 9th.  It is also a public meeting allowing for comment.  I hope that you all will continue to make your voices heard.

(My views are my own and do not reflect those of the IPS board as a governing entity.)

Comments or Questions?  Email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

Who are IPS’s magnet schools supposed to attract??

As I outlined in my previous post Black Lives Matter, based on data taken directly from the Indiana Department of Education’s website, the IPS district has an overall black enrollment of 50%, a white enrollment of 20%, Hispanic enrollment of 23% (although that is technically not a race, but an ethnicity).

However, certain magnet programs in certain neighborhoods seem to have enrollments of white students that are disproportionate in relation to the numbers above – in particular, the highly popular Center for Inquiry (CFI) magnet programs.

There are currently three CFI schools:

CFI downtown at 725 N New Jersey……67% WHITE, 14% BLACK

CFI Meridian Kessler at 440 E. 57th…….82% WHITE, 7% BLACK

CFI in King Park/Fall Creek 545 E. 19th…….35% WHITE, 46% BLACK

(All data obtained from Indiana Dept. of Ed. Compass website)

Keeping the above demographic information in mind, why is the IPS administration proposing the addition of a fourth CFI school to be located at school 70, currently a performing arts magnet school at 510 E. 46th Street, about a mile away from the CFI school already existing in the Meridian Kessler area?  School 70’s student body is currently comprised of 75% BLACK students.  The entire school/student body of the existing school 70 will be moved to the Key School located at 777 S. White River Pkwy West Dr.  In order to make all of this possible, the students that are attending the Key school currently (69% BLACK) will have to find a new school – because the Key School program, a longstanding (20+ years) program based on Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, will be CLOSED.

The most damning part about ALL of this??  The parents at all of the affected schools will not have a chance to discuss until AFTER the board votes.  The parents at each school are not scheduled to be officially informed by the IPS administration until the first week of November.  The vote will be taken on October 29th at the Action Session, 6pm, 120 E. Walnut St.

On the Amos Brown show on Friday, October 23, IPS Superintendent stated that the reason that the school 70 location was chosen was because most of the kids on the CFI waiting list live nearer to school 70.  However, a map made public by IPS showing the distribution of all kids on the CFI waiting list simply does not corroborate that statement:

map8

To quote Amos Brown’s assessment of the distribution shown by the map, “Of the students on CFI’s waiting list who live in IPS, but 25% live in the Butler-Tarkington, Meridian/kessler or Broad Ripple neighborhoods. Some 37% live south of 10th and 16th Street. A figure that rises to 64% when you include students wanting to attend a CFI who live between 38th and 10th and 16th Streets. Just a quarter of the so-called demand for CFI lives in the so called priority northside areas IPS seems to be catering to. In fact looking at the a chart of where School 70 and where CFIs waiting list students live, it make a strong case for putting a fourth CFI school at the Key School location just south of downtown.”  (Excerpt from Amos Brown – 1310 Podcast)

In fact, before Amos aired this particular show, I made that exact same suggestion – why not put the new CFI at the Key School location?  My suggestion was summarily dismissed.

Why does it appear that the black community of Indianapolis is getting the short end of the educational stick…time and time again??  Even though black students comprise 50% (the majority) of the total student body of the IPS district?

About a year ago in 2014, we saw a similar “building grab” when Gambold (the IB High school which these CFI programs feed into) displaced a program and its student body at the prestigious and historical Shortridge High School.  The reason?  The principal stated that he was not getting good parental involvement out on the far west side.  He needed a building that was more “centrally located”.

In my opinion, there appears to be a pattern developing here.  School buildings that are located in middle to upper class (especially north side or gentrifying neighborhoods such as Fall Creek) can be given the boot at any time to make way for a school that serves predominantly white students.

Another significant root to this problem lies in the way that applications for admission to magnet programs are honored.  There is a tiered system of preference in place that dictates how students are placed into the magnet schools they’ve applied for:

magnet lottery logic

As you can see, the siblings of already existing students get first dibs on the available seats.  Second dibs go to those families that live with a mile radius of the school (although there is an argument about whether to draw that circle in even closer to the school).  Proposed for a vote next week is a third tier which would give preference to families who have been on a waiting list for multiple years and never gotten into their school of choice.  The fourth tier of preference refers to the school’s geographic boundaries (different from the smaller proximity circle).  The fifth and final tier of preference goes to children of IPS employees – and in the case of the Butler Lab School and Shortridge High School – preference to children of Butler University employees.  Only after all of these preferences are met will the magnet lottery consider admitting students from the wider, general pool of applications.

After reviewing the current board policy on student assignment to magnet programs, I found an interesting point that needs to be brought to light:

5. The Superintendent shall evaluate the extent to which the applicant pool for each magnet and option program reflects the diversity of the District as a whole. If an identifiable group of students is substantially under-represented in the applicant pool for any magnet or option program, the Superintendent shall direct targeted recruiting of applicants from the under-represented group before the random selection process begins.

As demonstrated above, the student bodies of CFI are not in proportion with the overall demographics of the district.  This board member wonders the extent to which this policy directive has been carried out, or will be carried out, in order to seek more integration in our magnet programs.  However, it is worth noting that this would only apply prior to the random selection process, which I assume would mean AFTER the application of all of the tiers outlined above.

Would you like to weigh in on this topic at the meeting next week?  The board is scheduled to have a briefing session on Tuesday, October 27th at 6pm, in which discussion will take place on the agenda items.  On Thursday, October 29th at 6pm, the board will vote on (but not really discuss) the agenda items.  The public has the right to sign up to delegate (speak for 3 minutes) on any topic on the agenda, or offer general comments.  Worth noting is the fact that Thursday’s action meeting is televised, but Tuesday’s briefing is not.  You can sign up by filling out the form at this link:

http://www.myips.org//cms/module/selectsurvey/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=267

Alternatively, you can sign up by calling 226-4418.

Do you have questions or comments for me directly?  Email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

In an attempt to end on a good note:

In other (national) news, it appears that we will soon be seeing an end to the era of “high-stakes” testing, with Obama’s goal being established that no more than 2% of classroom time be used in taking tests : http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/10/24/obama-schools-test/74536886/

Have you subscribed to my blog yet? You will be notified by email when a new blog comes out. You can do so by clicking the tab in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Watch for my next blog – it’s gonna be a doozy!!