Over the summer, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners voted in favor of the expansion of districtwide Racial Equity training from the Racial Equity Institute (REI) to ensure that our educators and staff are meeting the needs of our students. Here’s an update on Phase I of our implementation of the REI model. 
 
Phase I of the expansion plan included the construction of a Racial Equity team to spearhead equity initiatives throughout the district, building a network of pilot schools to implement racial equity practices and developing youth trainers at the secondary school level.
 

Well into their second year of equity focused support, the Office of Multicultural Education is nearing the end of Phase I. Nine schools have chosen to be active participants in our racial equity pilot cohort and almost every staff member of each school has completed their training. With a clear understanding of how organizations and systems are producing unjust and inequitable outcomes, participants of Phase I are able to begin a journey to work toward social transformation and racial justice. The schools within the pilot cohort are:

  1. Charles W. Fairbanks School 105
  2. George Washington Community High School
  3. Rousseau McClellan School 91
  4. Clarence Farrington School 61
  5. Francis W. Parker School 56
  6. George W. Fisher School 93
  7. Daniel Webster School 46
  8. Eleanor Skillen School 34
  9. Stephen Foster School 67
Indianapolis Public Schools is excited to be a trailblazer in this effort as we strive to create a community where student outcomes cannot be predicted by race or ethnicity, but there are still challenges that we must overcome. A number of participants in the pilot schools are facing challenges as they work through equity training. Often poverty is thought to be synonymous with low performance and minority students; to address this thought process, training for staff members include in-depth discussions on cognitive dissonance – the mental conflict that one experiences when they are presented with evidence that opposes what they hold as truth in their belief system.
 
Although there is much work to be done, we are beginning to see signs of growth. For many, the subject of race, racial equity or racial disproportionalities can be uncomfortable, but discussion and acknowledgement of the topic is critical in order to raise the academic achievement levels of the students that we serve. “[Although it is too early to see a full turn around] we are achieving small victories in our efforts. At this point we want to see a raise in conversation, we want people to be comfortable talking about it,” said Dr. Patricia Payne, Special Assignment Administrator in the Office of Multicultural Education.
 

The growth continues this summer as we roll out the third segment of the expansion plan; trainers from REI will educate youth leaders at the secondary school level to develop youth trainers. The new youth trainers will have the ability to share their experience and knowledge with other high school students throughout the district. By implementing this full analysis of racism and studying its cultural and historic roots, we can develop plans for change. Thanks to the support of the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, IPS can shift our thinking and elevate our understanding of racism so that we can foster positive learning environments and improve academic achievement for all students.