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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

It’s time we drop ‘Indianapolis’ when talking about our public schools

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It’s time we take the “Indianapolis” out of the Indianapolis Public Schools.

That last sentence woke you up, got your attention and perhaps started your blood to boil. It should because it’s time for our city/county to have a blunt, honest conversation about our public schools. And in order to do that we must stop believing the fiction that the Indianapolis Public Schools are the only public schools in Indianapolis.

Many residents of Indianapolis, including Indianapolis Star editorial writers, editors and pundits, others in the media, and even many in our Black community believe that the IPS is THE public school system for this city. Since, UniGov in 1970, it hasn’t been.

When the city/county consolidated in 1970, the city/county’s 11 public school districts weren’t. That failure directly led to the decades- long school integration order, but it also warped our handling of public school issues.

When you look at the country’s largest cities, only the school systems of Indianapolis and Phoenix don’t encompass their city’s boundaries.

I deeply understand the emotional attachments African-Americans have towards the “Indianapolis” Public Schools. Schools whole generations of Black families attended. Schools that were beacons of light during Jim Crow darkness.

But, it’s time Indianapolis deals with some cold hard facts about public schools in 2010. The vast majority of public school students in this city/county don’t attend an IPS school.

It’s been that way for all students since 1982. It’s been that way for African-American students since 2003.

In this new 2010-2011 school year, just 22.6 percent of local public school students attend IPS. And only 32.3 percent of the city/county’s nearly 54,000 African-American public school students attend an IPS school.

Despite the minority status, whenever we debate the strengths and weaknesses of public education in Indianapolis, we always talk IPS, while letting the ills and sins of township and charter schools escape scrutiny.

The singer and activist John Legend said last month at Clowes Hall that most students in Indianapolis are high school dropouts. That’s a stat some national educational advocacy groups throw out.

But back in January, the Indianapolis Recorder documented that 71 percent of all Indianapolis city/county public school students graduate on time in four years; and two-thirds of African-American students graduate on time.

A majority of African-American students in the city/county pass the ISTEP tests.

But when we limit the discussion to just IPS, we ignore the true condition of public education here; in the schools where most of our children attend.

Let me be crystal clear. There are great performing IPS, township and charter schools. But there are also horrid performing IPS, township and charter schools.

When it comes to African-American students, there are great records of accomplishment in some township, charter and IPS schools. But for all the problems of underperformance and educational malpractice regarding Black students in IPS, there are also instances of educational malpractice and underachievement in township and charter schools.

One of the big issues of 2011 will be Indiana educational officials taking action on woefully underperforming public schools. Several IPS schools have never achieved any standard of excellence under No Child Left Behind and the state will be forced to take action. But we should demand that the state take action against all schools in this city/county that are woefully underperforming.

In a Recorder analysis this summer, IPS wasn’t the only district where Black students performed below statewide averages in ISTEP tests. Decatur Township schools, along with these charters – Kipp, the two Imagine charters, Fall Creek Academy, and the Lighthouse charters – underperformed.

Yet the finger of educational malpractice is always pointed at IPS; not all districts and charters that are having problems educating Black youth.

The problems of public education in Indianapolis aren’t confined to one district. It’s spread throughout the 11 systems and 29 charter schools. When talking about public education in Indianapolis, let’s talk about all public schools and districts in Indianapolis. Not the district, which while large, educates a minority of minority and majority students in America’s 13th largest city.

What I’m hearing

in the streets

The biggest surprise in former President George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points isn’t the flap about Kanye West’s remarks. It’s what Bush didn’t say about Indianapolis and former Mayor Steve Goldsmith.

There is no mention of Indianapolis in Bush’s 512-page tome. No mention of his July 2005 visit to Indiana Black Expo. More shocking – no mention of former Mayor Goldsmith, who was Bush’s top domestic policy advisor in the 2000 campaign.

Goldsmith was Bush’s domestic Condoleezza Rice. She got a top White House job. Goldsmith got a small potatoes advisory position, while Mitch Daniels became budget director.

Many have wondered why Goldsmith got nothing after his work for Bush. Decision Points doesn’t answer that question. I guess I’ll have to wait for Goldsmith’s memoirs for an answer.

For four years, the radio ratings company Arbitron has embarked on a new ratings system that has frankly been challenging for radio broadcasters in general and Black broadcasters in particular. Based on electronic monitoring, similar to the TV Nielsen ratings, Arbitron’s new system was installed in Indy this summer.

Not only have Black broadcasters faced challenges with the new system, so have radio talk shows. The new methodology shows that right wing talkers like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck aren’t as dominant as the old measurement showed.

This has been the case here in Indianapolis, where under the new system; ratings for those programs have eroded.

But, here in Indianapolis, a Black-oriented talk show is thriving and surviving under the new system.

Our seven-year-old “Afternoons with Amos” on WTLC-AM (1310) continues as the second most listened to local radio talk show (behind a slipping Greg Garrison on WIBC-AM 1070) and the third most listened to radio talk show overall behind Rush Limbaugh and Garrison.

The city’s other locally-oriented talk show hosted by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz on WXNT-AM (1430) ranks last among the city’s weekday talk shows.

“Afternoons with Amos” received another top honor last Saturday when the Indiana Broadcasters Association honored the program with a Spectrum Award as the Outstanding Community Service Radio Program in Indiana. The second straight year the program has received this prestigious statewide honor.

Thanks to all of you. And see ‘ya next week.

You can e-mail comments to Amos Brown III at ACBrown@aol.com.

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