Concerned groups want IPS to take action and help James Whitcomb Riley School 43

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Neighborhood groups on the north side say they’re not happy.

They claim a major lack of resources is affecting the education of hundreds of Indianapolis Public School (IPS) students, and they’re worried about the future of James Whitcomb Riley School 43.

The discussion about School 43 is not a new one. However, on Tuesday, concerned citizens wanted to meet to share their message that now is the time to take action.

Sabae Martin was one of the people speaking out on behalf of her organization, the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association. She wants to hold IPS accountable.

“We look at the scores yearly and they are all unacceptable,” said Martin.

The scores can be found online through the Indiana Department of Education. We looked at last year’s report for fifth grade. According to the report, 22 percent of students passed ISTEP+ Math standard. Only ten percent of fifth graders passed Language Arts standard and five percent for Social Science standard.

“That’s alarming,” stated Martin.

Seven years ago, School 43 was given an A rating, but then the decline happened. The next three years the school received a D rating and since 2015 it’s been rated an F.

Martin, along with other concerned neighbors say, declining test scores and leadership changes are among just a few reasons why they are now speaking out. They want racial and economic equity for School 43, too.

“We want her to know we’re serious,” Martin said when speaking about Superintendent-Elect, Aleesia Johnson.

Johnson listed racial equity in her strategic plan for the upcoming year. She says, it’s time to start having those hard conversations. In a statement, IPS said:

“Indianapolis Public Schools is committed to all of our students having equitable access of resources across our schools. Superintendent Aleesia Johnson has made racial equity, specifically, a priority of her new administration to ensure all students have access to high-quality educational options regardless of where they live, attend school or their racial background. IPS utilizes a student-based funding model and, as such, James Whitcomb Riley School 43, a neighborhood school, receives per pupil funding on par with all of its nearby choice school counterparts.”

“We are here for her,” said Martin, “We’re here because we want to support her.

Lauren Johnson, Principal (Photo provided by Indianapolis Public Schools)

James Whitcomb Riley School 43 will also have a new leader this year.  Lauren Johnson is the new principal. Johnson has worked in IPS for twelve years and spent ten of those as a school administrator, leading Raymond F. Brandes School 65.

According to the IPS website, “Johnson has a proven track record for building strong school communities with strong community partnerships.”

That’s something neighbors like Bryan Bradford are looking forward to.

“I believe as the school gets engaged and the neighbors get engaged and the parents get engaged that this school can be better,” said Bradford.

According to IPS, the district pays more money per student at School 43 than at the nearest three north side schools, all of which are choice programs, like the Butler Lab, or Center for Inquiry.  IPS says, this refutes the argument, that choice programs, receive higher funding than neighborhood schools.

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