IPS Racial Equity Movement – A Historical Overview
Written by: Patricia Ann Payne
Vision: An IPS community where student outcomes cannot be predicted by race or ethnicity.
Mission: To lead a collaboration of community members who will partner with IPS to improve outcomes for all students by eliminating racial disproportionality and disparities.
It was during the Civil Rights era in the 1960s that I graduated from Indiana University and began my first teaching assignment at IPS #21. My class of second graders, all Black, were anxiously waiting to get the school year started—and so was I! It didn’t hit me at first because this was not something the School of Education had included in my teacher preparation courses. However, as the school year proceeded, it became glaringly apparent that none of the textbooks reflected the students I was teaching! Everyone was white, as was the information and perspectives! Even the Dick and Jane readers, including Dick, Jane, baby Sally, Mother, and Father were all white! Only Spot, the dog, had a trace of black.
This, I believe, was when the seed was planted to become a change agent educator and do something about what I considered a travesty. I quickly found out that there were other black educators who had the same concern and we went to work. It was a slow process but we gained momentum when, as members, we solicited the support of the Indianapolis Education Association, the teacher’s union.
Finally, in 1979, the IPS Board approved a resolution for the teaching of Black History in grades K– 12, the development of a Black History curriculum, and the infusion of Black History throughout the entire curriculum. In 1987, the Office of Multicultural Education opened and the Crispus Attucks Museum of African/African American History was designed and opened its doors on the campus of Crispus Attucks High School in 1998. I served as the director of both.
In 2015, the Office of Multicultural Education evolved into the IPS Racial Equity Office and the District embarked on a racial equity initiative by partnering with the Racial Equity Institute. As a result, we are able to receive the training and guidance needed to continue the journey of challenging and shifting our knowledge, attitude, mindset, belief system, and instruction.
To date, over 4,000 staff members and 1,500 community partners have participated in this transformational experience. The two-day training is required for all IPS staff members. Equity Teams, formed in schools and departments, partner with the District Equity Team to hold the work together following the training. This work includes developing measurable goals, engaging in book/workbook study groups, reviewing disaggregated academic and discipline data, and understanding racism in all its forms, including how, when, and where it occurs at all levels of the school district and school community, even without intent.
In June 2020, the IPS Board unanimously approved the Racial Equity Policy 1619 and the Black Lives Matter Resolution. Additionally, Promise 54 is conducting a district-wide audit to provide insight into current staff experiences around DEI and monthly conversations on race are held at principal meetings. Our third annual Racial Equity Summit will be held in 2021.
The Indianapolis Public Schools is one of the few districts in the country confronting the pervasive and complex issue of systemic racism. This is critical since it is students of color who are disproportionately impacted. Most important, Superintendent Aleesia Johnson and the IPS Board of School Commissioners are modeling this mindset through action and policy so that the disparities in student achievement and discipline will be permanently interrupted.
To learn more about Pat and her past and current work, you can check out local articles, including: