Indianapolis Urban League

Education Experts Raise Concerns with Indiana’s Efforts to Improve Our Low-Performing Schools

Iul Logo With Tagline Fill 2500x500

Education Experts Raise Concerns with Indiana’s Efforts to Improve Our Low-Performing Schools

Indianapolis Urban League highlighting new tool for advocates that shows Indiana’s education plan lacks focus on student subgroups

For Immediate Release November 15, 2018

(INDANAPOLIS, IN) — An independent peer review of school improvement plans, released today, urges Indiana to provide greater clarity on how it will support student subgroups, particularly students of color, attending Indiana’s lowest-performing schools.

In 2017, the Indianapolis Urban League convened stakeholders to learn about the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which replaced No Child Left Behind and was signed into law by President Obama in December 2015. At that time, we asked the question: “What safeguards are in place or will be put in place to ensure the needs of Black, Latino, Disabled and English Language Learning Hoosiers are met?”

This report from HCM Strategists, in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success, provides a valuable check on our state’s plan to help achieve equity. The organizations convened expert peer reviewers to analyze school improvement efforts in 17 states, including Indiana. The ensuing report—Check State Plans: From Promise to Practice—expressed concern that Indiana takes too limited a role in leading or supporting school improvement efforts among districts and schools, and that the state does not go far enough in facilitating equitable outcomes for all student subgroups.

For too long, children of color have been disproportionately denied the opportunity to high-quality education, trapped in some of Indiana’s lowest-performing schools,” said Anthony Mason President and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League. “This review provides clear direction for what Indiana and our school districts can do to turn around our lowest-performing schools and create the sustainable improvements our children deserve.”

Peer reviewers identified several specific areas of improvement for Indiana’s school improvement plan, including:

  • How the state expects districts to address the needs of particular groups of students, including students of color, and how it will help districts identify these focus areas.
  • Too much autonomy from the state, which can lead to insufficient support and guidance for districts and schools.
  • The use of a dual accountability system, as it can cause confusion about which schools are being identified and how to prioritize efforts.
  • Clarity around how funds will be allocated to districts and how existing funding streams can support improvement efforts.

“ESSA is an opportunity for us to rethink education in our state and change the trajectory of Indiana’s highest need schools,” said Mark Russell, director of education and advocacy at the Indianapolis Urban League. “We look forward to working together with the Indiana Department of Education and communities across our state to ensure that our school improvement plan meets the needs of schools and our students.”

The report also noted several encouraging spots in Indiana’s plan: reviewers praised Indiana for its strong vision for improvement, as well as the state’s commitment to building and streamlining district capacity to implement improvement efforts.

“Figuring out how to close achievement gaps between our country’s highest and continuously lowest performing schools is one of the greatest equity issues of our time,” said Jim Cowen, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success. “The federal government provided one billion dollars and significant freedom to state leaders to drive bold, innovative change for their most challenged schools. It’s important that states are stepping up to the challenge and being thoughtful and inventive in how they realize results.”

The full report from the Collaborative and HCM can be found at


About the Indianapolis Urban League

The Indianapolis Urban League’s mission is to assist African-Americans, other minorities and disadvantaged individuals to achieve social and economic empowerment.

For over 50 years, the Indianapolis Urban League has empowered individuals and our community through educational programs, workforce training, diversity initiatives, advocacy, and health and wellness initiatives.  The Indianapolis Urban League is located at 777 Indiana Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202,

Contact:  Tony Mason, President/CEO – Indianapolis Urban League,,  317-693-7603