Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

The governor, superintendent of public instruction and some Marion County superintendents have said their piece about the fiasco that was the ILEARN scores. And yes, hold the teachers harmless; but my question is what really changed for our community?  

Here are the Marion County public school rankings based on the ILEARN pass rate for Black students: 

Speedway Schools, 34.1%

Franklin Township, 22.9% 

Perry Township, 20.8%

Washington Township and Wayne Township, 18.4%

Independent Charter Schools, 18.0%

Pike Township, 16.7%

Lawrence Township, 15.8%

Warren Township, 14.5%

Decatur Township, 14.2%

Beech Grove Schools, 12.0%

Indianapolis Public Schools, 6.7%

The state average pass rate for Black students was 14.8%. The rankings based on the Black-white achievement gap are as follows:

Washington Township, 48.2%

Lawrence Township, 38.1%

Pike Township, 37.6%

Speedway Schools, 29.4%

Perry Township, 27.3%

Indianapolis Public Schools, 25.2%

Franklin Township Community School Corporation, 24.0%

Warren Township, 22.7%

Wayne Township, 11.8%

Beech Grove Schools, 9.7%

Decatur, 4.9%

This was a bad test, but a majority of white students — sometimes a slim majority — passed even this bad test in four districts, and six Marion County districts beat the state average passage rate of 43.3% for white students. 

Again, a standardized test is one variable for evaluating a school, but it’s one that counts. Also, there’s plenty of blame to go around so frustrated educators could likely provide some important additional insights. But here is the problem — last year in all of the townships districts nearly 70% of Black students in third through eighth grade failed the test. Over 80% of Black 10th graders failed ISTEP+ across the county last year. 

It just doesn’t seem to matter when Black students fail state standardized tests. More concerning is that a review of posted strategic plans (some of which are expired) doesn’t provide evidence of a real effort on addressing the racial achievement gap — with the notable exception of IPS’ racial equity plan. 

What is your local school board doing if they haven’t requested that a plan for dealing with the persistent racial achievement gaps in a public facing document be included in the district plan? Marion County superintendents pointed to graduation rates, STEM certified schools, decorated teachers and state championships the last time I raised the issue of the countywide achievement gap. 

They even suggested parents were choosing their schools. OK. I don’t think Black parents know how Black kids are doing on standardized tests in the schools and after reading this hopeful they will ask questions. 

What I am hearing … 

Sen. Jim Merritt has a comprehensive public safety plan that in many ways mirrors current efforts, but has its own ideas and initiatives, or “Merritt Moves.” A major proposal involves the creation of a deputy mayor for public safety who would have similar responsibilities to what we used to call a public safety director. 

In this instance, Mayor Hogsett can point to his years as a U.S. attorney where he dismantled gangs and drug operations across the Southern District of Indiana and legitimately claim he is removing a bureaucrat by making the IMPD chief report directly to him — a former law enforcement professional. Merritt, who seemingly has made public safety his No. 1 issue, wisely would identify an expert in public safety to augment his lack of experience in this space. It’s a legitimate debate. You decide. But here is the issue. In a public safety speech, Merritt raised the specter of IMPD under a Merritt administration possibly reverting back to a swarm technique where he says, “We will send in 10 to 15 district cars from all over the city to swarm the hot spots.” 

Merritt’s comments on hot spots and swarming techniques are not only problematic but would set police-community relations back. Hot spots were zip codes that were identified as high crime areas and due to this designation endured the swarm technique — or the invasion of IMPD in our neighborhoods.

Researchers have found, and IMPD learned, that this kind of policing is not effective. Zip codes are overly broad and have the ability to stain a community. It harmed police-community relations because everyone was pulled over for even the most minor offenses. In essence, it wasn’t targeted and was overly punitive. 

City governments and police departments are using more focused 250 foot by 250 foot “harm spots” to track and react to a host of issues including fighting crime. IMPD harm spots use seven years’ worth of violent, non-violent and EMS run data connected to an algorithm to engage in proactive policing. This is pinpoint focused and data driven policing that lends itself toward better police-community relationships. When IMPD is right we should say they are right. In this instance, and other aspects of his public safety plan aside, Merritt might learn from the past and embrace the progress IMPD has made in this area.

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