Steven Jones

I am a very proud graduate of Indianapolis Public Schools. There are tremendous benefits when students have the opportunity to attend school in a public setting, including “real-world experiences” that are sure to benefit them later in life.

I believe this even more since I shifted my career from health care to higher education two years ago. I now work for my alma mater, Wabash College, which allows me to work directly with students during such an integral time in their lives. I have seen the grit and determination young adults possess. I have seen the potential of the “what’s next” in their lives and I have seen those next opportunities come to fruition time and time again. It is gratifying when students graduate and leave our college adequately prepared for life; the vast majority even having job offers before commencement and begin working immediately after college. 

Being part of such a respected college has also shown me the level of preparedness that is necessary to succeed. Generally, much of that preparation evolves from the lessons learned and skills developed during a student’s formative years in high school. 

 Recently released ISTEP tests results for IPS high schools from 2017-18 concerned me a great deal. I was absolutely flabbergasted by the figures.

At Arlington High School, none of the students tested passed both the math and English portions of the test. At my alma mater, Arsenal Technical High School, only 22 of the 417 test takers passed. The historic Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet had nine of its 219 students pass. The worst performing district high schools were Broad Ripple and Northwest with just two of their respective 136 and 178 test takers passing. 

These results represent a tremendous gap and the impact is felt most keenly by the students. They are getting the short end of the stick and we all should be outraged. 

Yes, I am proud to have graduated from IPS, but I am not proud of what the district has become. I am not proud of results that show 0 or 1 percent pass rates. That is not acceptable and I refuse to be silent when such an atrocity is happening to our children. IPS must provide better outcomes. 

I know countless IPS alums who have done well in their post-secondary schooling and careers — many are leaders in their fields and are positive examples of success locally and throughout the country. As evidence, review the IPS Hall of Fame inductees.

Wabash has had recent IPS graduates who are succeeding in life and giving back in the Indianapolis community. Brian Parks is one example of that. The Tech graduate was co-captain of the Wabash football team, an Academic All-Conference pick, selected as an Orr Fellow, and is currently working at IU Health. Also, Attucks graduate Kevin Griffen pledged a fraternity at Wabash, led the College Democrats and currently works for Sen. Joe Donnelly. 

IPS graduates have done great things at the next level and Parks and Griffen are wonderful examples of individuals who focused on their goals, worked hard and shined brightly at Wabash. However, the numbers of success rates are tapering off and the standardized test results are proof of the decline. 

I challenge IPS to provide better outcomes for its students. I am confident that alums are willing to assist the district if it simply develops a plan and informs the community of what that plan is. I will be the first in line to help. I know doing so is most beneficial to the city, state colleges, and most importantly, students who deserve to receive a quality education.

We cannot ignore this problem or be silent about its implications. We must collectively fight for our students and it starts with the district owning the problem and being committed to positive change. 

Steven L. Jones is dean of professional development and director of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies at Wabash College in Crawfordsville.

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