Racial disparities in academic outcomes called out by Black leaders in Indiana

An NAACP-developed plan is being proposed to address, in part, Black students' disproportionately low standardized test scores.

Black elected officials and educational leaders in Indiana are urging Gov. Eric Holcomb to implement pathways that may help lessen the disparities in academic achievement seen statewide between Black and white students.

As reported by Indiana Public Media, Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) was one of the leaders who conducted a media briefing on Thursday to formally endorse an NAACP-developed academic plan. The plan includes calls for all levels of education in the state to increase the promotion of culturally responsive learning and hire and retain more educators of color.

Indiana governor Eric Holcomb speaks to guests during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits on April 26, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“Our ultimate goal is to eliminate disproportionalities resulting in inequities and negative outcomes for our Black children as measured by the test the state gives,” said Gwen Kelley, who works for the Greater Indianapolis NAACP and was the lead editor of the plan. “As our Black children do better … all of the strategies in the plan will lead to a wider success for all of our students.”

State and local leaders say the 43-page document, which also advocates for a statewide educational equity officer to be hired, may help address significantly wide gaps between Black Indiana students’ standardized test scores.

For example, only 8% of Black students in Indiana passed the math and English sections of the state’s standardized ILEARN test in 2021, whereas those sections were passed by 35% of white students, according to IPM.

The plan may also increase the likelihood that Black students will have access to high-performing schools comparable to those that their white classmates have access to.

A 2021 report released by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation revealed that Black and Hispanic students in grades K-12 in Marion County are less likely than white classmates to enroll in schools that perform highly statewide and employ a number of teachers with greater than four years of experience, per the outlet.

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“We should not accept as normal the data that overwhelmingly demonstrates we must act with boldness and with urgency to support all students in our state, particularly our African-American students,” said Aleesia Johnson, superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools on Thursday.

Rep. Shackleford, who also chairs the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, said education will be a top priority of the caucus in the next session, part of a larger goal to increase overall equity in the state, according to IPM.

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