One of the priorities of “empowerment zones,” according to officials with the Indiana Department of Education, is to ensure equity for students.
“For example, with hiring autonomy the zone board and leadership can focus on increasing leadership and teacher diversity, as well as set performance goals that prioritize key equity metrics,” reads a passage in the department’s frequently asked questions sheet about the federal Next Generation School. Improvement Grant.
The federal money is administered by the state’s education department.
According to the department of education’s website, more than 47% of the 6,556 students in ACS are nonwhite. As students, especially white students, leave to find better educational opportunities in nearby districts, ACS ‘student population will soon be comprised mostly of students of color, noted Perry Washington.
IDOE’s statistics tell the story of how the district fails its students of color, according to Washington, a member of the community committee encouraging Anderson schools to apply for the federal school transformation grant.
“It shows exactly where we are as far as ethnicity, and it also shows you the schools that are failing, and those schools have consistently maintained the same grades,” he said. “Consistently, Anderson Community Schools has failed these kids. That grant is the starting point. ”
Specifically, Anderson, Eastside, Edgewood and Erskine elementaries and Highland Middle School have earned grades of D and F for the last three school years that were graded under the state’s school accountability system.
In terms of student growth, one measure used by the state to determine academic success, 39% of ACS students reached the target in English language arts compared to 52% statewide. In math, 23% of ACS students met state goals, compared to 38% statewide.
The percentages are even more stark for students of color at ACS. Only 26% of Black students and 38% of Latino students met the goal in English language arts, and only 12% of Black students and 24% of Latino students met the goal in math.
When it comes to student proficiency in a subject, another metric used by the state to measure success, ACS averages 30%, compared to 38% statewide in both English language arts and math.
Only 17% of Black students and 28% of Latino students at ACS schools meet the goal in English language arts, and only 18% of Black students and 32% of Latino students are considered proficient in math.
“(Black students) are at the bottom of the scale. And why? Because of culture. They don’t deal with our culture, ”Washington said.
ACS Superintendent Joe Cronk declined to comment for this article, and ACS board President Patrick Hill did not return a request for comment.
Washington, who was part of an earlier effort to bring another charter school to Anderson, said the loss of ACS students also hinders the city’s economic development.
In 2011, he said, a manufacturing company based in Milpitas, California, tried to lure him out of retirement. Not wanting to relocate, Washington said, he tried to persuade the company, which was considering cities for satellite operations, to open an office in Anderson.
Though the natural resources and proximity to the major city of Indianapolis were attractive, ACS ‘less-than-stellar record led to the manufacturer’s rejection, Washington said.
“They see how the school is rated, and if it doesn’t compare to their growth curve. There is no potential, ”he said. “We are not attractive because poor education standards fall far below for any business looking to come in.”
Washington noted that many Black students attending ACS schools do not have another option.
“Those who can afford to take their kids to Frankton, those who can afford to drive their kids to Lapel, they are pulling their kids out of ACS,” he said. “But doing that isn’t really an option for Black parents and single mothers who usually work jobs where they can’t take off the time or have the money to drive their children back and forth.”
According to information reported by ACS to the state department of education, the district’s enrollment has declined by 3,500 over the past 15 years, with a loss of more than 500 students since 2018 alone. Some of the most recent statistics, however, may be influenced by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Enrollment reduction translates into a loss of nearly $ 37 million in funding for the district, according to Perry and other members of the committee urging ACS to apply for the Next Generation School Improvement Grant.