Losing Faith In IPS

We’ve lived in Indianapolis for ten months now. The kids have been in school for eight months. As many of you know, we chose the Indianapolis Public Schools deliberately. Having come from a district school setting in Michigan, we knew that we (and the kids) would need to adjust our expectations of education and community. We understood there would be disappointments and frustrations. But, we committed to IPS.

As the year comes to a close, it becomes harder to maintain that hope we had for our daughters’ educations. I still believe that they could go through IPS and graduate with an education good enough to get into college and compete with people from other schools. But some of that belief comes from knowing that they are getting an education in spite of going to IPS. We read at home. We talk about ideas, news, how our values either do or don’t fit in with the people in our lives. We travel a bit. And so as the days pass, and I watch how IPS operates, and I live through seeing how it affects my girls, I am beginning to lose my faith in a public education for my kids. Sure, the education is good enough and being a part of the city of Indianapolis is an interesting and valuable cultural experience, but its also stressful, lacking, and sometimes an exercise in mere coping.

For instance:

My first experience with going to school function (a series of one-act plays) resulted in me getting candy pieces repeatedly flicked at the back of my head while the principal took ten minutes to get the students settled down enough  to watch the show. The lecture he gave on how to act as an audience and how to show respect was shocking for me. I was sad that grades 6 – 12 still needed someone to tell them what it meant to be respectful. To be clear, I’m not blaming IPS for the kids being disrespectful. I’m just noting that its sad (and a waste of time for my kids) that Education at this point has to focus so much on behavior instead of academics.

For instance:

Manolia’s substitute teacher. Her regular teacher had a baby in mid-February and has been on maternity leave since. The long-term sub that was planned to replace her walked off the job (as I understand it) after her first day. This resulted in a different substitute teacher that has had my child in tears on a regular basis for the last month. She had Magnolia believing that the word ‘microbe’ was pronounced my-crow-bee. While this frustrates me, I understand that this sub is not trained to be a teacher. I understand that the school has a certain pool of substitutes it must draw from. But enduring a class monitor for six weeks is very long haul for a fourth grader. Last night Maggie came home with  more than three and a half hours of math homework: concepts that were brand new to her and that Josh had to teach her. Maggie felt terrible that she didn’t understand it. She felt exhausted from working and concentrating for such a long period. She hadn’t even gotten to her Spelling homework. We actually encouraged her not to do it. We actually told her that her sub was not a person that we felt like we or she needed to take seriously. Respect her at school, sure. But realize that she doesn’t understand how to be a teacher and we were going to have to work around her expectations and inexperience.

For instance:

The letter that came home from Eleanor’s school regarding how troubling it was that the school could be facing a state takeover. Yes, very troubling. It’s the only IPS school that values the arts and humanities so highly. But what’s even more troubling is that the letter was so poorly written. Granted, I may have higher expectations of grammar and usage than most people, but I want to be outraged with my community. I want to stand up for this school. But for fuck’s sake, give me a few reasons!! Because I’m running out of hope.

Published by jody sparks

Jody Sparks Mugele spent her first career in marketing writing and leading teams of writers and editors. After her son came out as transgender in 2015, she dedicated herself to advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. For two years, she led the Indianapolis regional chapter of PFLAG, a nationally renowned LGBTQ+ advocacy group. She has given many conference talks about parenting trans kids, healthcare in the trans community, and suicidality among LGBTQ+ youth. And with GenderNexus, an Indianapolis-based advocacy organization, she created programming and led support groups to work with parents to help their children through all aspects of gender transition. She recently moved to Northeast Georgia where she is excited to develop opportunities to continue to strongly and proudly advocate for LGBTQ+ members of our society. She also LOVES kitschy Christmas crafting!

15 thoughts on “Losing Faith In IPS

  1. Jody,

    I hear you! It is extremely frustrating! I grew up with poor grammar. It wasn’t until high school that I realized that “tooken” wasn’t a word. True story. The teachers in this area say things like, “I seen that somewhere.” Not only that, but we have a group of screamers. They scream at the kids all day long. One of my friend’s sons was so afraid to tell his teacher he forgot his lunchbox that day, that he didn’t even eat. And, he threw up in the car when his mother was going in to talk to the teacher. He was so afraid of the repercussions.

    But, I really want to address the sub issue that your daughter is having. I don’t know about Indiana, but in TN they are required to have an interim teacher in place. That person should be trained to be a teacher. If I were you, I would go down there and ask some questions. My son’s 2nd grade teacher’s husband had a stroke, and she was out the 1st half of the year. I met the teacher. She never even told me that she was going to be out, and then we had two to three weeks of subs. I went down and they told me that they could only pay for one teacher and they couldn’t fire the other teacher, etc. Well….I didn’t expect them to fire her. But, after my questioning they realized that they had to get an interim teacher by law.

    I hope things will look up for you guys! Things are better for us, but it is still frustrating.

    1. Wow, Delaina. I feel for you and your friend. This sub was the interim teacher. So, at the very least, there was consistency (after the first sub walked out) for Maggie. Her normal teacher returns after Spring Break and I’m thankful. I’m sure things will look up. Thanks for your support.

  2. I assume (yes, i know what this spells) this letter came from the principal. The leader! The person for whom teachers must rely. The person totally responsible. Does the superintendent know what is being sent to the parents? Does he care how his schools are being represented IN WRITING?

    You and Josh take an interest in your children’s education. Think about the parents that don’t. SO…who is being held accountable, anyway?

    1. Sue, I’m thinking that the letter came from the secretary. Of course I have no idea. It’s left me wondering, would a state takeover help? Maybe it would…

  3. Jody, this was also a big debate for us. Even with as much as we wanted to support our community and send the girls to IPS (giving all the nay-sayers a big, figurative middle finger), we realized they only get one shot at school. It then became a matter of IPS proving their worth. Hell, we’re even sketchy about Wayne Twnshp. where Amy is a teacher!

    I used to not agree with parents doing the white-flight version of schooling where they shuttle their kids way off to another district or private school, as if public schools are that far beneath them, but I’m now starting to understand why. Once you remove all the well-behaved students whose parents are active in their education, it’s easy to see what’s left. I can’t imagine a child excelling in that environment, even with their best efforts.

  4. uuuuugggggg!! i soooo know what you mean, with this being our first year in public school. We are fortunate enough to have *excellent* teachers for the kids. but even so, I still find myself thinking, “I could have taught chloe everything at home in the time it takes her to do her homework.”

    and Gideon had the same thing as maggie!! A sub sent home something like 10 pages of math homework that he didn’t understand. I did the same as you. after struggling through about 3 pages, I just told him not to do it. We were lucky, though, because the real teacher came back the next day.

    …and then there was the time Chloe came home from school complaining about how hard it is to make friends, because the girls all speak spanish to each other, & make fun of her when she doesn’t understand.

    I find myself weighing what I would rather give the kids: a good education, or cultural skills/experiences. so sorry you’re having to go through this. 😦

  5. Even though I work out of the fray of the actual school, I am truly distressed about what I’m hearing from the teachers who use our education products. And it doesn’t seem like anyone, anywhere has a workable, acceptable answer. I was reading about the Core Concepts practice yesterday and thought, “If you don’t have a solid teacher who can convey these core concepts, it doesn’t matter how fair they are or how much they level the playing field in schools.”

    It must be so frustrating to have chosen to support IPS, and be a willing champion for them, but then have them give you nothing that inspires your advocacy!

    So then, what is the choice? Private school is soooooo out of the question here in NYC. $25-30K beginning in kindergarten for the good private schools. That’s not even the ivy league feeders!

    Luckily for Eleanor and Magnolia, they have brilliant, creative, intuitive, dedicated parents to shape the lump of knowledge they pick up at school into a valuable education.

    Thanks for writing about this, and do keep posting!

    1. Thanks LLD! I guess I can’t say I’m surprised about our experience so far, but I was hopeful. Private schools are not out of the question, and if we stay here beyond Residency, we’ll be doing some serious consideration. I’m going to look into a few charter schools and see what that scene is all about. I’m also looking forward to a time where I’m working less, and can do more in the schools myself.

  6. I think this is the very thing that makes me crazy about school vouchers. It’s just one more way to take out of the public schools those that might just give a damn about education. And yet, what are you supposed to do? It is supposed to be SCHOOL after all. I hate to step on the backs of the poor and underprivileged to give my kid an education, and I hate to see them not getting a well-rounded education when they are in the public schools.

    Your kids are so lucky to have you as parents. You’re right; they will get an education in spite of IPS. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. I wish there was a good answer. I have a feeling it would entail lots of money being poured into IPS, not the least of which should be spent on decent teacher salaries. But that would mean we’d need a local government that actually supported teachers and education, wouldn’t it?

    1. Yes, I agree that it would take a lot of money and reform for public education here to keep up. And I doubt it will be a real priority for government.

  7. Amy, I agree. I don’t know what the answer is. But, I have seen millions of dollars poured into schools systems and it didn’t do a darn bit of good. So, I don’t know if that is the answer either. In fact, when the school system for which I work received federal money, I was on the planning committee for how those funds would be spent. I played a very minor part. Otherwise, I would have sent the money back. The money could not be spent for more teachers. It couldn’t be spent for smaller classroom sizes. There was a laundry list of how the money couldn’t be spent and how it could be spent. Anyway, there was a ton of things they ended up using it for that I felt was totally ridiculous. Not all of it, but a good half of it.

  8. How frustrating! No easy answers or solutions here or anywhere schools are concerned. I’m afraid we got spoiled when the kids attended school in Michigan and Pennsylvania — I feel like where we are now pales in comparision even though it’s reputed to be one of the best districts in Colorado. The music program, for example, is nothing compared to the kids’ past schools. But that’s probably a small complaint for us. Another part of my disappointment is that, due to budget cuts, things don’t change for the better. This country really needs to take public education more seriously or there won’t be anyone able to fill the universities, which ironically are regarded (in general) as the world’s best. Anyway, keep at it… maybe even consider getting on the school board or something like that!

    1. I remember subbing in the CA public school and being surprised to see the art teacher had no classroom. She wheeled a supply cart around from room to room. Also, the busing system had been cut from the budget. I have a feeling getting on the school board would be even more frustrating! But,I’d definitely like to be more involved in the school itself.

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