I can honestly say we truly have a unique, innovative educational landscape here in Indianapolis. I doubt anyone would disagree with that. We should also be proud that we have a school that fits every learning style.
We have more varieties of educational offerings than many much larger cities. We have public, public-charter, private-independent and private-parochial schools. Inside those options, we also have myriad choices in how academic programs are delivered. I personally am the proud product of a private-parochial early education, a private-independent elementary and middle school education, and a public high school—all found in the heart of Washington Township.
A challenge facing many of my peers is understanding which school is good for their little ones. That question is almost always followed with: “How do I know?” or “Where is that written?” They’re right; those questions are not one-size-fits-all here in Indy. And for parents who are not in tune with what type of learner their child is, it’s a crapshoot!
In a former career, I had the pleasure of being inside various educational facilities as an outside contractor. Many times, I visited multiple schools on the same block in the same day.
For a person who loves learning, it was hard to see a student who needed creative freedom in a strict, structured environment, just as it was to see a student who needed structure in a less-structured environment. I always wondered if they were in the right program, if they would be stronger academically. I’d always resolve that concern with, “Hopefully, their teachers and parents will get a level of understanding around that in time for it to make a difference.”
And therein lies the problem with our uniquely wonderful innovative educational landscape: The question is whether parents figure it out in time.
We’re running out of time! Where is the navigator that is pro-student, pro-future and dedicated to fueling our city’s workforce pipeline? We are missing a navigation tool that provides common, regular, everyday people the opportunity to know how to identify the school that matches their student’s needs. Or, if we really want to care about the problem, one that helps parents understand their students’ needs—before a school has failed them.
We’ve come a long way, and I really think we’re close. But having a centralized enrollment system or school guide isn’t enough. The playing field isn’t equitable. We shouldn’t be looking only at public offerings. Excluding private options misses the mark for truly giving a parent a real understanding of what’s out there. All parents are not well-versed in pedagogy and what meets the needs of an individual child’s unique learning style or abilities. In addition, many do not have the technology needed or comfort using it to do the research.
Parents need a navigator that helps determine the best available opportunity for students to succeed; all guides need to feature all options, both public and private. It must be one that understands a child’s future is on the line—not just a school year. One that understands civic pride begins when we break down the socioeconomic barrier to educational opportunities that meet the needs of our unique abilities.
It used to be as easy as living somewhere and attending the school that was closest to home. Here in Indy, that school might or might not be the “easy button.”
There isn’t an easy button. The problem in Indy isn’t access, it’s “know-how.”•
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Slash is a diversity and inclusion consultant in the health care industry and is president of The Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League.Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.