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Indiana wants more time to close achievement gaps. NAACP urges action for Black students.

Authored by Arika Herron, and Brandon Drenon of the Indianapolis Star
Jala Fishback was almost a statistic.
As a freshman at Warren Central High School, Fishback struggled with her classes, barely able to maintain a C average. When she asked for help from teachers, Fishback said she was met with resistance.
“I had teachers tell me that I wouldn't be able to graduate,” Fishback said, “that I wasn’t smart, that basically I was incompetent.”
She eventually started to believe the message she was receiving. By the time she reached the 10th grade, Fishback didn’t think she would graduate at all.
“When you're like, going through your high school career, and there's so many teachers telling you that, you know, you won't amount to anything,” Fishback said, “it gets so discouraging.” Today, Fishback is a junior at Tougaloo College, a historically Black college in Mississippi. She’s a pre-law student, studying business administration.
Had she not found a high school that was a better fit, that met her needs, Fishback very easily could have become one of the 25% of Black students that fail to graduate from an Indiana high school. Black students have one of the lowest graduation rates among all races and ethnicities of Indiana students. The state’s overall graduation rate is 86%. For white students, it’s higher – more than 88%.
Roughly 81% of Hispanic students graduate on time.
But just 75% of Black students graduated last year, according to state data.
Five years ago, state education officials set what they called “ambitious, yet achievable” goals – to cut in half the gaps in student achievement and graduation rates over the next six years.
A lot has happened since then: new state exams, new goals, a pandemic that closed schools, robbing students of months of learning. But with just one year left until those original goals were supposed to be achieved, Indiana has made little progress.
And students – particularly the state’s Black students – are being left behind.

Black student academic performance stuck at the bottom 'needs to change'

Black students in Indiana rank near the bottom in most measures of academic success.
They perform worse than students of other races and ethnicities on standardized tests, graduate high school at lower rates and are less likely to go to college than their white peers. When it came time to write a new educational plan for the state, as required by the federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA, addressing the state’s pernicious and persistent gaps was chief among its goals.
But now, Indiana is asking for an extension on the timeline for achieving those goals. Should the U.S. Department of Education grant it, as is expected, goals originally set for 2023 would be pushed out to 2028. While an earlier extension, to 2026, on some of the achievement gap goals was granted to accommodate a change in the state’s standardized test, the state is now asking for extra time to account for the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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