Active in Urban Education: PAA conference in Indy


Had to photoshop the first sign because of bright sun glare!

The wonderful parent activist Delana Ivey and her Indianapolis Parents Across America affiliate group Parent Power put on a great conference last Saturday called “Active in Urban Education.”

Delana and I

Delana and I

I was eager to attend for many reasons, not the least was to meet up with Delana, John Harris Loflin and Nate Harris, Indy friends and PAA leaders. Nate and I have been online friends for a while, and I met Delana and John at the first Midwest Friends of Public Education meeting in Fort Wayne in February.

The location was a story in itself. It took place in a closed city school. Delana says that district invited her and other community members to help plan use of school which is now a beautiful community meeting and event space. If schools end up closed, this is what every city ought to do with the buildings.

The first presentation was a video of Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms. One of the questions he asks is why we think that the most important thing children have in common is their age (their “manufacture” date).

Indygrp11-13In our discussion after the video, we agreed. I brought up one of my favorite ideas – non-graded classrooms. Among other benefits of a non-graded classroom system is that it would seriously interfere with the stranglehold of standardized testing and its emphasis on comparing students of the same age to each other.

Sir Ken’s amazing video sparked comments about many other issues including racism in education, divergent thinking, aesthetics v anaesthetics, the culture of compliance, and creating a movement.

The next presentation was by Gale Cosby, a special education teacher who is also a newly-elected school board member for Indianapolis. It’s always refreshing to meet ELECTED school board members! Gale’s presentation was personal, moving and informative. If you can read the slide, you will see what in interesting approach she took to her topic.


I was pleased to do the next presentation on national activism and Parents Across America. Here’s the “Take Action” handout I shared. We talked about federal ESEA reauthorisation, student data sharing, and testing. I shared another of my favorite strategies: going after WalMart’s corporate image! Here’s the handout I distributed, “Why would anyone who cares about public schools shop at WalMart?” I think I convinced some people, too!

IndyNate11-9-13But the best parts of this conference were the people and the discussions. Here’s Nate in an exchange with an Indy student who asked where the solutions are. Nate says we need to come together to address the bigger picture that school systems are designed to serve the majority culture.

And,finally, what we were all really there for.  IndyBabyreads11-13crop


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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.