2015 Indiana Legislature, Glenda Ritz, Partisanship, Politics and Teachers, Test Validity and Reliability
REWARDS FOR BEING WEALTHY
In their infinite wisdom, the legislators in Indiana have decided that it was unfair for schools/school systems with high poverty/high need students to receive more money per student than schools with wealthy suburban students. Actual educators, of course, realize that high poverty schools need more resources. Equality of tax dollars is not always equitable.
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said it’s just not a sustainable model, especially for districts like Indianapolis Public Schools.
“We have 30,000 kids in my school district who are going to be asked to perform at a high level with less money than their surrounding school districts,” Taylor said. “One day we are going to have to come back here and recognize that that’s not going to happen with the lack of investment we have put in our children.”
Poor districts, in many cases, were just glad they weren’t hit harder. They faired worse in earlier draft budgets. But across the state, even poor districts that got more money saw smaller gains compared to their wealthier counterparts.
2015 INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION ENDS
Governor Pence and the Indiana General Assembly have finally succeeded in getting even with Glenda Ritz. Senate Bill 1 passed the General Assembly along party lines. The bill is the Republican’s way of spanking Democrat Glenda Ritz for ousting their boy, Tony Bennett from his job as the nation’s “education ‘reform'” golden boy…and sending him packing to Florida…then back to the private sector in Indiana.
The final version of the bill kindly allows Ritz to finish her first term as Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) before removing any authority over education the voters gave to her, and the Department of Education. The bill changes the law so that the State Board of Education, which will have members appointed by the governor and the leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the elected SPI, will choose their own chair. You can be sure that the Republican supermajority, who will, in effect, appoint all the members of the board except for the SPI (elected by the people), will choose someone who will toe the party line…which is currently
- more money and support for charter schools and vouchers, less for public schools
- more money for wealthy suburban public schools (which is apparently where campaign money comes from) than needier urban schools
- less money and support for public schools in general
- closing “failing” public schools (instead of more support) and allowing “failing” charter schools another “chance” to improve
- more testing
- lower standards for teachers
In the end, the GOP-controlled legislature approved Senate Bill 1. It postpones proposed changes to the state board leadership to 2017 but still throws out a century-old precedent of an elected official chairing the State Board of Education – a change that came without warning to voters. They lose direct representation, given that lawmakers didn’t consider allowing voters to elect the other state board members.
The bill also requires the 11-member board to immediately elect a vice chairman, with that individual sharing responsibility for meeting agendas with Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. It also gives the board authority to hire its own executive director and staff. In effect, the provision establishes in law a second state education agency. Gov. Mike Pence had done the same with the Center for Education and Career Innovation, an agency he created by executive order and dissolved in the wake of complaints from lawmakers.
The changes represent a shameless power grab that already has raised the political stakes. Ritz, a Democrat, hinted Thursday that she’s considering a campaign for governor – a disappointing move that eliminates any last hope that educators, not politicians, will guide Indiana education policy.
Ritz’s response to this is a threat to run for governor. This is, in my opinion, a big mistake.
When Glenda Ritz ran for SPI she had three things going for her. First, she was a relative unknown with very little political baggage. Second, she ran against an abrasive, unpleasant person in Tony Bennett who rightly claimed that part of the reason he didn’t win was because he was an abrasive, unpleasant person. Finally, and most important, Glenda Ritz beat Tony Bennett because Bennett was on the wrong side of the education issue. Ritz was elected to change the education policies in Indiana.
Things are different now and if Ritz runs for governor she’ll learn that those three things are not as important in a race for governor than they were four years earlier.
First she is no longer an unknown and the Republican supermajority in the Governor’s mansion and the legislature will dump baggage on her…whether it’s deserved or not. Second, Governor Pence is not the abrasive, unpleasant politician that Tony Bennett was. He is an experienced politician and will be strongly supported by his Republican base despite massive mistakes in the last few months. And finally, Glenda Ritz has shown that she can run the Department of Education…she has shown that she can fight against an entrenched majority…but in the last analysis she will be branded, perhaps correctly, as a one-issue candidate. She’s had experience in the classroom and in an executive position at the DOE, but has had no experience in actual governing.
It would be better for Indiana voters to elect friends of education to the legislature and a governor who supports public education instead of privatization….and better to let Glenda do what Glenda does best…be an educator.
“After this session, there’s absolutely nothing off the table. My first priority is this school year we’re in the midst of testing getting all that done,” Ritz said. “But after that I’m going to sit down with my family and determine what is best for the children and families in Indiana.”
PARTISANSHIP IN THE US
Here’s an interesting side note on what’s happened in American politics. We all know that there has been increased partisanship in politics. Here’s a graph that illustrates exactly what we’re up against.
…U.S. Democrats and Republicans are less likely to cooperate than they have been in the past…
CAN YOU AFFORD NOT TO BE POLITICAL?
Parents, teachers, retired teachers, and friends of public education must speak out in the political arena. Democrats and Republicans are both in the pockets of the privatizers and “reformers.” In order to change things we need a broad base of people who are willing to step forward for the good of the nation’s public school students and stop the corporate steamroller crushing our schools.
…policymakers at all levels can help by listening when teachers do speak.
“[Teachers] feel like their voices don’t matter, and they feel like no one’s listening to them,” she said. “And part of [the solution] is saying that your voice really does matter, and what you do in classrooms is the most important work in the United States.”
THE WAR AGAINST TEACHERS
Parents and guardians of public school students still support their schools and teachers but the teacher bashing machine led by “reformers” like Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee have convinced the general public that the biggest problem in education today is “bad teachers.” Politicians, billionaires and hedge-fund managers have used this misinformation and the lie that “public schools are failing” to privatize public education and profit from the flow of taxpayer money to private corporations.
The contempt in our culture gets expressed in many ways. Parents treat teachers like baby sitters. Administrators treat teachers’ talk of higher wages as appalling, dismissing money talk with, “You’re supposed to be in it for the children” — as though worrying about paying your bills keeps you focused on your students. Legislators impose standardized tests as a blatant accusation of incompetence. Universities hire more and more adjuncts at poverty wages. All of these are expressions of contempt for teachers.
TEST VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY- FORGOTTEN CONCEPTS
The quality of America’s standardized tests has been destroyed by misuse and overuse. Validity and reliability, once the basis of a good test, are now bypassed for the convenience of quick, easy profits.
…I am deeply concerned that the profit-driven testing business is using unscientific (and expensive) testing which is portrayed to the public as if it’s truth, with high stakes ramifications on children, teachers, and our public education system. As stakeholders and parents, we need to demand accountability, real science, and an ethical separation between profit-driven educational businesses and the true scientifically-based education and measurement. For the sake of our children, our teachers, and our educational system which is truly one of the foundations of our democratic country.
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.