Like Emperor Nero, former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels is fiddling as Public Education burns.
Daniels conveniently ignored his part in the continuing demise of public education in Indiana as he
listened to sat through the report of the Dean of the Purdue School of Education, Maryann Santos de Barona, which included information about the Daniel’s Administration’s “reform” in Indiana.
In Bangert: Awkward … Ed reform called out at Purdue Dave Bangert wrote of the Dean’s report to the university trustees.
“Our profession is at a critical juncture,” she said. “The pervasive negativity about the teaching profession, and the misconception that education is broken, has resulted in increased pressures on practicing teachers. As a result, they are less likely to want to mentor our student teachers — and have less time to do so. Teachers and administrators are reluctant to let our faculty research in their classrooms, as this represents a risk that might impact test scores.”
Daniels, as governor, led the state to the nation’s most invasive voucher program, an increase in charter schools, paying teachers based on test scores, and numerous legislative moves to weaken teachers’ rights and control over their classrooms in Indiana.
Now Daniels is President of Purdue University and has little to say about the damage done by his and Tony Bennett’s policies on public education from the point of view of college enrollment.
Indiana’s education reforms might have happened without Daniels. But as governor, he beat that drum loudly, recruiting Tony Bennett as state superintendent to bulldog the measures once they cleared the legislature…Facing questions as Purdue’s incoming president in September 2012, Daniels said the education reform train had left the station and that the College of Education should be all about finding ways to work better within those new standards.
How has the Daniels/Bennett plan for privatizing education worked for Purdue? Maryann Santos de Barona said,
“…I think that the set of variables that has come to play at this point has been one that has turned many individuals in the classroom away from education. They don’t feel they’re able to practice their skill.”
Trustee Sonny Beck chipped in anecdotal evidence of his own. Beck relayed conversations with two teacher friends of his who were bailing out of the classroom because they felt forced to teach to tests and “to teach the way the state says I need to teach.”
Beck’s conclusion: “I would second the motion on the outside influences on teachers.”
But Daniels, ever the politician, wouldn’t back down. When asked about ramping up recruitment and teachers leaving the classroom he said,
“If the concern is how do we get more and better teachers, that ought to be everybody’s top concern,” Daniels said. “The system operates to penalize young teachers, like our graduates. So, I never look at them without hoping we’re moving to a system based more on merit and not totally on seniority.”
It seems that Daniels still believes that test scores define “merit” for teachers. On the other hand, he is apparently unaware that new studies show that teacher experience yields increases in achievement and other rewards for students.
…the average teacher’s ability to boost student achievement increases for at least the first decade of his or her career—and likely longer.
Moreover, teachers’ deepening experience appears to translate into other student benefits as well. One of the new studies, for example, links years on the job to declining rates of student absenteeism.
Perhaps the former governor doesn’t really care that much about public schools in Indiana. He got his reward when the trustees (eight of whom were appointed by him when he was governor) named him president of the university and then gave him a bonus. It doesn’t matter that the voucher program costs the state money instead of saving money like his administration promised. It doesn’t matter that charter schools are not an improvement over public schools. It doesn’t matter that merit pay doesn’t work to improve teaching and learning. He doesn’t need to think about it any more.
In fact, according to Bangert, when Daniels was asked about the report of the Dean…
What was going through his mind during the dean’s presentation?
…Daniels took out his fiddle…
“Nothing in particular,” Daniels would say later.
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.