Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, class size, IN Gen.Assembly, Privatization, Testing, US DOE, vouchers, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2017 Medley #14

Class Size, Testing,
The Federal Role in Education, Privatization, Indiana General Assembly, Walmart


Trump’s Education Budget Will Undermine Teaching and Schools

Thirty-five percent of America’s school districts – especially high-poverty districts – use federal money to reduce class sizes. The Trump budget will result in larger class sizes in exactly the locations where smaller class sizes are needed the most.

Once again, it is America’s high poverty students who are shouldering the burden so the wealthy can have a lower tax obligation.

Why is this important? Class size reduction is not only extremely popular among parents and teachers – it is one of the very few reforms proven to work through rigorous evidence, and to provide especially large benefits for children from low-income families and students of color, who see twice the academic gains from small classes. Indeed, it is only one of a handful of educational policies that has been shown to significantly narrow the achievement gap between economic and racial groups.


Is PISA Data Useless?

Peter Greene asks some questions about the PISA test. Privatizers and “reformers” love to quote America’s “low scores” on the PISA and other international tests (see The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools), but new information about the PISA indicates that analyses of the results might not be accurate. What then?

The Testocrats have been quietly assuming that taking a Big Standardized Test on a computer is exactly like taking it on paper. But what if that’s not true? What if taking a math test involves not only math skills, but test-taking skills. And what if computer test-taking skills are not the same set of skills as pencil-and-paper test-taking skills?

What if the Big Standardized Tests aren’t really measuring what they purport to measure at all, and the whole test-centered education model is built on a sham?


Don’t Trash the Department of Education. Fix It.

In education, just like other areas of our society, the federal government has an important role to play. In the current education atmosphere, the federal government needs to make sure that equitable funding exists for all schools.

The nation is slowly but surely moving back to segregated schools and as Earl Warren put it in 1954’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” It’s the job of the federal government to make sure that states don’t revert to the illusion of “separate but equal.”

…it’s not the Department of Education that’s the problem. It’s what we’ve done to it.

The department has a vital and important role to play in making sure our system of public education serves everyone. Speaking in broad terms, the department should be dedicated to these three things: ensuring public schools are being properly funded, student and parent civil rights are not being violated and to be a repository for national data and research.

Separate but equal?


Save Our Schools! Americans Oppose Trump-DeVos Plans To ‘Voucherize’ Education

It’s clear that Betsy DeVos is ignorant about public education. Like other Trump cabinet and administrative appointees, she has spent her life trying to do damage to the very aspect of society her department is charged with supporting. During her confirmation hearing she proved to America that she is woefully ignorant of how public schools work.

The last thing that America needs is for the nation’s schools to contribute to increased segregation by race, ethnic group, or economic status.

Halley Potter, a fellow at The Century Foundation who researches public policy to address educational inequality, examined DeVos’ comment during her Senate confirmation process that “empirical evidence finds school choice programs lead to more integrated schools than their public school counterparts.”

To the contrary, Potter found that “voucher programs on balance are more likely to increase school segregation than to decrease it or leave it at the status quo.” Potter considered not only racial diversity, but religious diversity as well: “(D)ata suggest that there is a strong risk that voucher programs will be used by white families to leave more diverse public schools for predominantly white private schools and by religious families to move to parochial private schools, increasing the separation of students by race/ethnicity and religious background.”


Latest D.C. Voucher Study: Program Harms Students’ Academic Achievement

When the Indiana General Assembly, along with then-Governor Mitch Daniels, demanded a voucher program for Indiana’s private schools, the argument was that children who live in poverty should have the same access to “high-quality” schools as wealthier students. The error in that logic is clear. A “high-quality” school is defined by higher test scores and greater support from economically affluent communities. When you segregate students economically, you’ll see schools with lower test scores in economically depressed areas.

Over the last few years we’ve learned that voucher accepting private schools and privately run charter schools are not guaranteed to give children a better education. So the reason for providing tax money to private and privately run schools has changed. No longer are we diverting tax dollars away from public education in order to help poor children “escape” from so-called “failing” schools. Now it’s for “choice.” Every parent should have the right to choose the best school for their children. This is reasonable, but private choices shouldn’t be tax supported.

People don’t get subsidies from the government for other “choices.” We don’t get a voucher to move into any neighborhood we want to move to. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” a private country club over public parks. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” books at a book store instead of the public library. Like other public benefits, public schools are, and should be, the tax supported option. The cost of other options are the responsibility of the tax payer.

Instead of underfunding and closing public schools filled with struggling students, we should improve the quality of the school and its teachers. We need to invest in our public schools, and we need to invest more where more support is needed.

The Department of Education just released a new study of the Washington, D.C., school voucher program. And the findings confirm what we’ve known for years: The program doesn’t improve students’ academic achievement. In fact, it has resulted in statistically significant negative impacts on student test scores.

The study found that students using a D.C. voucher performed 7.3 percentage points worse in math than their peers. The program especially hurts students in elementary schools, which comprise 68 percent of the voucher students in the study and are the largest demographic in the program. These students performed worse in math and reading: 14.7 percentage points lower in math and 9.3 percentage points lower in reading.

This conclusion isn’t a surprise considering similar results were reached in recent studies of voucher programs across the country. The studies have found negative impacts on student achievement for voucher students in Ohio, Louisiana and Indiana.


PolitiFact Florida: How not-for-profit are charter schools, really?

Are non-profit charter schools a better use of tax dollars? Not necessarily.

The management company does not manage the governing board; rather, it handles certain aspects of the operations of the school under a contract with the governing board.

The Miami Herald’s examination of South Florida’s charter school industry found several instances of for-profit management companies controlling charter schools’ day-to-day operations.

The Herald found examples of charter schools relinquishing total control of their staff and finances to for-profit management companies. In Miami-Dade County, the Life Skills Center paid 97 percent of its income to cover fees incurred by a management company.


Quick takes on the 2017 legislative session

What did the Indiana General Assembly give us this year?

  • Large budget increases for charters and vouchers, not so much for public schools
  • No voter input for state education policy making
  • Continued emphasis on expensive and wasteful testing policies
  • Another voucher expansion, this time it’s attached to a minimal pre-K increase
  • Lower professional requirements needed to teach in charter schools

This is a state that (still) really hates its public schools.

A session of the Indiana General Assembly is kind of like a tornado. When it’s over, you crawl out of your shelter, look around and assess the damage.

Lawmakers finished their business and left the Statehouse on Saturday morning. Here’s a quick look at some of the wreckage they left on the education front.

Voucher program gets outsized share of K-12 funding increase

Students who receive tuition vouchers to attend private religious schools will get nearly 10 percent of the K-12 education funding increase that Indiana lawmakers included in the 2017-19 state budget.

That’s an outsized share given that voucher students make up only about 3.5 percent of the students who receive funding from the state.


The Walmart Tax

I’m tired of subsidizing Walmart employees so the Waltons can retain their position as America’s richest family. With a family net worth of $130 billion, they can afford to pay their employees a decent wage so the public doesn’t have to fork over $6.2 billion in welfare…

In essence, when a Walmart employee must rely on food stamps or other safety-net benefits, taxpayers are paying a portion of that employee’s wages.

Walmart (including its Sam’s Club operation) is currently the largest private employer in the country–and one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare. Walmart employees receive an estimated $6.2 billion dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies each year. Money not paid out in salary goes directly to the shareholders’ bottom line.

Not only is this greedy and despicable, it is bad business. For one thing, as awareness of this subsidy grows, the numbers of people shopping at Walmart declines. But there are other costs incurred.

Posted in 1000 Words, Baseball, IN Gen.Assembly, Politics, Public Ed, Testing, Trump, vouchers

Food for Thought

A collection of memes and cartoons from around the internet about public education.


The national metaphor for hope…a new season.


No, not basketball – the Indiana General Assembly.

We’re in the midst of the annual attempt by “reformers” in Indiana to

  • extend the misuse and overuse standardized testing
  • expand the voucher program
  • increase funds to charter schools
  • decrease funds to public schools
  • deprofessionalize teachers
  • bust the teachers union

Winners: private and privately run schools, corporate donors, Republican campaign war chests.

Losers: Indiana public school students and their teachers, public school corporations, the future of Indiana.


Repair our public schools and the neighborhoods they occupy. Don’t close them.


Teachers are required to differentiate curriculum because all children are different, but give a standardized test which all children have to pass.


Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?

If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools. Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix. The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.


Now that we know better can we just stop the overuse and misuse of standardized tests? How many instructional hours are wasted for teachers, support staff, and students?


Nothing new for Indiana…


A voucher vs. public school comparison.

Posted in Choice, DeVos, IN Gen.Assembly, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, vouchers

2017 Medley #6

Poverty, Privatization: Vouchers and Choice, Public Education 101 for Betsy DeVos


The Real Crisis in Education:An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Public education in America is not failing. What is failing is our inability or unwillingness to relieve poverty. Children who live in poverty have lower achievement. This isn’t new information. Jonathan Kozol has been sounding the alarm since 1967. We should be ashamed that so many American children live in poverty.

It’s time for politicians to focus on reducing poverty and let the teachers who work with actual students help decide what is best for their students.

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.

Politics, not education, got us into this mess, and it is politics that must get us out of it.

We must not go further down this rabbit hole. The future of our educational system, and the future of our children, is at stake. No one who has not worked in the sector of public education should be making decisions about our school system without careful consideration of the insights of those who will be directly impacted by those decisions.

When we adjust for poverty, American students score high on international tests. Here we see how American students who are educated in schools with less than 10% students in poverty, compare to countries with less than 10% of their students who live in poverty.

Report: School Funding Increases Lag For Low-Income Students

Somehow we have forgotten that children who come to school from high poverty homes need more resources to help them learn, not fewer. They need counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists. They need well trained teachers, and support staff trained in remediation techniques. They need health care and an environment free from toxins like lead. They need pre-schools and summer programs.

It’s time we stop providing more for wealthy students than poor students. All our children need a fully funded, well staffed, and well resourced school.

Recent changes to Indiana’s school funding formula increased per-pupil funding across the state. At the same time it slashed special funding formerly given to students deemed at-risk, including students living in poverty, English-language learners and those who qualified for textbook assistance.

So, in certain districts with low populations of at-risk students, Sugimoto found, that although enrollment declined, the districts received an overall bump in funding per student. He says, in some cases, districts with fewer students saw their overall still increase.

“Those would have been districts that had very modest enrollment declines,” says Suigimoto, in an interview. “The increase in funding would have certainly made up for that.

Yet, overall funding across the state still lags behind pre-2009 rates, when adjusted for inflation.


Voucher programs currently in force in the U.S. have not helped children’s achievement, but they have reduced funds for an already cash strapped (not “flush with cash”) public schools. The “status quo” in 2117 America is the reduction of funds for public schools, increased test and punish policies, and a growing trend towards charter schools and vouchers for religious and private schools.

Instead of letting “the money follow the child” we ought to be “following the money” to see who is benefiting from the expansion of privatization schemes.

Study confirms voucher programs discriminate

Research led by an Indiana University professor confirms what school voucher critics have long argued: Voucher programs receive public funding yet discriminate on the basis of religion, disability status, sexual orientation and possibly other factors.

The finding is especially timely as President Donald Trump and his designee to serve as secretary of education, Michigan school-choice activist Betsy DeVos, have indicated they will use federal clout and money to push states to expand voucher programs.

Voucher programs go beyond what court approved

[Voucher programs] arguably run afoul of the establishment clause – what Thomas Jefferson referred to as the wall of separation between church and state. If not that, the widespread religious discrimination should raise concerns about the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. And some voucher schools appear to discriminate against special-needs students, which could raise issues with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.


The Indiana General Assembly, not satisfied with one of the largest voucher programs in the nation, continues to come up with new ways to divert funds from public education to private pockets.

Note that Indiana’s voucher plan has not helped Indiana’s school achievement. Competition hasn’t resulted in better education for everyone…just inadequately funded public schools which still seem to out-perform privatized education options.

Turn off the tap: Privatization effort too big a drain on schools

Broad and costly expansions of the so-called Choice Scholarship program are found in multiple bills, including Senate Bill 534, which will be heard by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee this afternoon.

SB 534 carries a price tag of as much as $206 million a year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. Repackaged from last year’s unsuccessful “Educational Savings Accounts” to “Special Education Scholarship Accounts,” the intent is the same: Give parents an allotment of tax dollars to spend however they might choose. A companion bill in the House, HB 1591, carries an even more audacious price tag of as much as $366 million a year.

Latest voucher gimmick: Education Savings Accounts

Give Indiana Republican legislators points for resourcefulness. They keep finding new ways to undermine public schools by expanding the state’s school voucher program. The latest, and arguably the most egregious, is the creation of Education Savings Accounts, state-funded accounts to pay for private schooling and other expenses.

Senate Bill 534, scheduled to be considered today by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, would create ESAs for the families of special-needs students who choose not to attend public school and don’t receive a private-school voucher.

The state would fund the ESAs with money that would otherwise go to the public schools where the students would be eligible to enroll — typically about $6,000 per student but potentially quite a bit more for some special-needs students. Then the students’ families could decide where to spend the money: private school tuition, tutoring, online courses, and other services from providers approved by the State Board of Education.

How Can Schools Be Voucherized? Let Us Count the Ways… and the Consequences

Here is Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, in a recent column commenting on what vouchers do to public school funding. This time the example is Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana: “Vouchers drain state tax dollars, creating deficits, or the need for tax increases. When Indiana started its voucher program, it claimed it would save taxpayers money. Not only did that not happen, the state’s education budget is now in deficit, and the millions shelled out for vouchers grows each year. Last year, vouchers cost the taxpayers of Indiana $131.5 million as caps and income levels were raised. Indiana now gives vouchers to families with incomes as high as $90,000 and to students who never attended a public school.” Burris adds that while the program was passed, “promising that it would help poor and lower-middle class families find schools they like for their children… as it turned out, five years after it began, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools and many vouchers are going to wealthier families, those earning up to $90,000 for a household of four.”


School Choice: A Visit to the For-Profit Edu-Mall


Betsy DeVos, the newly confirmed Secretary of Education for the United States, has assumed control over the office charged with overseeing America’s system of public education. She has no experience in public schools: not as a teacher or educator, parent, or even a student. She is arguably the least qualified person to ever hold the office, with the possible exception of Bill Bennett (who also had minimal encounters with public education, but he at least earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from a public university).

As a public service, here are a couple of things which could serve to educate Secretary DeVos about public schools…including an excerpt from the Michigan Constitution about public education.

Educating Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos does not understand what it is like to teach in any school let alone poor public schools. She does not understand what the lives of real teachers and students are like…

Here’s what’s hard. I have added a few new points:

  • Watching your school district throw money at unproven technology when basic needs are your students not met.
  • Being dismissed as a teacher, when you are the only professional in the room who understands children and how they learn.
  • Being dismissed as a parent, when you understand your child best.
  • Being an over tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
  • Coming to school hungry and/or sick, or having an untreated toothache.
  • Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
  • Working on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty, who face all the terrible problems that come with that.
  • Not having a home.
  • Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
  • Having such a large class with so many diverse students you know it will be difficult to teach.
  • Not having enough resources and materials to teach effectively.

Why We Still Need Public Schools

We still need public schools…

The mission of public education is sixfold.

1. To provide universal access to free education
2. To guarantee equal opportunities for all children
3. To unify a diverse population
4. To prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society
5. To prepare people to become economically self-sufficient
6. To improve social conditions

That mission has been accepted by the states and most have provisions for public schools in their constitutions. The constitution of Michigan, for example, provides for free, universal, public education.

§ 2 Free public elementary and secondary schools; discrimination.
Sec. 2. The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.

The constitution also provides for universities, public libraries, and a popularly elected state board of education. In 1970 the state decided to prohibit private schools and private school students from using public tax money.

No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students.

Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, IN Gen.Assembly, Public Ed, reform, Segregation, Testing

2016 Medley #5: Indiana Republicans (still) Hate Public Education

Indiana’s “reformist” Politics

Indiana’s legislature is run by a supermajority of Republicans. The Hoosier state is nearly all “red” and has only gone for a Democratic presidential candidate twice in the last 75 years (1964 and 2008).

The supermajority legislature and the Republican appointed State Board of Education has been attacking public education, public school teachers, and teachers unions regularly and in 2011, passed laws to eliminate teacher seniority rights, do away with tenure (due process) for teachers, stop paying teachers for extra education, evaluate teachers based on student test scores, and restrict collective bargaining rights to money issues (salary, insurance).

The General Assembly is so solidly and heavily Republican that when they talk about “compromise” they’re talking about the House Republicans compromising with the Senate Republicans. Democrats are apparently only there to delay the inevitable through objections and speeches. Rational discourse between parties is met with Republicans figuratively putting their hands over their ears and mumbling, “I can’t hear you.”

It won’t get any better either. The governor and his lackeys in the legislature have been bought and sealed by the Koch Brothers and ALEC. Is there hope that enough people might cross party lines and vote some of the rascals out” Not likely. Most of the citizenry, outside of a couple of major cities, are life-long, “my-daddy-was-a-Republican-so-I’m-a-Republican-too” Republicans.

[There are some who are more thoughtful, of course. But they continue to vote Republican even if they disagree on education issues, because of traditional Republican issues like abortion and GLBT rights.]

Indiana Democrats try their best, but the odds are not in their favor. As long as Republicans keep getting elected then the leadership (Bob Behning and Brian Bosma in the House, and David Long and Dennis Kruse in the Senate) will continue to do what they can to keep the campaign dollars coming from “reformers.”


Guest column: Schools should be about children

This excerpt from a behind-a-pay-wall article was written by a Bloomington, IN mom. In it she calls out the state testing program for all the damage it has done. Grading schools, labeling children, and evaluating teachers is a waste of time and just one more piece of the ALEC plan to completely privatize public education.

(Bloomington area readers, the author suggests you subscribe to your local newspaper.)

At one time, testing was only part of the overall assessment for how kids and schools were doing. We relied on teachers to tell us the rest. After all, teachers are with our kids every day and are professionals who know where students fall on the continuum of development and learning. We trusted teachers.

Now, thanks to the state Legislature and governor, the test has become the focus of our kids’ education. It is no longer a temperature check for how kids are learning; it is the (state’s) objective…


Does slapping an “F” on a school and stigmatizing the teachers and children within, help those kids? Does a threat of takeover and privatization by the state ameliorate the effects of poverty? No. It creates a pressure cooker for children and teachers.

High-stakes testing provides fertile ground for the profit-making idea of “school choice.” Prove public schools are failing and offer alternatives. Charters, voucher schools and public schools compete for tax dollars in a game that is rigged. Test companies grow richer.

The laws that created this marketplace of education all come from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s goal is to create more competition in education and to privatize it. There is even an Indiana Reform Package of model legislation on their website. Our governor has written the introduction to the ALEC report card.
The A-F grading of schools, tying teachers’ pay to test scores, the pass-a-40-question-reading-test-or-fail third grade law — these are all from ALEC. They were not backed by research of what are best practices in teaching. Most reflect the opposite.


Schooling lawmakers: Education bills have predictable consequences

The editorial writer in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette seems to think that this year’s anti-teacher, anti-public schools legislation will mobilize teachers around the state to fight back. Turnout is always largest during a presidential election year, which, I hope will favor those who are against further damaging public education.

One of this year’s bills, which the House wrested from the (slightly) less-hateful-of-teachers Senate, takes us back to the day where nepotism and corruption ruled the hiring and firing of teachers. The Republican leaders in the Senate claimed the law was part of a solution to the teacher shortage and that it was “misunderstood.” They killed the House version because of all the outcry from teachers and their supporters.

The House leaders, on the other hand, led by a florist-turned-self-declared-education-expert, are in the process of pushing the Senate version through to the Governor’s desk. If the Governor should sign it (and it’s an election year, so he might listen to the outcry against it) it will become law and the collective bargaining agreement between teachers and school boards can be overruled by back-room conversations and deals with no public input or accountability.

[Hoosier voters, write to your House legislators today and tell them to reject SB10 (which eliminates more collective bargaining rights) and SB334 (which expands the nation’s most expansive giveaway of public funds to private schools through vouchers)]

There’s little Indiana lawmakers could do to further marginalize teacher unions, although some believe they’ve found a tool.

But Senate Bill 10 might be just what the struggling associations need to remind teachers of the value of collective bargaining. It gives superintendents the authority to pay some educators more than others, as they did in the days when some school chiefs paid male teachers more than their female colleagues or when a board member could insist on extra pay for a daughter-in-law. There’s no provision to limit the extra pay to teachers in hard-to-fill disciplines like math or special education.

Arbitrary compensation systems and other unfair management practices gave rise to Indiana’s collective bargaining law in 1973. A return to those practices will mobilize teachers in numbers the bill’s supporters can’t imagine.

Zombie teacher-pay bill rises from the dead

That should have been that. But Rep. Robert Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, picked up the supposedly dead SB 10 and waltzed it through the committee by a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday, the final day for committee action. It now goes to the full House.

Expect Behning to block any attempt to amend the bill. Any change would send the bill back to the Senate, which has said it won’t pass the measure again.


The big trouble in Indiana public schools, as explained by a troubled educator

What do teachers think about all this? Here’s a sample.

The looming teacher shortage in Indiana is the same as in other parts of the nation. Fewer people are going into teaching because of stagnant salaries, lack of professional autonomy, and general disrespect of educators.

Yes, the mess in education isn’t just affecting those of us who are in education. First, legislators thought we weren’t doing our job, so they legislated the pay scale so good teachers would get paid more for their efforts. In reality, the legislature has capped teacher salaries, not allowing years of experience or education to fiscally matter. Being a highly effective or effective teacher results in a minuscule stipend, maybe enough to get the brakes fixed on your car.

Salaries for teachers statewide are stagnant. Your income does not rise over time. Families cannot be supported on a teacher’s salary over time, and yet college costs the same for them as it does to be an engineer.

I wonder why there’s a teacher shortage.


In 1954, for those old enough to remember, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education, that “separate educational facilities [for black and white children] are inherently unequal.”

In a second ruling, PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 ET AL. in 2007, the Court essentially stripped Brown v. Board of Ed of all it’s power. It told (emphasis added)

…local school districts that they cannot take even modest steps to overcome residential segregation and ensure that schools within their diverse cities themselves remain racially mixed unless they can prove that such classifications are narrowly tailored to achieve specific educational benefits.

The Justices who passed PARENTS, would argue that it didn’t overturn Brown, but in the meantime, school districts around the nation were suddenly free to ignore segregation and close their eyes to continued separate facilities.

Study finds Indy charter schools increased segregation

Charters have added another level to the continued segregation of children in public schools. The charter school movement has increased segregation all over the country. The cure to the so-called “bigotry of low expectations” has made things worse.

The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University education professor Marc Stein and published last summer in the American Journal of Education, found that charter-school choice in Indy led to “higher degrees of racial isolation and less diversity” than in the public schools the students were leaving.

African-American students were more likely to enroll in charter schools with a higher concentration of black students than the neighborhood schools they left; and white students more likely to enroll in schools with a higher percentage of white enrollment.

The average white student in the analytic sample chose a charter school that enrolled 13.9 percentage points more white students and 13.1 percentage points fewer black students than their previously enrolled school. Concomitantly, black students chose to enroll in charters with enrollments that were 9.2 percent more black and 5.6 percent less white than their former schools.

As a result, charter schools were becoming more racially isolated. In 2008-09, only one charter school in the study met the city desegregation target of having its enrollment of black students within 15 percentage points of Indianapolis Public Schools. When the charter schools opened, five met the target.

Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, ISTEP, Testing

Look! Something Shiny!

Look, it’s a shiny New Improved! Test guaranteed to distract you from the dirty, faded, ISTEP+ test that cost the state billion$ and never really worked.

The ISTEP+ is gone (or at least, it will be…soon…um, maybe), and the supermajority in the state legislature, composed almost exclusively of non-educators, will choose which standardized student achievement test to misuse next.

Hours of work, funded by taxpayer dollars, will result in the students of Indiana again being threatened by taking a new standardized test developed to measure student achievement.

When the New Improved! Test is put in place everyone will be happy, school children will smile, (no more throwing up on test booklets!) teachers and administrators will breathe a collective sigh of relief, and “reformers” can continue working toward their goal of privatizing education in Indiana.

But there’s a blemish beneath the surface of the shiny New Improved! Test.

It will be misused, just like ISTEP+ was misused.

The New Improved! Test will immediately be misused in at least four ways.

  • It will be misused to grade the state’s K-12 schools and school corporations using a flawed A to F grading scale. Student achievement tests are developed to measure student achievement, not schools. Prediction: The New Improved! Test will determine that schools which choose students from wealthy homes will be graded “A.” “F” schools will get the students from high poverty areas. Coincidentally, communities which house “F” schools will also be labeled as “failing.”
  • It will be misused to make high stakes decisions affecting students. The New Improved! Test won’t be able to measure creativity, determination, perspective, intuition, honesty, courage, perseverance, thoroughness, flexibility, fluency, originality, elaboration, confidence, self-control, curiosity, or wisdom, but it will still give “valuable information” about student placement. Some students will still lose their schools to “state takeover.” Consistent education will be disrupted. Students will lose a complete curriculum and focus only on Reading and STEM.
  • It will be misused to evaluate teachers. Student achievement tests are developed to measure student achievement, not evaluate teachers. Prediction: The New Improved! Test will determine that high poverty schools are filled with ineffective teachers. Effective teachers apparently only choose low poverty schools.
  • It will be misused to prove that public schools are “failing.” Prediction: Charter schools (even those which get D or F on the grading scale) and private schools will be the only hope for the children of Indiana. There will be no reason to invest in public education. Instead, more charters will need to be opened. More voucher money will be allocated. More public schools will be labeled “failing” and then closed.

The Indiana Senate, run by a supermajority of “reformers,” has agreed to eliminate ISTEP+, but public schools will continue to be damaged, public school students will continue to be labeled and shortchanged in their education, public school teachers will continue to be vilified, and corporate “reform” will continue without pause.

Thank you, New Improved! Test, for doing exactly what ISTEP+ did to improve education in Indiana. Nothing.

Oh, and until the New Improved! Test is chosen, approved, and implemented, ISTEP+ will still be misused in the same old way.

Senate agrees to eliminate ISTEP

The legislation creates a 22-member panel to study alternatives and make recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly this December. Some things the panel must consider are the feasibility of using existing national tests, reducing the time and costs associated with the test and transparency and fairness.

Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, the author of the bill, said he doesn’t like how the Senate narrowed the scope of the panel to only testing instead of overall accountability systems for teachers, schools and students.

He also noted he doesn’t agree with putting testing experts directly on the panel.

A conference committee is a small group of legislators from both sides of the aisle appointed to hammer out a final compromise.

Another sticking point with Democrats is that GOP lawmakers have made Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz a member of the committee – but not the chair. Gov. Mike Pence would appoint the chair.

Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana DOE, ISTEP, Pence, Testing

Don’t Pause – STOP!


The Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, called ISTEP, is a mess.

First it was too long, then it was too hard, then it was too late. And now the too-long, too-hard, too-late test has just been revealed to have been the subject of scoring errors. The Indy Star explains…

Computer glitch could have misscored thousands of ISTEP tests, scoring supervisors say

Scores on thousands of student exams could be incorrect because of a computer malfunction that inadvertently changed grades on Indiana’s high-stakes ISTEP test, according to scoring supervisors familiar with the glitch.

But the company that scored the exam on behalf of the state — testing giant CTB McGraw Hill — decided to leave those potentially faulty scores in place, even after the problem was brought to management’s attention, the supervisors said.

Company executives would not speak with The Indianapolis Star, but in a letter Tuesday to the Indiana Department of Education, Executive Vice President Ellen Haley downplayed the problem. She said the issue “was very rare” and “did not affect student scores.”

Seven supervisors who spoke with The Star disagreed. All said they believed the problem was more widespread. Two estimated that tens of thousands of test questions were likely given incorrect scores. Others said it is difficult to put a number on the problem, but it was pervasive enough to merit rescoring the potentially impacted tests.

This has inflamed bloggers, pundits, and educators all over the state. Dave Bangert sums it up…

Bangert: The ISTEP Dumpster fire

ISTEP has tumbled and crashed the way educators across the state predicted as obvious back in January and February. In those days, the dire warnings from classrooms around the state were blown off by those with Statehouse clout as just more excuses about the testing culture of school reform. That’s dereliction of a different sort.

The incompetence of CTB McGraw Hill simply removes all doubt, pounding one more nail in a coffin for a round of testing that should have been lowered into the ground long ago.

Everyone, from your local school superintendent, to the Indiana State Teachers Association, is calling for the legislature to “pause accountability” since the tests used to measure schools and evaluate teachers are so messed up. Even the Governor has agreed to ask the legislature to not use the test scores to grade teachers.

I disagree…we ought not “pause accountability.” We ought to end it.


Most “reformers” don’t read my blog, but if there are any out there, I’m not calling for an end to all accountability for schools and teachers. I’m calling for an end to “reform-style” accountability.

I’ll explain.

Standardized tests, assuming that they’re valid and reliable to begin with (another post for the future), ought to be used for that which they have been developed. In other words, student achievement tests ought to be used to measure student achievement, not to evaluate teachers and schools. By definition, student achievement tests are invalid when used to measure anything else.

James Popham, UCLA Professor Emeritus, wrote in 2001 that there were only four appropriate uses for standardized student achievement tests.

Informing parents about their children’s relative achievements
Informing teachers about their students’ relative achievements
Selecting students for special programs
Allocating supplemental resources

He also listed four inappropriate uses.

Evaluating schools
Evaluating teachers
Promoting or grading students
Making classroom instructional decisions

Even earlier (1982) was this from “Ability Testing: Uses, Consequences, and Controversies”

A test score is a numerical description of a sample of performance at a given point in time. A test score gives no information as to why the individual performed as reported.

Claiming that it does, whether intended as a positive attribute or a criticism, is tantamount to test misuse. Furthermore, no statistical manipulation of test data, even though combined with the best additional data, will permit more than probabilistic inferences about causation or future performance.

In other words, a student’s score on a student achievement test should not be used to show that a teacher (or school) was the cause of the student’s score.

In order to use a test in a way other than the purpose for which it was intended, the user must be able to show how the test retains its validity. To my knowledge, the developer of ISTEP has never shown how it is a valid tool for evaluating schools and teachers other than the non-research based explanation of “it shows what the kids know, therefore the teachers and schools must be responsible.” (For just one of many reasons this isn’t true, see Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

“Reform-style” accountability, then, insists that tests do more than they were developed to do. It insists that tests be used to evaluate schools and teachers. This is a common, though blatant misuse of tests.

I’d love to see proof that the ISTEP has been developed to include measuring the effectiveness of schools and teachers, in addition to measuring student achievement.

If there is none (and I don’t think there is), we need to stop, not just pause, using it for those purposes.

For more information about ISTEP see:

Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, REPA, Teaching Career

Indiana “reformers” are Surprised by a Teacher Shortage?

[This entry has been updated. The second part has been added]


Kruse and Behning can’t understand why there’s a teacher shortage?

The two people in the Indiana legislature who are responsible for more damage to the state’s public education system than anyone else…and they don’t know why there’s a teacher shortage?

Either they are even more stupid than I suspected (and that’s saying quite a bit) or they think we’re incredibly stupid.

Indiana Lawmakers Call For Study On Teacher Shortage

“Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and House Education Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, wrote that “given the media reports and concerns that they have generated with school districts, we think it would be wise for the Indiana General Assembly to proactively address this issue.”

“They are calling for testimony from experts and those teaching in local schools to explain why the enrollment at teacher colleges and licensures are dropping….”

For starters (please feel free to add your own)…

We have…

Attacking teachers

  • Loss of collective bargaining rights over most contract items.
  • Attacking the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a National Board Certified Teacher, because she’s “…just a librarian.”
  • REPA-3 allowing anyone someone to teach without knowing the first thing about education (Yes, I know this was the SBOE, but my guess is that they heard about it).


Attacking Public Schools

  • Diverting funds for public education to private and charter schools.
  • Using an unproven and inadequate single letter grade to grade public schools…and insisting that we use it even though the testing was screwed up.

And finally…

Overuse and Misuse of Standardized Tests

  • Using student test scores to evaluate teachers.
  • Insisting on using an untested system before it’s ready.


My first thought was that Kruse and Behning are just stupider than I imagined…and then I started thinking about it and I have begun to suspect that they aren’t worried about the lack of teachers at all.

First…this is the perfect excuse to saturate the state with TFA temps. Think of all the money the state will save without career teachers getting higher salaries.

Second…I think it will be time for REPA-4. The new crisis is that there won’t be enough teachers so the state will have to lower even further the requirements for people to become teachers. Right now all you need is a bachelor’s degree…and the ability to pass a test in your subject area and you can teach that subject in High School…without any teaching experience or training. Perhaps REPA-4 will drop the requirements even lower…and add elementary schools. Anyone with a college degree in anything could teach elementary school…and forget the test portion of the requirement…after all, how hard can it be to get a bunch of little kids to do what you want them to do! More low paid temps…

Third…not enough teachers? Raise the class size. Think how much money we can save there!

With those three things going think how easy it will be to claim that public schools are failing and we need to send even more money to private, parochial and charter schools. Let’s just shut down the whole public education system in the state and let the Friedmanites take over…no regulation needed at all. After all, it worked well for the banks, didn’t it?


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.

Stop the Testing Insanity!