Category Archives: Mitch Daniels

2019 Medley #19

GERM in Canada, Third Grade Retention,
the Common Good, ILEARN, Vouchers,
the Teacher Exodus

ET TU CANADA?

Schools aren’t failing our kids, our government is.

Since 2012 Grant Frost has been writing about the GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement) infection of Canada. Sadly, the story is similar to what’s been happening here in the US. Outside factors affect school achievement, yet solutions to societal problems seem to fall to the schools.

In 2011, Texas Superintendent John Kuhn asked,

Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet?

Schools can’t do it alone…and schools can’t solve the problems caused by, in the case of the US, decades of neglect, racism, and economic inequity. State (and Provincial) governments must accept their share of responsibility…not by punishing high need schools with school takeovers and inadequate funding, but with real programs aimed at healing the problems of poverty and systemic racism.

To paraphrase Frost, “The reality of our situation in Indiana is not that our schools are failing our kids; our government is.”

What struck me so soundly as I read through the report, beyond my obvious alarm, was the way in which so many of these issues, or more particularly, the finding of solutions for them, has so often been downloaded by governments onto the public school system. In an attempt to lower obesity rates, schools are encouraged to provide more activity time. In an attempt to lower suicide rates, students get lessons on warning signs and prevention measures. Discrimination (risk nine) is countered with “respect for all” campaigns. Bullying (risk ten) is tackled head on in classroom. Food insecurity (breakfast programs). Infant mortality (Parenting courses). Lack of immunization (Immunization programs.) For almost every indicator of risk to our children that was on the list, governments have turned to public schools and the people who staff them to provide solutions.

…Child poverty can not be addressed in our classrooms. That particular risk factor can only be addressed in Province House. The reality of our situation in Nova Scotia is not that our schools are failing our kids; our government is.

RETENTION

Third Grade Reading Retention Does Not Work (Example #6,288,347)

Retention in grade continues to damage thousands of Indiana children. The latest statistics I was able to find were those for the 2016-2017 school year. At that time about 7% (nearly 76,000) of Indiana’s 1.14 million students between the ages of 6 and 17 had been retained at least once since they entered kindergarten.

Indiana is one of the states with third-grade retention laws so many of those students are retained in third grade. Our students are required to pass a standardized reading test in third grade or repeat the grade.

Research spanning more than 100 years has consistently shown that retention in grade is not helpful and is, in many cases, harmful. Often children will improve their academic achievement during their repeated year grade, but after three to four years most gains have disappeared. Grade retention is an intervention teachers and schools will attempt because they don’t know what else to do and believe that “we have to do something.”

With more and more states requiring retention in third grade for students who cannot pass the state-mandated standardized reading test, there will continue to be a large number of students retained in grade.

At the end of this linked piece, Peter Greene wrote,

…third grade reading retention does not work, plus it’s expensive and damaging to students, so maybe we can just knock it off right now.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen any time soon.

What the more reliable research appears to show is that third grade is a good year for taking a student’s reading temperature, and their ability to read at the third grade level seems to be a good predictor of future scholastic success. That seems to be a valid correlation but– say it with me now, nice and loud for the folks in the back– correlation does not equal causation.

Nevertheless, many states have instituted a plan by which students are not allowed to exit third grade until they can show sufficient reading skills (or at least sufficient standardized read test taking skills). This is dumb.

This would be the equivalent of, say, noting that students who are more than four and a half feet tall in third grade are mostly over six feet tall when they graduate from high school. Therefor, in our desire to make graduates taller, we will not let anyone progress beyond third grade until they are at least four and a half feet tall.

The most likely reading of the third grade reading correlation is that some factors are contributing to a poor reading level, and those same factors, exacerbated by reading difficulties, will be obstacles to future success. Third grade reading level is a canary in the coalmine, and you don’t fix things by repeatedly sending canaries down there. But canaries are cheap, and fixing coal mines is hard and expensive. Addressing all the problems that hold a small child back– well, that’s complicated and expensive and difficult and it puts a lot of responsibility on the government. It’s simpler to just threaten the kid and the teacher and make it their problem.

WE SERVE ALL CHILDREN

Embracing Public Schools as the Very Definition of the Common Good

America’s public schools are a “common good.” Jan Resseger eloquently describes how we all benefit from public education. If you need to respond to those who don’t understand how public schools help individuals, communities, and the entire society, here is an excellent source.

…public schools are required by law to serve the needs and protect the rights of all children: “(T)here is one thing that our American public schools do better than any other schools in the country or even in the world: our public schools commit to addressing the needs of every single child. Our public schools are open to ALL children, without prejudice or pause. Our schools attempt to educate EVERYBODY. American students are students who are gifted, students with disabilities, students who need advanced placement, students who have experienced trauma, students who are learning English, students who are hungry, affluent students, students who live in poverty, students who are anxious, and students who are curious.”

TESTING IN INDIANA

ILEARN another blow to state’s education efforts

How much time is spent by adults and children in your local school on our state tests? What might be a better use of that time?

Indiana students, teachers and local communities have endured years of changing school accountability systems, each focused on exhaustive standardized test-taking negatively affecting student well-being, teacher compensation and school letter grades, causing parent confusion and anxiety in the local community.

From ISTEP to ISTEP+ to ILEARN, children in Indiana have suffered years of changing expectations through standardized testing schemes designed to determine the number of students who fail only after the test is given. No good teacher uses assessments in this manner.

Set the standards, work toward learning the standards, assess the standards through multiple means, determine those meeting or not yet meeting the standards, all without crushing teaching and learning through excessive standardized testing.

To the detriment of today’s school culture, students and teachers have been reduced to test takers and test preparers unable to take advantage of the ebb and flow of inquiry learning, creative and independent thinking, or problem-solving through logic.

Instead, too much precious time and money has been spent over the years on accountability systems focused solely on test results directly correlated with student socioeconomic status.

Testing…Testing…

Sheila Kennedy writes about how Indiana’s tests…from ISTEP to ILEARN have been misused as a tool to damage public education.

The widespread misuse of what should be a diagnostic tool is just one more example of our depressing American tendency to apply bumper sticker solutions to complex issues requiring more nuanced approaches.

Are we concerned about the quality of our public schools? Easy. Let’s just give out vouchers allowing parents to send their children to mostly religious schools that may or may not teach science or civics or accurate history, and are turning out graduates with lower test scores in math and English.

For the 90% of children who still attend our public schools, let’s spend lots of tax dollars on standardized tests that we can then use as a blunt weapon to pigeonhole the kids and penalize their teachers.

Those approaches are so much easier than acting on the basis of in-depth analyses of both strengths and shortcomings, giving our public schools and public school teachers the resources–and the respect– they need, and properly evaluating the results.

VOUCHERS

Indiana’s School Voucher Program–The Back Story

A second article by Sheila Kennedy…this one on the history of Indiana’s voucher program.

As governor, Mike Pence did his best to use the voucher program to enrich parochial schools, but it was Mitch Daniels who was the brains behind diverting public funds to religious and private pockets.

Kennedy’s blog post is based on an article in the Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana. The Answer Sheet is behind the Washington Posts’ paywall, however, Kennedy includes a link to a pdf file of the article.

…Mitch Daniels is a highly intelligent man. He is also thoroughly political and ideological. My guess is that he drank deeply from the well of GOP dogma, and believes–with an almost religious fervor, evidence be damned– that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. (Why so many people who clearly believe this nevertheless spend their professional lives in the public sector is an enduring mystery.)

So here we are. Vouchers have increased religious and racial segregation without improving academic performance. Meanwhile, public schools are struggling to perform without adequate resources, and the state’s underpaid teachers are leaving in droves.

Did Indiana’s schools need improvement? Absolutely. Were vouchers an appropriate or effective remedy? Absolutely not.

That’s what happens when ideology trumps evidence.

TEACHER SHORTAGE EXODUS

How to stop the teacher exodus

It’s not a teacher shortage. It’s a teacher exodus from classrooms and from teacher training programs. Fewer young people are going into education…and those teachers who are leaving the field — whether through an early exit or retirement — are not being replaced in sufficient numbers. Who will teach the next generation of American children? Who will prepare tomorrow’s citizens for our nation’s future success?

…test-based accountability has destroyed the profession of teaching and caused a mass demoralization and exodus from public school classrooms. And let’s not forget about the thousands of hours of lost instruction time in the sciences, social studies, arts, music and anything else that doesn’t conform to basic literacy and numeracy skills.

It really is an insanity driven by the hatred of public schools and the greed of powerful individuals to use the false narrative of failing schools and bad teachers to drain schools of public tax dollars. Nothing done over the last 35 years in the name of accountability—Nothing! — has done anything positive for the children stuck at the bottom of the achievement gap. The problem was never failing schools and bad teachers. The problem has always been poverty born out of systemic racism. 

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Filed under Article Medleys, Canada, CommonGood, GERM, iLearn, Mitch Daniels, retention, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

Answers hiding in plain sight

Today’s editorial on the News Sentinel page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about Governor Holcomb’s Teacher Pay commission is generally favorable for an increase in salary for the state’s teachers. They argue that Indiana’s teacher salaries are generally lower than neighboring states and that there is a big variance in the pay of different Indiana districts.

State teacher compensation commission needs to come up with plan to increase pay scale

Indiana’s average pay is $50,218 a year, which is between $2,000-$10,000 less than teachers in neighboring states. Starting pay for teachers at some school districts in Indiana is less than $35,000. It is believed low pay is one reason there is a shortage of qualified teachers at many schools.

and

The highest average pay in the state was Hamilton Southeastern Schools at $64,983, while the lowest was Medora Schools at $37,221.

The chair of the commission is a retired Anthem Insurance executive, Michael Smith. The commission is filled with business executives, school administrators…oh, and one teacher. Hooray.

Indiana teacher pay was comparable to surrounding states until 2009, [Smith] said, and the commission is trying to discern what has changed since then.

What’s changed since then? Let me think…

This reminds me of the statements in 2015 of Bob Behning and Dennis Kruse, at that time chairs of the House and Senate Education committees, respectively, questioning why there was a teacher shortage in Indiana.

Indiana legislative committee to study teacher shortage (August 16, 2015)

The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees had asked General Assembly leaders to approve having the legislative education study committee review what is causing the drop and how the state could respond.

Why is there a teacher shortage? Teachers know why.

Why have Indiana teacher salaries failed to keep pace since 2009 (actually much longer than that, but who’s counting)? Again, teachers likely know why.

CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION, BUT…

What has changed since 2009?

I admit that correlation does not imply causation but just consider Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and the 2008-2012 Daniels administration…

As Governor, Mitch Daniels, with the help of then State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, a Daniels-heavy State Board of Education (run by Bennett), and a Republican supermajority in the Indiana House and Senate, declared war on public schools and public school teachers.

During the Daniels administration (and since) Indiana has seen bills and policies which,

  • required teachers to be evaluated in large part based on the achievement test scores of their students
  • establish an A-F grading scale for schools and school districts which had the effect of blaming teachers for all low student achievement without any attention being paid to out-of-school factors on student achievement.
  • restrict teacher collective bargaining to money only. No more bargaining for class size, teacher prep time, or hours of work.
  • weakened teacher job security. No longer did a teacher have due process if a district wanted to fire him/her. No longer would an impartial arbitrator listen to both sides and make a judgment.
  • allow anyone with a college degree to teach their subject in high school with no previous pedagogical training. Apparently, the State Board of Education believes that child development and classroom management skills taught in education schools aren’t necessary to begin the year teaching a group of teenagers.
  • restrict teacher contracts to a maximum of two years thereby imposing repeated bargaining on school districts at least every other year. 
  • changed the funding of public schools through the passage of a Daniels supported property tax cap which shifted school funding responsibilities to the General Assembly. Equitable funding of public schools was now up to the whims of the legislature.
  • reduce the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries. 
  • expanded the 2001 charter school law making the increase of charter schools easier.
  • opened the door to, and regularly increased economic support for, vouchers…public tax dollars diverted to private schools.

Indiana Choice Scholarships

In 2011 the initial school voucher program in Indiana passed while Mitch Daniels was governor. In 2013 the Indiana General Assembly passed HB 1003, which amended the school voucher program by creating tax credits for those already enrolled in private school and expanding voucher eligibility.Mike Pence was governor and supported the changes. [1]

Indiana has seen a burst of new charter schools since 2011 law

The number of charter schools in Indiana has grown rapidly since a 2011 state law passed expanding authority to approve and oversee them to new sponsors, and the acceleration looks likely to continue over the next two years.

THE ANSWERS ARE IN PLAIN SIGHT

What has changed since 2009? The Teacher Pay Commission can find the answer in plain sight…though perhaps they could use a few more actual teachers at the table.

Why haven’t teacher salaries kept pace with our neighboring states?

  • When you have one pot of money for education, and you try to support three separate, and often competing school systems, something is going to be underfunded. In Indiana, it’s public schools and teacher salaries.

Why is there a teacher shortage?

  • When you underfund a profession, take away job security, and ignore the voices of actual practitioners, young people will choose other careers.

Now, what should we do with a nearly half-billion-dollar budget surplus?

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Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

For the last two decades, the Indiana General Assembly has done its best to hurt Indiana’s public schools and public school teachers. This year is no different. But before we look at this year, let’s take a quick trip back to the past to see what the General Assembly has done to hurt public education in general, and public school teachers in particular.

2011 was the watershed mark for public education in Indiana. We had all been suffering through No Child Left Behind with all its onerous requirements. Then Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) with his sidekick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, worked diligently with the Republican supermajority in the legislature and the Republican-leaning State Board of Education, to make things as difficult for public education and public educators as they could. Subsequent Governors Pence and Holcomb have continued down the same path. Governor Pence, especially, was blatant in his support for private schools over public (see For Further Reading at the end of this post).

Here are a few things that the Daniels-, Pence-, and Holcomb-led supermajority has done to public schools and public school teachers in Indiana

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

The collective bargaining process has been gutted. Just like other anti-union Republicans, the legislature has passed legislation to restrict collective bargaining to only money and benefits. No longer is it required that school boards negotiate work-related conditions such as class size, preparation time and hours of work. For years, politicians said that all teachers were interested in was “their wallets.” The new collective bargaining law prohibits teachers from negotiating anything else.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

When I started teaching in 1975, Indiana teachers were required to have or work towards a master’s degree. Once the advanced degree was achieved teachers were moved to a higher salary schedule which recognized and rewarded advanced education. Teachers are no longer required to get an advanced degree but are still required to participate in “continuing education” in order to keep their license current. However, an advanced degree or hours above the bachelor’s degree are no longer automatically rewarded; the salary schedules are gone. The educational experience of teachers apparently no longer matters. Testing counts, of course, so Indiana still “rewards” teachers whose students achieve high test scores. Years of experience and advanced education? Not so much.

REPA III

Politicians and pundits will often talk about how we only want the best-qualified teachers in our classrooms. So it’s easy to be confused about the rules that allow untrained educators to walk into a high school classroom on the first day of school. If you have a degree in a high school subject, biology for example, and you have worked in the field for a minimum number of years, say as a sales rep for a laboratory, you can walk into a high school class on the first day of the school year and “teach” biology. Education/pedagogical training is required, but not right away. You can start with no experience or understanding of child/adolescent development, classroom management, or understanding of the learning process. So much for the best qualified.

DUE PROCESS

For years teachers were protected from arbitrary dismissals by the requirement that the administration prove incompetence or other reasons for dismissal through due process. An impartial arbitrator would listen to both sides and make a judgment. A principal who didn’t like a teacher couldn’t just fire a teacher without just cause. That’s no longer the case. The only recourse a teacher has now for an unfair firing is to request a meeting with the Superintendent or the local school board, neither of which would be considered impartial.

FUNDING

Public school funding was cut by $300 million during the Daniels Administration. This money has never been replaced.

Vouchers, which began in 2011, have siphoned more than $800 million from public education. Charter schools, including virtual charters, have also taken money once designated for the public good and put it into private pockets.

CURRENTLY

The bills and amendments discussed below have not yet passed the legislature. They still give an indication of the way in which Indiana public educators are disrespected.

School Safety

School safety has been an important issue especially with the frequency of school shootings and the number of children killed by gun violence every day. Many schools have initiated “active school shooter” training so that the staff would be prepared for an emergency.

Indiana made the national news in March when a local school district allowed the Sheriff’s department in their community to shoot plastic pellets at teachers in order to make the training “more realistic.” Teachers, some of whom sustained injuries, were told to keep the training procedure a secret.

A current amendment to a bill (HB1253) allows this to continue.

Do teachers need to be shot in order to understand the need for school safety? Are teachers unaware of the dangers of gun violence? One teacher who was shot with pellets commented,

“It hurt really bad,” said the woman, who said she was left with bruises, welts and bleeding cuts that took almost two weeks to heal. “You don’t know who you are shooting and what types of experience those individuals had in the past, whether they had PTSD or anything else. And we didn’t know what we were going into.”

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

“What makes it more outrageous is they thought we would need to have that experience of being shot to take this seriously,” she said. “When I thought about it that way, I really started to get angry. Like we are not professionals. It felt belittling.”

Great. So let’s pass a bill which allows people to do that again.

Teacher Pay

Governor Holcomb has called for an increase in teacher pay this year.

Because of a constitutional cap on property taxes, the state legislature is charged with the responsibility of making sure schools have enough funds to operate. So much for “local control.”

Indiana teachers’ real wages have dropped by 15% since 1999. We are well behind the increases in pay given to teachers in surrounding states. The legislature, in order to increase teacher pay, has proposed to increase funding for education by 2.1%. Last year’s inflation rate was 1.9%. The proposed 2.1% will also be used to pay for increases in support of vouchers and charter schools. How much will be left for public school teacher raises?

The legislature, trying to act like a state school board, suggested that school systems be required to use 85% of their state money for teacher salaries. So much for “local control.”

Collective Bargaining

There’s an amendment to a bill (SB390) which will require that a maximum of three collective bargaining meetings between school boards and local teachers associations be private. All the rest of the meetings must be held publicly.

The only reason I can see for this amendment is to make things more difficult for the teachers union. There’s no research to support the idea that schools with open negotiations meetings save more money than schools which negotiate in private. There’s no research to support the idea that this will help teachers teach better, or improve student performance. There is no reason to do this other than to make things more difficult for teachers.

Where is the corresponding legislation to require the same public meeting policy for administrators’ salaries? legislature staff salaries? state department of health workers salaries?

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don’t hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we’d be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s A Look

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

The basics of everything: Your guide to education issues in Indiana

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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Holcomb, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, REPA, SBOE, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings, Teachers Unions, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career

Back to School in America, 2018-2019 Indiana Edition

It’s August and the back-to-school march has begun. In many cases, America’s public school students are going to schools whose funding is at levels lower than a decade ago and whose teachers’ chores have continued to expand. Indiana is one of those places.

It happens every year. The responsibilities of teachers and schools increase mostly from legislated mandates and “accountability.”

Mr. Fitz, a teacher, author, and comic strip artist, listed his Top Ten Cognitive Dissonances That Give Teachers Headachesthings like,

Number 8: You should teach creatively, as long as you can be creative just like everybody else.

and

Number 5: You should promote love of learning for its own sake, but also push students to focus on getting grades, scoring well on tests, and collecting credits so they can get a diploma.

His number one cause of cognitive dissonance headaches is

You hear them say they want to hire and retain the best teachers, even as they create a system that drives the most passionate teachers out of the profession.

 

MORE WORK…

Increased responsibility — often for things outside of a teacher’s control — lower salaries, lowered expectations of salary increases, less autonomy, insufficient building or classroom resources, lack of wraparound services and support, and larger class sizes, are only a few of the millions of tiny cuts contributing to a nation-wide teacher shortage.

Teachers are leaving the classroom…new teachers, experienced teachers. Here’s what former teachers had to say about why they left teaching…from Florida

I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process

from here in Fort Wayne, IN

While [former Indiana Governor] Daniels promised that reform would bring good teachers higher pay, it never happened. Instead, great teachers perform unrealistic legislative mandates only to receive minuscule stipends. Years of experience? Higher education? Doesn’t matter. Since the teacher rubric model was implemented, teachers’ salaries stay around $35,000. Forever.

A teacher’s paid work day is only 7 or 8 hours long…but for the vast majority of teachers, the workday doesn’t begin when the students arrive, or end when they go home. Homework and after-hours work is part of everyday life for teachers. I have seen teachers stay at school 4 or 5 hours after the students leave, carry home hours of paperwork every night, or spend every weekend in their classroom, not trying to get ahead, but trying to keep up. I have been that teacher.

And each year the legislature adds something new…

Are Indiana school districts required to do too much?

“There’s more and more and more put on the plate of the schools and eventually something has to give…said [TSC Superintendent Scott Hanback]…

“Our day hasn’t increased, our school year hasn’t increased but our requirements have increased,” said [Lafayette School Corporation Superintendent Les Huddle].

Teachers are overworked, and with the stagnation of school funding, underpaid. Is there any wonder why there’s a teacher shortage?

 

…AND LESS PAY

Legislators in our state will quickly claim that “52% of the budget goes towards education spending.”

Unfortunately, that 52% includes public school losses due to corporate tax incentives, the constitutional requirement of a property tax cap, and money being diverted from public schools to private and charter schools.

Since its inception in 2011, Indiana’s voucher program has accounted for a half billion dollars of public money being taken away from the state’s public schools…quite a lot for a program that was supposed to save money for the state.

When the voucher plan was first implemented then-Governor Mitch Daniels said,

Every child deserves an equal chance to be all they can be. Regardless of race, regardless of income, every child and every parent deserves an equal chance…

By “equal chance” Daniels was implying that public schools were “failing” and private schools were better…a falsehood then, and now.

Study: Learning loss persists for voucher students

“Although school vouchers aim to provide greater educational opportunities for students, the goal of improving the academic performance of low-income students who use a voucher to move to a private school has not yet been realized in Indiana,” the authors write.

Much news coverage last year of the preliminary results focused on the finding that voucher students regained the learning they lost. But that finding disappeared, Waddington and Berends said, as they fine-tuned their statistical analysis in response to suggestions from reviewers and editors at the academic journal.

In addition, public funds are now being spent by schools which are allowed to discriminate in hiring, blurring the separation of church and state…

Roncalli High School defends why a counselor would lose job over same-sex marriage

“As role models for students, the personal conduct of every teacher, guidance counselor and administrator and staff member, both at school and away from school, must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Roncalli officials posted on the school’s official Facebook page Sunday night.

Should a private church school be allowed to choose who their teachers are based on their own standards and beliefs? If so, should they be allowed to use public tax dollars to do it? If not, shouldn’t the state have something to say about how its money is spent? Mixing public money with religious schools seems to be damaging to both the church and the state.

Trying to support three separate school systems, a public one, serving 90% of the students in the state, and two private school systems through vouchers and charters, has made it difficult for Indiana to support schools and pay teachers. Can we really afford that?

Only one school system is mandated by the state constitution…the one that serves all students who enter — no exceptions.

 

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2017 Medley #34

 

Reading Crisis in California, Ed-Reform in Indiana,
Civics Education, Charters, Politics, 

READING CRISIS: IT’S POVERTY, STUPID

California’s Reading Crisis: Why Aren’t U.S. Kids Reading Well?

Why are so many kids struggling with reading? The vast majority of students’ reading difficulties are due to lack of opportunities…before they even get to school. Students who grow up in poverty deal with out-of-school factors which contribute to lowered achievement. David C. Berliner lists seven such factors which get in the way of achievement.

(1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children;
(2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance;
(3) food insecurity;
(4) environmental pollutants;
(5) family relations and family stress;
(6) neighborhood characteristics;
(7) extended learning opportunities, such as preschool, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.

Until we can successfully eliminate or reduce the shameful rate of childhood poverty in the United States we’ll continue to have an economic/racial achievement gap. No amount of charter schools, testing, school closings, vouchers, or other ed “reform” will change that.

But in order to learn how to read it’s important to look at other areas in a child’s life.

If a child doesn’t have access to good health care and they are sick and hungry, they probably aren’t going to learn to read well.

THE DANIELS-PENCE ED-REFORM IN INDIANA

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

Carol Burris, the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education has researched the ed-reform debacle in Indiana. This is the first of a three part series.

Daniels, who was governor from 2005 to 2013, would earn national recognition for his methodical and persistent undermining of public schools and their teachers in the name of reform.

Pence would follow Daniels as governor, pushing privatization even further. Pence would award even more tax dollars to charter schools and make Indiana’s voucher program one the largest in the country.

Klipsch would start and run a political action committee, Hoosiers for Economic Growth (a.k.a. Hoosiers for Quality Education), that would play a major role in creating a Republican majority in the Indiana House to redistrict the state to assure future Republican control.

A NATION OF IGNORANCE

We Urgently Need Civics Education

Yes, we do!

The decreased focus on civics coincides with No Child Left Behind. No surprise there…

A functioning democracy depends on an informed citizenry, including baseline knowledge of societal laws and institutions. Bafflingly, many schools no longer teach children how our government works, and what basic rights Americans are guaranteed.

Between 2001 and 2007, 36 percent of American school districts decreased focus on social studies and civics, according to a study by George Washington University’s Center on Education Policy. By 2006, just 27 percent of 12th graders were proficient in civics and government, said the National Center for Education Statistics.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Schools Choosing Students: How Arizona Charter Schools Engage in Illegal and Exclusionary Student Enrollment Practices and How It Should Be Fixed

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a report about the charter industry in Arizona. They discovered that [surprise!] charter schools have found ways to avoid the accountability forced upon public schools. This is worth examining carefully.

The analysis focused on whether charter schools:

• Discourage the enrollment of students who don’t have strong grades or test scores
• Set an enrollment limit on students with special education needs or have questions in their enrollment documents that may suppress the enrollment of these students
• Discourage or preclude the enrollment of students with disciplinary records
• Have questions in their enrollment documents that may have a chilling effect on non-English speaking parents and students
• Discourage or preclude immigrant students from enrolling by requiring them to provide Social Security numbers or other citizenship information
• Require students and parents to complete pre-enrollment requirements, such as essays, interviews or school tours
• Refuse to enroll students until their parents commit to volunteer at the school or donate money to the school
• Require parents to pay impermissible fees that create barriers to enrollment
• Present other barriers for enrollment or continued enrollment

Some of these exclusionary policies violate state and/or federal laws. The fact that so many Arizona charter schools’ enrollment policies and procedures contain plain legal violations demonstrates a clear failure of accountability. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools authorizes and governs the vast majority of charter schools. The agency is responsible for ensuring that charter schools follow all laws and abide by the terms of their charter contracts. It is concerning that they have missed these violations of the law, most of which are publicly posted on schools’ websites or written into other widely available documents like student handbooks.

Though similar issues may be occurring within district schools, the ACLU of Arizona chose to focus its research on charter schools after hearing from several parents whose children were denied enrollment or faced barriers to enrollment at charter schools across Arizona.

UNQUALIFIED!

Republican Senator exposes Trump’s clueless and wildly unqualified judicial nominee

The Trump administration has nominated candidates to federal judicial positions who are blatantly unqualified. This, for example…

The administration has also appointed cabinet members who want to destroy the department they are in charge of, or have absolutely no idea (“oops”) what their department does.

When we talk about unqualified cabinet members we can’t forget Betsy DeVos…

Trump education pick painted by Dems as unqualified

This is a good time to remind everyone that the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is just as unqualified as the nominee for judge in the previous clip.

  • She has no education background.
  • She has no experience in public education, either as a student, parent, or teacher.
  • She knows absolutely nothing about what goes on in a public school.

DeVos is just the latest, and most egregiously unqualified Secretary of Education in a long line of unqualified Secretaries of Education.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, forced DeVos to admit that she has never led an organization akin to the Education Department, and has never used any of the financial aid products she will offer to students as head of it.

“So you have no experience with college financial aid or management of higher education,” Warren said.

DeVos was also pressed on civil rights laws dealing with students with disabilities, saying early in the hearing implementation should be left up to the states.

Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire circled back to DeVos near the end of the hearing, informing her the law was a federal statute.

“Federal law must be followed when federal dollars are in play,” DeVos said.

“So were you unaware when I just asked you about the (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that it was a federal law?” Hassan asked.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.

Require Ed. Secretary Betsy DeVos to Teach in a Public School

Betsy DeVos and any corporate reformer who impacts school policy should be required to spend at least a month each year teaching in a public school classroom.

DeVos just attended Gov. Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd meeting in Nashville. Let Jeb Bush and his corporate friends and politicians who drive corporate reform also teach for a month.

None of these individuals understand the problems they have created in the classroom. If they taught a class for a month they would see firsthand what they have done.

🐔🦊🐔

 

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Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

THE INDIANA PLAN

Indiana provides a lesson on how to destroy the teaching profession.

Beginning in 2011 the state legislature, with the help of then State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, and then Governor Mitch Daniels, initiated a number of school “reforms” guaranteed to damage public education and public school educators. Their reasoning was two-fold.

  1. Public education received large amounts of tax money which could be used for profit by friends, investors, and colleagues. Privatization of the public sector was and is a goal of Republican politicians.
  2. The Indiana State Teachers Association generally supports Democratic candidates for state offices because Democrats (usually) support public education.

In order to damage public education and speed up privatization, denigrate public school educators, and bust the teachers union, the following effort has been made by the Republican dominated state government since 2011.

  • (I’m sure there are more that I’ve forgotten. Let me know…and I’ll add them here – – – –)

As expected, this attack on public education had the desired (by the Republican privatizers) effect. Schools are losing money. Teachers are fleeing the classroom (see here and here), retiring early, and fewer young people are entering the teaching profession.

Indiana faces shortage of first-time teachers

Aug. 2, 2015

First-time teachers have decreased more than 18 percent in the past five years, leaving districts in a scramble.

Study: Indiana ranks among lowest for teacher recruitment, retention

Sept. 15, 2016

Indiana ranks among the lowest states for teacher recruitment and retention, according to a new nationwide study that anticipates a growing shortage of educators as fewer people enter the profession and demand grows.

In Indiana, more than a quarter of teachers say standardized testing makes them worried about job security — the highest proportion in the nation. Hoosier educators also earn starting salaries lower than the national average but face among the largest class sizes.

Those factors led to the state’s low rating for attracting professionals to the classroom in a report released this week by the Learning Policy Institute. Indiana scored a 2.17 out of a possible 5 points in a review of educator data, including teacher compensation and working conditions. Just three states, Arizona, Texas and Colorado, and the District of Columbia received lower scores.

The shortage continues…

Indiana facing teacher shortage

October 24, 2017

School districts across Indiana are dealing with teacher shortages. According to a new survey, even more districts are feeling the impact now than in 2016. So, what’s going on?

More than 130 District Superintendents in the survey said they have a teacher shortage right now.

Some Republicans claim the teacher shortage isn’t actually happening. Note that the article linked here includes licensed teachers who are not in the classroom as part of the “excess.” Why are they not teaching? Did they leave the classroom because of the deterioration of working conditions and salary?

Nevertheless, in order to offset the loss of teaching staff in the state, rules for becoming a teacher have been relaxed…

…because nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.

Controversial alternative teaching permit approved by Indiana State Board of Education

Sept. 3, 2014

The Indiana State Board of Education on Wednesday approved a controversial proposal to provide another way for people without a teaching degree to teach high school students, despite outrage from teachers who said it would devalue their profession and subject kids to unprepared educators.

REPA III – Deprofessionalizing Education

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014

The final step in making our public schools as much unlike successful nations’ schools as possible, is to demoralize teachers and deprofessionalize the field of education. Instead of increasing requirements for becoming a teacher, we decrease them. Instead of doing what we need to do to attract the “best and the brightest” to our public school classrooms we make a career in the field of education so difficult and so filled with mind-numbing test-obsessed insanity that fewer and fewer students are going into teaching and older, experienced career teachers are leaving the field in greater and greater numbers.

REPA III requires training in some “related field.” Would any of the seven REPA III supporters on the Indiana State Board of Education want to be treated for an illness by say, an anatomy professor who never attended medical or nursing school, but who promised to learn how to practice medicine within a month? Would any of them go to a former police officer for legal help, for example, if the officer decided that s/he wanted to practice law and would start on her/his law degree during the first month of handling their case?

Do any of them send their own children to schools with untrained teachers?

ON WISCONSIN

Marquette University dropout and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker hates teachers (and most other public sector workers, as well) and ran his campaign on a platform of union busting. How has that worked out?

Apparently not so well for the students of Wisconsin. The “unintended” [sic] consequences of Walker’s attack on public schools, public school teachers, and public sector unions, has, believe it or not, reduced the number of people who want to become teachers in Wisconsin. Go figure…

This Is Just How Badly Scott Walker Has Decimated Public Schools in Wisconsin

“Rather than encouraging the best and the brightest to become teachers and remain in the field throughout their career,” Wisconsin state Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling said during a press call on Wednesday, “Act 10 has demonized and devalued the teaching profession and driven away many good teachers. These serious implications have left schools across Wisconsin struggling to fill teaching positions.”

That shortage is only starting. As time goes on and fewer people enter the field, the state’s school districts will struggle to find teachers to fill open slots. Already for the 2016-2017 school year, the state’s Department of Public Instruction had to relax the rules for teacher licenses so that more people could get one-year emergency approval to fill shortages.

In response, Wisconsin, like Indiana, has decided that Walker’s successful attempt to drive teachers away from Wisconsin means that they need to lower standards for teacher candidates.

Below you can read about a lobbyist for Wisconsin school boards. He doesn’t come out and say that Walker is the reason for the teacher shortage. Instead he claims that there haven’t been teacher salary raises since the Great Recession. Also, for some unexplained reason, the status of teachers isn’t as high as it once was.

DPI expanding teacher license options to address staffing shortages

Dan Rossmiller, lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said the teacher shortages being felt in Wisconsin reflect a national trend of fewer high school students studying in college to become classroom teachers.

“The pipeline is definitely narrower and weaker than it used to be,” said Rossmiller.

Rossmiller said factors contributing to fewer people wanting to become teachers include a decline in the reliability of teacher pay raises since the Great Recession.

“For whatever reason, the status of teachers is not being seen as high as it once was,” said Rossmiller. He said when teachers stopped receiving pay raises to keep up with cost of living increases, the attractiveness of the profession declined.

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Indiana and Wisconsin – along with other states across the nation (looking at you, Florida and North Carolina among others) – have found successful ways to weaken and destroy teachers unions, lower the quality of teachers in the classroom, and damage public education. It consists of a few simple steps.

  • First, claim that public schools are failing and that teachers are at fault.
  • Second, use the false narrative of failing public schools to pass laws which damage public education further and make the teaching profession less attractive.
  • Third, lower the qualifications for teachers in order to find enough bodies to fill classroom positions.
  • Fourth, blame the decimated and demoralized teaching force for not increasing student achievement.
  • Repeat.

Student achievement isn’t even considered except as a tool to bludgeon public schools.

I doubt that Walker (or Bennett, Daniels, and Pence in Indiana) are at all worried about the teacher shortage.

That was part of the plan all along.

👨‍🎓🎓👩‍🎓

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Tiny, Decent Things

PART I: THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION

I began my whine against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing when No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 and Indiana doubled down on student testing.

I complained to my principal, the school corporation, my local legislators. I became an officer in my local teachers association, and a delegate to the state teachers association representative assembly, but we couldn’t change things either.

I retired in June of 2010 and two years later joined a public education advocacy group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Since the Save Our Schools March in 2011 in Washington D.C., our members have been working to end and undo “education reform” in Indiana and the U.S.

2011 was a watershed year for privatization in Indiana. Mitch Daniels and his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, along with help from the Indiana General Assembly, hit hard at public schools and public school teachers.

2011 was the year that Indiana…

  • cut $300 million from public school funding while at the same time they…
  • passed a voucher law which drained even more public tax dollars from public schools
  • reduced collective bargaining rights for teachers
  • introduced test-based evaluations for teachers
  • increased funding for charter schools

The privatizers haven’t backed off since then…they’ve continued to deprofessionalize the teaching profession and strip funds from public education to support the ravenous appetite of an ever-expanding privatization plan consisting of vouchers and charter schools.

Each year, when the Indiana legislature is in session, we do our best to minimize the damage done to public schools. And each year we lose a little more ground. We had a bright light of hope in 2012, when Glenda Ritz was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, beating Tony Bennett on a platform which supported public schools, but that was short-lived. Governor Pence, the legislature, and state school board, worked together to make sure she was unable to slow down the damage to public education by the privatizers.

It’s not just Indiana. A few days ago Nancy Flanagan wrote…

The War on Teachers and the End of Public Education

Three days ago, Diane Ravitch wrote this:

Public education today faces an existential crisis. Over the past two decades, the movement to transfer public money to private organizations has expanded rapidly.

She’s right. The end of public education as we know it is in sight. And there’s a war on public school teaching toward that end, with Betsy DeVos as Field General.

It keeps happening even though privatization has increased segregation and hasn’t improved instruction or achievement.

PART II: ENCOURAGEMENT

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. It’s hard not to give up. We need frequent inspiration to help reenergize ourselves…to remind ourselves that public education is worth saving, and no matter how many times the politicians and privatizers damage public education in Indiana (and across the nation) we need to keep trying. No matter how many times we get knocked down, we need to get up again. No matter how many times we’re silenced, we need to speak out again.

Public schools are open to every child in the state, not just the wealthy or the able. Public schools are an investment in our future…and support for public education means an educated citizenry, a lower incarceration rate, an improved economy, and happier lives. Public education is not just for me…not just for you…but for us, because we are all responsible for, and dependent upon, each other. The students we serve are not just mine – or yours – or even their parents’. They are ours. Within each child is the future of our society.

In order to save America’s public schools it’s necessary for each of us to do what we can. All of us are important…from those who run for the legislature, to those who work quietly in the background registering voters, to those who convince a friend to support public schools. We must, as Danusha Veronica Goska wrote in ‘Political Paralysis’ From The Impossible Will Take a Little While, do “tiny, decent things” to support the public education system. With enough of those “tiny, decent things,” we can give public education the support it needs to survive.

…when we study the biographies of our heroes, we learn that they spent years in preparation doing tiny, decent things before one historical moment propelled them to center stage.

Moments, as if animate, use the prepared to tilt empires.

Be one of the prepared.

CHANGE THE WORLD

Write your legislator. Write for publication. Run for office. Support and/or contribute to pro-public education candidates. Learn about the issues facing public education and share what you have learned with others. Talk to your family, neighbors, and friends. Volunteer in a public school. Help a child learn. Donate a book to a school or a family. Organize or join with others to support public schools. Join the PTA. Send your children to public schools. Call into a talk show. Write a letter to the editor.

Get involved.

Do something.

Don’t give up.

Goska ended her essay…

I suspect that we all have our three-in-the-morning moments, when all of life seems one no-exit film noir, where any effort is pointless, where any hope seems to be born only to be dashed, like a fallen nestling on a summer sidewalk. When I have those moments, if I do nothing else, I remind myself: the ride in the snow; the volunteers at the food bank; the Nepali peasants who fed me. Activists like the Pole Wladyslaw Bartoszewski who, decades before he would earn any fame, got out of Auschwitz only to go on to even more resistance against the Nazis, and then the Soviets. Invisible, silent people who, day by day, choice by choice, unseen by me, unknown to me, force me to witness myself, invite me to keep making my own best choices, and keep me living my ideals.

If all of us do “tiny, decent things” to support public education, we can slow or even stop the takeover of public education by those who would destroy it.

Alone, each one of us might not be able to “tilt the empire” of the privatizers, but perhaps we can preserve public education long enough for our cumulative efforts to gather strength and eventually succeed.

🚌🚌🚌

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