Category Archives: Ritz

Republican Teachers: Tell legislators to support public education

Indiana’s Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, was careful to speak in non-partisan terms when she visited Fort Wayne last week. She didn’t call out one specific party for its anti-public education legislation, even though everyone in Indiana knows that the Republicans are doing their best to privatize and skimp on funding for public education.

McCormick is a Republican.

McCormick’s predecessor, Glenda Ritz, was also a Republican before she ran for the Superintendent’s position in 2012. She took office, however, as a Democrat…and ran into the wall of the Republican Supermajority for everything she wanted to do for public schools in Indiana.

In the 2016 election, Ritz and McCormick had similar platforms. McCormick, however, said that she could get things done because she was a Republican. She could talk to the members of her own party and get them to understand what public schools and public school teachers needed. She tried, but she was also stopped by the Republican legislators.

It doesn’t take the logic of Spock to deduce that the Republicans in the Indiana legislature are against public education. For the last dozen years the Republicans in the Indiana House and Senate have introduced and passed legislation aimed at funding vouchers and charters, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession, and starving public education.

But Glenda Ritz was a Republican before she was a Democrat, and she supported public education…and Jennifer McCormick is a Republican and she supports public education. Obviously not all Republicans, then, want to privatize the public schools.

REPUBLICAN TEACHERS

As a retired teacher in northeast Indiana, it’s been clear to me that many, if not most, of my former colleagues, have been Republicans. As public school educators, I assume that the vast majority of those same colleagues have been supporters of public education. For them to be otherwise would indicate a serious case of cognitive dissonance.

Are Republican public school teachers the only party members who support public education? Again, I’m doubtful of that. Many of my students’ parents were also Republicans and they were, on the whole, very supportive of their children’s schools.

Perhaps it’s only those Republicans who have no connection to public schools who support the legislators who are so intent on funding vouchers and charters at the expense of the constitutionally mandated public schools.

Or maybe it’s something else…maybe it’s money.

FULL DISCLOSURE

I’m not a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. I’m an ardent and enthusiastic Independent Education Voter. I understand that Democrats can be just as dangerous to public education as can Republicans.

Rahm Emanual in Chicago has worked hard during his tenure to privatize public education.

President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan continued the punishment of public education started by Bush II and No Child Left Behind. In some ways, Duncan was worse than current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

There is little doubt that campaign donations from pro-privatization organizations would transform at least some currently pro-public education Democrats into pro-privatization Democrats.

Because there’s a lot of evidence that it’s the money.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Hoosiers for Quality Education (H4QE), formerly Hoosiers for Economic Growth, is a pro-privatization group in Indiana. H4QE is funded by the DeVos family (American Federation for Children), Alice Walton (of the Walmart billions), and the Freedom Partners (The Koch Brothers). They support School Choice Indiana (aka The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, now known as EdChoice) (For more information on this convoluted set of relationships see Hoosier School Heist by Doug Martin). Suffice it to say — H4QE supports school privatization.

And they donate freely to Republicans during statewide elections.

H4QE donated $88,750 to Republicans on the House Education Committee

The Republican members of the House Education Committee received approximately $88,750 in 2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Bob Behning received $3000 and Chuck Goodrich got the largest donation, $36,000.

H4QE donated $99,500 to Republicans on the Senate Education and Career Development Committee

The members of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee received approximately $99,500 in 2016/2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Jeff Raatz pocketed a $9,000 donation. Member Linda Rogers accepted a whopping $50,000.

(On the other side, Democratic members of the House and Senate committees also received approximately $10,600 and $17,300 respectively from Indiana teachers’ unions, ISTA and IFT, a small amount compared to the privatizers.)

Republican members of those committees also received contributions from other groups such as Stand for Children, funded by the pro-privatization Walton Family and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations.

Privatizers donated $170,000 to Governor Eric Holcomb

Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana, also received 2016 contributions from privatizers…most notably the DeVos family. Holcomb received $15,000 from each of the following for a total of $90,000: American Federation for Children, Richard DeVos, Richard DeVos Jr (Betsy), Doug DeVos, Daniel DeVos, and Cheri DeVos-Vanderweide. Holcomb also received $50,000 from charter school operator Christel Dehaan, $100,000 from Jim Walton (of the Walton Family), and $20,000 from Walmart.

Is it possible that Republican politicians feel obligated to support privatization — vouchers and charters — because of the amount of money donated to their campaign coffers by pro-privatization groups and individuals?

One only has to look at the nomination and confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to see how a billionaire donor can have an impact on the way politicians vote on issues.

WHICH CAME FIRST, DONATIONS OR IDEOLOGY?

When our local representative, Dave Heine, ran for the first time, he came to talk to our public education advocacy group, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. He was a Republican, but seemed very receptive to listening to us and agreed with us on many aspects of supporting public schools. In 2018, however, he joined ALEC, and received a $1000 campaign donation from H4QE. He votes in line with the Republican supermajority on public education legislation.

Would Rep. Heine have voted with the pro-privatization forces in the legislature if he had not gotten any campaign donations from privatizers? Which came first, the donation which has obligated him to support the positions of H4QE, or his willingness to defund public schools and deprofessionalize public school teachers?

In my corner of the state, the nine Republican House members and the five Republican Senators received 2016/2018 campaign contributions of $48,100 from H4QE.

HOW CAN WE FIGHT THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS GOING TO PRIVATIZATION?

Millions statewide, that is…billions nationwide.

Public schools don’t have the resources to donate thousands of campaign dollars to compete with billionaire-funded organizations like H4QE, the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and the DeVos family. Neither do teachers’ unions. Neither do public school parents.

So what can Republican teachers, who still want to support the Republican party and vote for Republican candidates do? What should you do if you don’t want to vote for the Democratic candidate — assuming there even is one?

Become an Education voter. Learn the education positions of your candidates. If they support private school vouchers and charters, tell them your position…and tell them you expect them to support public schools if they’re elected.

Just because you vote for someone doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything they do.

Get to know your local legislators. Invite them into your classroom and let them see how public education works. Some Republican legislators have never set foot in a public school…never attended public school…never sent their children to public school. Tell them the stories from your school. Tell them how much you donate to your own classroom each year to help your students learn. Be an advocate for your students, your classroom, and your school.

Follow bills in the legislature. Pay attention to how your local Representatives and Senators vote. Let them know if you disapprove. Thank them when they support public education.

Support for public education doesn’t have to be partisan. Jennifer McCormick has proven that a Republican can support public schools. We need Republican citizens to support their public schools as well. We can change the balance if we work together.

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Filed under Charters, Duncan, Emanuel, IN Gen.Assembly, McCormick, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed, Ritz, vouchers

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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Filed under Bennett, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, Ritz

Pence, Preschool, and Privatization

A tweet from NEA…

REJECTING FEDERAL DOLLARS

Mike Pence, as Indiana’s governor, rejected an $80 million preschool grant from the federal government. He said it was because he didn’t want “federal strings attached,” but my guess is that there were two different reasons.

First, the grant was supported by Glenda Ritz, the Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction who insulted Pence by getting more votes than he did in 2012. Pence, with help from the State Board of Education and the Republican wing of the General Assembly, spent four years doing everything he could to prevent her from doing her job.

Second, the federal preschool dollars didn’t help Pence with his plan to privatize and religionize public education. Instead it just benefited children.

THE PENCE PLAN CONTINUES

This past year, while the V.P. was moving into his West Wing office, the Indiana General Assembly approved a preschool plan which links preschool money to vouchers, thereby expanding what is already the nation’s most expansive voucher plan. Pence would be proud.

But vouchers weren’t all the ALEC supported privatizers in the Indiana General Assembly were after. They also included $1 million for a “virtual preschool” plan.

Because sitting in front of a computer screen for 15 minutes a day is the same as participating in a quality preschool program.

WHAT THE SCIENCE SAYS

So Indiana has increased privatized preschool as part of the latest voucher expansion, and has made tech companies happy by paying for a “virtual preschool.” But the research discussed in an article from KQED News referred to public preschools, which children actually attended.

The article, “What the Science Says About How Preschool Benefits Children,” stated that students with public preschool experience, are more successful in Kindergarten. They don’t need vouchers. They don’t need 15 minutes a day of screen time. They just need high quality preschool programs like those Mike Pence stalled by rejecting 80 million free dollars.

They listed four key findings…

  • That while all kids benefit from preschool, poor and disadvantaged kids often make the most gains…
  • Children who are dual-language learners “show relatively large benefits from pre-K education” — both in their English-language proficiency and in other academic skills…
  • And yet, the researchers said, that doesn’t mean preschool should necessarily be targeted toward poor or disadvantaged kids. “Part of what may render a pre-K classroom advantageous” for a poor student or a child learning English, “is the value of being immersed among a diverse array of classmates.”
  • Not all preschool programs are alike. Features that may lead to success include: “a well implemented, evidence-based curriculum,” and an emphasis on the quality and continuous training of pre-K teachers. There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done, the study concludes, “to generate more complete and reliable evidence on effectiveness factors.”

There was no mention of a 15 minute “virtual” preschool.

MR. PENCE GOES TO WASHINGTON

Don’t think for a minute that the Trump/DeVos plan for privatization of America’s public schools has nothing to do with Mike Pence. DeVos helped fund Indiana’s privatization movement. There’s little doubt that the Trump/DeVos goal of privatizing America’s public education system will be modeled on the success Pence, and his predecessor Mitch Daniels, had in Indiana.

Effectiveness doesn’t matter…the only thing they care about is funneling public tax dollars into corporate and religious pockets under the guise of “choice.” They don’t support public education. They don’t care to provide educational equity for the shameful number of children in America who live in poverty. They don’t care about them. They just care about diverting tax dollars. They just care about increasing private school attendance.

The same for preschool. They’re not interested in supporting the research which suggests that poor children benefit the most from preschool. They’re more interested in the money they can get by redirecting students from public schools into parochial and private schools.

🚌🚌🚌

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Filed under ALEC, Pence, Preschool, Privatization, Ritz, vouchers

No bias, No spin, No jargon…sometimes

Chalkbeat, “a nonprofit news organization,” says of itself…

Everyone has an opinion about how to fix education, especially for the poorest children. As a nonprofit news organization, we at Chalkbeat offer you solid facts about what is actually happening and what it means, from local reporters who really understand.
No bias, no spin, no jargon.

That self-assessment is true, sometimes. In its daily newsletter, Rise and Shine, Chalkbeat reposts articles focusing on education from a variety of sources…some pro-public education, some pro-“reform.”

It’s own news stories, however, are often different.

In July, for example, on the occasion of Mike Pence’s elevation to the position of V.P. candidate on the Republican ticket, Chalkbeat posted an assessment of his “education record.” On Wednesday, following the national debate by the two vice presidential candidates, they reposted the same article in Rise and Shine

Mike Pence faced Tim Kaine in the only VP debate last night. We’ve got the story on his (somewhat surprising) record on education.

Here is, in part, what they wrote

As governor, Pence has supported expanding charter schools and voucher programs. But Pence’s signature education initiative was a push to create the first state-funded preschool program. Despite opposition from many Republican allies in the state legislature, Pence was a staunch advocate for the small preschool pilot program that launched in 2015. [emphasis added]

What is surprising is that Chalkbeat neglected to mention that in 2014 the Indiana Department of Education, under State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, had applied for a federal grant to fund preschool education which Pence stopped dead in its tracks. He rescinded the application for the $80 million grant which would have brought preschool programs to low-income students. Pence, instead, opted to push for a preschool “pilot” program which would serve students in only 5 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

In another move, Pence created a new agency to support his privatization plans, in direct opposition to the State Department of Education. He closed the agency after some political fallout, and then went after the State Superintendent.

Ten times Pence didn’t make Indiana great again

9. Pence disenfranchises State Superintendent Glenda Ritz (ongoing)

Before Pence got settled into the governor’s chair, he created the Center for Education and Career Innovation, which became a mirror agency to Ritz’s Department of Education. CECI was just the beginning of the rift between Pence and Ritz. Although he dissolved CECI in 2014, Pence supported the state legislature’s push to weaken Ritz’s office, including attempts to make the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position instead of an elected one and removing the superintendent as chair of the Board of Education.

It seems to me that his “signature education initiative” during his term as governor has been to support private education at the expense of public schools, and to disrupt the work of the elected state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz.

And Pence’s education plan isn’t surprising at all. When he ran for Governor he told the citizens of Indiana that he wanted to privatize public education…and he’s worked hard to do that. Since Glenda Ritz ran on a pro-public education platform, the fact that Pence has done everything he could to stand in her way isn’t surprising either.

What is surprising about Pence’s education record in Indiana? Not much.

And Chalkbeat? It’s not surprising that they claim that his “signature education initiative” is a preschool program yet don’t mention his thumbing his nose at an $80 million grant which would have done more. They get their support from some of the most powerful “privatizers” in the business…

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Gates Family Foundation
  • The Anschutz Foundation
  • The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • The Walton Family Foundation

Chalkbeat tries, and often succeeds, at being an objective news source for education. Sometimes, however,  the deep pockets of Gates, Walton, and others, show through.

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Filed under Indiana, Pence, Privatization, Ritz

Random Quotes – July, 2016

THE LIE OF “REFORM”

Contrary to many “reformers,” I believe that:

Unlike many “reformers” I have actually spent time working as a professional educator in public schools (from 1976 through 2010, and then as a volunteer through 2016).

Public education in America can improve, but the “test and punish” methods of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top is not the way to do it. Public schools, and public school teachers, need support, not derision.

The number one problem facing public education in the United States is the fact that more than half of America’s public school students live in poverty. We have one of the highest levels of child poverty of any advanced nation on Earth. Solving the poverty problem would go a long way towards ending low student achievement.

From Stephen Krashen

Forget fancy evaluation schemes

Forget fancy evaluation schemes. Work on the cause, not the effect: feed the animal, don’t waste time and money designing fancier ways of weighing it.

Open Letter to Fellow NC Public School Teachers – What We Do Cannot Really Be Measured

From Stu Egan

…you cannot simply measure students and teachers by numbers and random variables. You measure them by their personal success and growth, and much of that cannot be ascertained by impersonal assessments.

Nor can a teacher’s effectiveness truly be measured by “student achievement”. There is more, so much more, working within the student/teacher dynamic.

From Russ Walsh

Don’t Look Behind the Curtain: The Education Reform Switcheroo

…the true motivation of corporate education reform: to try to get people to focus on schools as the problem, so that they won’t look behind the curtain at the real problem facing the country – income inequity.

America’s Not-So-Broken Education System

From Jack Schneider in The Atlantic

Can the schools do more to realize national ideals around equity and inclusion? Without question. But none of these aims will be achieved by ripping the system apart. That’s a ruinous fiction. The struggle to create great schools for all young people demands swift justice and steady effort, not melodrama and magical thinking.

More on Income Inequality by John Oliver from Last Week Tonight (Warning: NSFW!)

NO EXCUSES

The poisoning of America’s (poor) children continues…

From Mike Klonsky

Wishing I could disrupt a conversation about lead in the water

Wait! You mean that all those tens of thousands of Chicago children who have been drinking leaded water from school drinking fountains and home sinks — mostly poor and children of color — have been disadvantaged by high-stakes PARCC and ISAT testing? Held back from promotion and graduation? College entrance? Their schools facing loss of funding or even closure because of lower test scores in comparison to wealthier, newer schools? Their teachers having their evaluations lowered and merit-pay-based salaries diminished, in large part because their students are exposed to leaded water?

And to top it off, told “no excuses” when they object?

Lead Exposure in Children

POLITICS

Indiana’s Governor, Mike (“smoking doesn’t kill”) Pence, has been blatantly favoring private and privately owned charter schools since his election in 2012. Now that he, along with his supermajority legislature, and his personally appointed state Board of Education, has done what he can to destroy public education in Indiana, he’s ready to move on to bigger and better things. Indiana’s gain is the nation’s loss.

How Gov. Mike Pence worked to undermine the will of Indiana’s voters

From the Glenda Ritz Campaign

“Indiana’s teachers, parents and students can rest a little easier knowing that Mike Pence will now be absent from Indiana and soon be unable to force his political agenda on our classrooms,” said Annie Mansfield, campaign manager.

“In his time as Governor, Mike Pence has consistently put politics before Hoosier students. He created a duplicate education agency through executive order. He turned down tens of millions of dollars in desperately needed pre-K funding because of his extreme political ideology. And he removed the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction as Chair of the State Board of Education, disenfranchising 1.3 million Hoosier voters.

Sing a song of Trumpence

From Fred Klonsky

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Filed under Evaluations, Lead, Pence, Politicians, Politics, Quotes, reform, Ritz, Testing

A Big Red “F” For Indiana

Indiana legislators and “reformers” love letter grades…so communities (via their schools) are graded as A through F using already invalid ISTEP scores. Those grades are good for things like getting campaign donations from privatizers, bashing public school teachers, and directing real estate agents to where the money is, but not much else.

Now that the Network for Public Education has given Indiana a grade of F because of the failure to actually help improve student achievement and public education, legislators will likely complain that these grades aren’t valid…that they’re biased (irony alert)…or even more likely, they’ll ignore them completely.

An editorial in Sunday’s (Feb. 14, ’16) Journal Gazette summarizes the report about Indiana…

State gets poor marks in dedication to schools

Indiana earns Fs for supporting teacher professionalism, resisting privatization and investing school funding resources wisely. It earned Ds for rejecting high-stakes testing and giving children a chance for success. Indiana public schools continue to serve the vast majority of students. Public school enrollment this fall was 1,046,146 students, compared to 84,030 non-public students.

The poor mark for high-stakes testing won’t surprise anyone familiar with the state’s continuing struggles with ISTEP+, the standardized test administered to students in grades 3 through 8. Indiana also is among a handful of states requiring third-graders to pass a reading test to be promoted to fourth grade.

The state did get a B in school finance…and a D in High Stakes Testing and Chance for Success, though, as we’ll see I disagree with the High Stakes Testing grade.

The grade card then, is 3 Fs, 2 Ds, and a B – not the worst in the nation (thanks to Arizona, Idaho, Texas and Mississippi), but certainly not anything to be proud of.

The complete report from Network for Public Education (NPE) can be found here

My comments, and my grades, along with NPE’s, cover three of the categories. These three alone would be enough reason to change the political leadership in Indiana in November (if not sooner). Add to that the refusal of the Republican governor to work cooperatively and respectfully with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, an actual teacher, and we have a serious situation for Indiana’s school children.

[On an interesting side note, the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), Glenda Ritz, used to be a Republican. She switched parties in order to help us get rid of former SPI and “reformer” extraordinaire, Tony Bennett. She recognized that his and then Governor Mitch Daniels’ policies were damaging the public schools in our state. Suellen Reed, the SPI before Tony Bennett, also a Republican, is currently on the advisory board of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, a pro-public education group fighting “reform” and privatization. She served for 16 years as SPI under Democratic and Republican Governors in a congenial atmosphere which disappeared with the Daniels/Bennett administration.]

FAIL: HIGH STAKES TESTING

Indiana uses the ISTEP to grade schools and evaluate teachers, neither of which is a valid use of a tool meant for measuring student achievement. Last year’s ISTEP mess has at least encouraged the legislature to rethink the test and likely go with a different provider. However, grading schools and teachers using student achievement test scores will probably continue no matter what test is used.

Indiana also uses the ISTEP to label each school and school system on an A through F scale. Schools and neighborhoods are then either damned or lauded. That judgement is based, for the most part, on the economy of the families whose children attend the school since standardized tests have a direct correlation with family income. The D and F labels attached to low-income schools are detrimental to the community, to its families, and to its children. Students and their families are punished for having low incomes. Teachers are punished for working in high poverty schools.

Furthermore, Indiana uses a reading test, IREAD-3, to prevent students from being promoted from third grade to fourth. The rationale is that they need a year to catch up. Research into retention has shown time and again that students who are behind in third grade don’t catch up through retention, and in fact, fall even further behind. The money for IREAD-3 would be better spent on early intervention (see here, and here, and you might as well check this out, too).

NPE used various criteria in which to give Indiana a D. They also figured their grade before the monumental failure of last year’s ISTEP. My feeling is that the overuse, abuse, and misuse of tests in Indiana is reason enough to award the state a BIG RED F.

NPE Grade – D
My Grade – F

FAIL: PROFESSIONALIZATION OF TEACHING

NPE graded states on their ability to treat teachers with respect as professionals. Indiana fails.

The legislative chairs of the respective education committees (Robert Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, and Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee) seem to take pleasure in depriving public school educators of their rights. In 2011 they led the drive to

  1. eliminate due process for teachers. In the past administrations which wished to terminate a teacher had to allow the teacher a hearing with an impartial mediator. This allowed the teacher to present her case in front of someone who was not involved with the school system and could rule impartially. We call this Due Process. The law was changed in 2011. Now, teachers who are to be terminated can request a meeting with the superintendent or the school board. The chances of a fair and impartial hearing are reduced. This is what was meant by the term tenure in K-12 education in the state. Indiana teachers no longer have it.
  2. reduce collective bargaining to only salary and insurance. Teachers and school systems no longer have the right to negotiate things like class size, evaluations, prep time, or parent teacher conferences. Teachers now must do what they’re told, despite the damage it might do to student learning. The collective bargaining law changes (actually all the law changes in 2011) were meant to punish the teachers unions in Indiana, which they have done, but they also limit the flexibility that school systems have in negotiations as well. The supermajority in Indiana doesn’t seem to understand (or care) that negotiations and bargaining is a process that takes two parties: the teachers and the school system.
  3. use student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers. Why is it that there are fewer “bad” teachers (based on student test scores) in wealthy areas? Why is it that schools in high-poverty areas always seem to have many more “bad” teachers? Because student test scores reflect the level of parental income. Using student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers (and schools) is quite simply a misuse of tests and should be stopped.
  4. force schools to abandon the step-scale for teacher pay and eliminate seniority. Apparently the supermajority and its “reformer” donors don’t consider experience a benefit in public schools. I wonder if they would be happy with an inexperienced teacher for their own child…an inexperienced surgeon taking out their appendix or an inexperienced attorney defending them in court. The truth is, experience matters, in every job or profession.

The legislature and the governor also have a problem listening to the elected educational professional in the government, the State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz. Instead they’ve worked tirelessly, and successfully, to limit her influence on Indiana’s education policy. Apparently they believe that the auctioneer that leads the Senate education committee, the florist that leads the House education committee, and the radio talk show host who sits in the governor’s chair, all know more about public education than someone who

  • is a National Board Certified Teacher with two masters degrees
  • is a former Teacher of the Year
  • has 33 years of teaching experience in public education

Or perhaps it’s that she’s a Democrat and former union leader who got more votes than their “reformist” friend, Tony Bennett…

Here’s an irony for you…the legislature is “studying” the reason for the looming teacher shortage.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION

Public Education is a public trust. It should be funded and controlled by the public through democratically elected school boards. President John Adams wrote,

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

Indiana has the most expansive voucher program in the nation, diverting millions of dollars from public schools to private, mostly parochial schools.

Indiana politicians also favor privately run charter schools over public schools by methods such as loan forgiveness (even when the school closes), additional special-favor loans to charter schools, and support for the proven failure of virtual charter schools.

In Indiana “failing” public schools end up as “failing” charter schools, which then become “failing” parochial schools getting taxpayer dollars. Instead of redistributing tax money reserved for public education to private corporations and religious organizations, the state ought to help students in struggling schools. In the past, Indiana was one of the few states where struggling schools got higher funding than schools in wealthy areas. That changed in 2015. Now, the better you do on standardized tests, the more money you get.

State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools

…changes in the funding system proposed Monday appear likely to funnel most of those extra dollars to wealthy and growing suburban school districts, while some of the poorest and shrinking districts could actually get less money.

So, instead of putting money where it’s needed, the state “rewards” schools for high performance, forcing students in poorer areas to do more with less. Those same students are then “blamed” for “failing” and their schools get closed or turned over to a charter company. The failure of the state to provide for the students is blamed on the school, the teachers, and the students, and privatization gets the PR boost, and the profits, it was after all along.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: INDIANA

The state of Indiana is lead by a “reformist” governor and a “reformist” supermajority in both houses of the legislature. Their goals appear to be the complete privatization of public schools, the deprofessionalization of public school teachers, and the elimination of Indiana’s teachers unions, all accomplished through testing.

Things are not likely to change soon. Politicians talk a good game, but they are driven by the need to be reelected, which means they respond to those who pay their campaign expenses, i.e. donors. And the biggest contributors are the corporate donors who use public education tax revenue as a source for profit.

If Indiana wants to improve its public schools…and we ought to pause to think about whether or not that’s actually true…which will benefit all our children and our communities, we’re going to have to change things. Poverty is the main cause of low achievement. As long as Indiana’s 22% child poverty rate, the same rate as the nation’s, continues, we’ll have struggling students. At this point it will take several generations to undo the damage done by the last 12 years of the supermajority legislature and the last two governors.

There are no “silver bullets” when it comes to improving schools. The myth that “three great teachers in a row” can close the achievement gap has always been a ploy. However, if states are willing to invest time and money guided by the right values, we will see steady progress for our public schools and our nation’s children. 

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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Evaluations, GradingSchools, IREAD-3, ISTEP, Mitch Daniels, NPE, Pence, poverty, Privatization, retention, Ritz, Teaching Career, Testing

Videos 2015

Teaching, Testing, and Acountability: Poverty and Charters

Every now and then I’ll embed a video in my blog. Here I have chosen six – informative and inspiring – from 2015, comprising about 2 hours of video. I’ve added emphasis with boldface and italics.

February 1

What would happen if state and federal legislators actually listened to educators? Notice how many of the legislators in this video talk about “accountability.” The assumption is that before “reformist” type accountability (aka standardized tests used to rank students, teachers, and schools) we never knew how our children were doing in school.

So long as public education policy continues to be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public school children we will resist these unjust testing laws.

Jia Lee…the only woman at the hearings, from a female dominated profession…tries to teach legislators about the damage done by runaway testing.

Watch her testimony in the video below and read more about the hearings in…Teachers Rally Against Standardized Testing At No Child Left Behind Hearing.

The sad thing is that, despite the fact that NCLB has been replaced, annual, high-stakes testing is still with us.

Jia Lee, a New York special education teacher, said the tests “can only measure right or wrong,” not complex questions. “I will refuse to administer a test that reduces my students to a single metric. … Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave.”

Jia Lee – Senate Hearings Reauthorization of NCLB Jan 2015 from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

February 22

In February several hundred pro-public education supporters went to Indianapolis to “Rally for Ritz”…a rally in support of Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Superintendent Ritz was continually at odds with the appointed members of the pro-charter, pro-voucher, “reformist,” school board.

Bloomington mom, and chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County and South Central Indiana, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer’s speech to the assembled crowd was memorable, calling for, and defining legislative accountability, not just school accountability. Click here for the complete text of the speech.

My child is not “college and career ready” because HE IS A CHILD

…Accountability is representing your constituents, not your donors

…Accountability is research driven education policy. Standards don’t educate kids, teachers do.

Accountability is seeing to it that every child has a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym, art, and music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, and band. Every. Single. Indiana. Child.

…no six year old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity

Legislators and “reformers” are all for accountability…for others.

May 4

John Oliver shows us just how inane and stupid our obsessive focus on standardized testing really is – test-pep rallies, school cheers – trying to convince children that high-stakes tests are “fun.”

Yet, we all know that high-stakes tests are inappropriate for our most vulnerable students…and they make the pain of the also inappropriate test-prep-standards-based education even more painful.

Official instructions for test administrators specify what to do if a student vomits on his or her test booklet…and something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit. Tests are supposed to be assessments of skills…

[NOTE: NSFW Some images and language might be offensive…just like Pearson’s tests.]

October 24

JOHN MERROW vs. EVA MOSKOWITZ

Success Academy procedures hurt children. They are used by charter school chains to get rid of “undesirables” (aka, students who are difficult and/or expensive to educate or whose test scores don’t measure up) despite what Moskowitz says in this report.

The fact that the two schools highlighted at the beginning of this report – one public, one charter – share the same building, is part of the problem. “Dual occupancy” – two or more schools sharing one building – is a problem. Public schools and their buildings belong to the community which built them. Taking part of a building away from a public school and turning over part of a building to a privately run charter school is like stealing the community’s property for profit. We don’t turn over control of certain parts of public parks for privately run athletic teams. We don’t close of parts of public libraries and let for-profit book sellers “share the space.” Neither should we do that with public schools.

Merrow said it all when he said…

In the end, how charter schools conduct their business is basically their own business.

November 22

What kind of future are we building for our nation?

Policy makers regularly talk about how important it is to have good schools, but there’s no follow through on their part. They blame schools for low achievement, but don’t accept their responsibility for the high levels of poverty in the nation, the main cause of low achievement.

Schools…the education of our citizens…is not a high priority for this nation, despite the rhetoric. Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” If that’s true, then the nation is in jeopardy.

The late Carl Sagan had this to say more than 25 years ago…

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.

December 19

This is the latest and longest of the videos I posted this year. It’s an important one because, despite ESSA, many teachers and schools around the nation are still judged by the test scores of their students, a practice which Dr. Berliner says is invalid. He also discusses the fact that outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wanted to carry the process one step further and evaluate schools of education by the test scores of their students’ students.

We’re using standardized achievement tests incorrectly. They are invalid as a measure of teacher competence, school quality, and teacher training program effectiveness. The discussion of whether or not to use this year’s ISTEP tests to evaluate teachers and schools is irrelevant. We shouldn’t be using any standardized student achievement test to evaluate teachers or schools.

Student achievement tests measure only student achievement.

David C Berliner’s presentation is titled Teacher evaluation and standardised tests: A policy fiasco. You can read about the video presentation by Dr. Berliner at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education web site and watch the hour-long video below.

Teachers and teacher preparation programs are perfect targets to take legislators minds off of all the poverty and inequality that make some of America’s education systems an international embarrassment. Blaming teacher education programs and the teachers they produce for disappointing standardized achievement test scores appears to me to be a diversion, of the type used by successful magicians. Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

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Filed under Accountability, Charters, David Berliner, ESSA, Evaluations, ICPE-MCSCI, JohnOliver, NCLB, Ritz, Sagan, Testing