Category Archives: SBOE

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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


Comments Off on Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

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

2019 Medley #2

N.J. Charters, “Bible Literacy” Courses,
Teacher Shortage, Kg Readiness,
IN General Assembly, L.A. Strike, Vouchers, Science Facts, Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson!


Broken Promises: Camden’s “Renaissance” Charter Schools

We keep looking for ways to fix public schools, but it’s just as important for us look for ways to fix inequity and poverty. Our schools are just a mirror, reflecting the societal conditions our policy-makers, and we the voters, are unable or unwilling to correct. Until we focus on the source of the problem — that some people are given rights and privileges denied to others — we’ll continue to fail.

[emphasis in original]

Students who enter charter school lotteries are not equivalent to students who don’t. Plenty of research backs this up (see the lit review in this paper for a good summary of this research). Combine this with the high attrition rates in many “successful” charters, and the high suspension rates at many more, and you have a system designed to separate students by critical family characteristics that do not show up in student enrollment data.

…It’s important to note that the Camden City Public Schools do not have the luxury of setting caps on enrollments, deciding which grades to serve, or not enrolling students who move in after the kindergarten year. Everyone in Camden must get a seat at a CCPS school. But only a lucky subset of students get to attend a renaissance school.



The Threat Behind Public School ‘Bible Literacy’ Courses

Not all of America’s public school students are Christian. Not all Christians in the United States use the same translation of The Bible. When we try to include religious texts in school we run up against the problem of whose version of the text to use, which religious texts should be included, and which religions or sects to include. Teachers who teach such courses need to be well-versed in the law making sure they don’t express a preference for one religion, sect, religious text, or version of a religious text over another.

This is one of the reasons that the First Amendment separates church from state. Madison, the author of the first amendment, grew to recognize the need for the separation of church and state through…

…his own personal experiences in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the officially established creed and any attempt to spread another religion in public could lead to a jail term.

Early in 1774, Madison learned that several Baptist preachers were behind bars in a nearby county for public preaching. On Jan. 24, an enraged Madison wrote to his friend William Bradford in Philadelphia about the situation…Madison wrote. “This vexes me the most of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither the patience to hear talk or think anything relative to this matter, for I have squabbled and scolded abused and ridiculed so long about it, to so little purpose that I am without common patience. So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us.”

The current crop of Bible-in-public-school bills does nothing more than attempt to inject religion into public schools. Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse, in his bill, SB 373, makes it especially plain that this is his goal since his bill adds “creation science” into the mix.

Often, these courses are just a cover to bring a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible into public schools. Essentially, they’re Sunday School lessons masquerading as legitimate instruction.

…Let’s not be misled: Barton, the backers of Project Blitz and other far-right groups behind this new push aren’t interested in truly objective classes about the Bible in public schools. They want classes that indoctrinate children in a specific religious perspective – theirs.


There Is No Teacher Shortage

This post by Peter Greene (the first of two in here) explains that the teacher shortage is the result of stagnant working conditions and lack of respect for teachers.

For almost twenty years (at least) the profession has been insulted and downgraded. Reformy idea after reformy idea has been based on the notion that teachers can’t be trusted, that teachers can’t do their job, that teachers won’t do their jobs unless threatened. Teachers have been straining to lift the huge weight of education, and instead of showing up to help, wave after wave of policy maker, politician and wealthy dilettante have shown up to holler, “What’s wrong with you, slacker! Let me tell you how it’s supposed to be done.” And in the meantime, teachers have seen their job defined down to Get These Kids Ready For A Bad Standardized Test.

And pay has stagnated or, in some states, been inching backwards. And not just pay, but financial support for schools themselves so that teachers must not only make do with low pay, but they must also make do with bare bones support for their workplace.

And because we’ve been doing this for two decades, every single person who could be a potential new teacher has grown up thinking that this constant disrespect, this job of glorified clerk and test prep guide, is the normal status quo for a teacher.



MD: Failing Five Year Olds

When I began teaching my first class of third graders (after a half year of teaching kindergarten) I discovered that the achievement range of my 38 students was much larger than I had imagined. Some students were reading several years above grade level, and some were reading one or two years below grade level. One student in particular, John*, was reading at a pre-primer level. In retrospect it was plain that this child was a candidate for special education, but, as a first-year teacher in a system with minimal provisions for special needs children (at least at that time), I was responsible for figuring out what to do to help him learn to read.

What should a teacher do with a child reading at a pre-primer level in third grade? I decided that I would do the same for him as I did for the students who were reading several grade levels above average. I would provide material at his level. That meant that John wouldn’t be exposed to grade-level reading material. In other words, I changed the curriculum to fit his needs, rather than make a futile attempt to force him into a curriculum in which he would fail, become frustrated, and learn to hate reading. The latter is what many schools have forced teachers to do since No Child Left Behind.

* not his real name

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem…if you still think that children raised in poor families have “too many” needs, then maybe start asking how you can ameliorate the problems of poverty that are getting in the way.


Bill gives governor unusual power over schools

I wrote about a related issue in this bill last week. This bill, should it become law, would mean that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would be an appointed position beginning in 2021, rather than a position voted on by the citizens. Since members of the State Board of Education are also appointed, the voters will have no direct input in the state’s education policy except through the governor.

Governor Holcomb will be the one to appoint the Secretary of Education which means that of the eleven members of the SBOE, nine will be appointed by the Governor and one each by the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

With HB 1005, Indiana would become one of 15 states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer. The most common procedure – used in 21 states — is for the state board of education to appoint the chief state school officer.

Indiana’s governor appoints members of the state board of education; so, with approval of the bill, the governor will control both the setting and administering of education policy.

In states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer, the governor has total power to appoint state board members in only Iowa, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia. In other states, board members are elected; or they are chosen by the governor but confirmed by the legislature.

The House approved the measure Thursday by a vote of 70-29, with most of the yes votes coming from Republicans and most of the no votes from Democrats. It rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment to require the secretary of education to have experience in education.


Los Angeles teachers went on strike for our schools – and the country

Americans still prioritize now over future. We have cut funding for public schools through actual reductions and through the transference of tax funds from public schools to charter and voucher schools. Indiana, for example, paid $154 million to school voucher schools. The actual cost of charter schools is much more difficult to find, but a Duke University study of charters’ impact on North Carolina schools determined that

…charter school growth results in a “large and negative fiscal impact” on the districts evaluated.


…the findings are consistent with previous studies and show that charter growth generally results in a lower quality of education for students who remain in a district’s traditional public schools.

The Los Angeles teachers who went on strike earlier this month didn’t strike only for more pay and benefits. They were offered a 6% increase before the strike. They accepted a 6% increase to end the strike. What they gained were improvements to the learning conditions of the students in the form of lowered class sizes and much-needed wraparound services.

It was clear, however, that part of the problem with funding in Los Angeles and California, as well as in other parts of the country, is that money is being diverted from public schools to privately run charter schools. States can’t afford to support multiple school systems.

We believe every student, however challenged, ought to have access to success. And we know that in our classes with more than 40 students, there are often five or 10 with special needs and another 10 or 15 still learning English as a second language while as many as half or two-thirds are homeless or in foster care or in a continual state of crisis. Students collapse in class from hunger and stress and fatigue and depression.

Overcrowded classrooms are a brutal expression that our students don’t matter. They are someone else’s kids – and all too often they are no one’s kids. No one except the dedicated teachers who every day give a damn about them. And we’re going to keep giving a damn and hope that one day those in power give a damn.



Side effects in education: Winners and losers in school voucher programs

One size does not fit all. Some teaching methods work for some children, other methods work for other students. Some schools are better for some students, other schools are better for others.

Think about this in terms of the evaluation of teachers, for example. Teacher A might be able to help student A, who is homeless, adjust to school, while Teacher B may not. But Teacher B’s classes usually have higher test scores. If you were the parent of student A which teacher would you want for your child?

As much as we might want to seek a perfect solution for all students, one student’s medicine may very well be another one’s poison. As students’ characteristics and education treatments interact, negative side effects may occur. Funding private schools with public dollars probably does not affect all students positively in a uniform fashion. To date, studies of school voucher programs have found their effects to vary among different populations of students.

Moreover, besides the side effects resulting from the interactions between students’ characteristics and education treatments, side effects also occur because of the broad range of desirable and potentially competing education outcomes. So far, evidence of the effects of voucher programs has been limited to a narrow set of outcomes such as academic achievement. Little, if any, empirical evidence has been collected concerning other equally important outcomes of schooling, such as preparing students for civic engagement and betterment of a shared society (Abowitz & Stitzlein, 2018; Labaree, 2018). Thus, we do not know their effects, negative or positive, on other important outcomes. It is, however, reasonable to believe that voucher programs and other forms of privatization of education can have negative side effects on individual students, the public school system, and the society (Labaree, 2018).


The most disturbing news yet

I recently saw a discussion on social media where someone stated…

“Science is facts. Theory is not yet science.”

After a quick facepalm, I responded with the article, “Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words. This didn’t work, of course, because the person in question had been “educated” at a “Bible Institute.” He was obviously mistaught basic science concepts.

This is what we are up against. When the effects of climate change are no longer deniable, these same people will, at that point, point to “god” and claim we are being punished for allowing gay marriage, transgender soldiers, unisex bathrooms, or some such nonsense. Until that time, they will go along with the right-wing talking point denying climate change claiming it’s just a conspiracy to get more money for scientists.

In the meantime, there are places where insects are disappearing and the entire food chain is at risk. Those places shouldn’t be taken as exceptions, but rather as warnings.

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” he said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”

…We are part of a complex web of interdependencies, and it’s also a non-linear dynamical system. There’s a word for when parts of such a system show a pattern of failure: it’s called catastrophe. By the time you notice it, it’s too late to stop it.


Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.


Comments Off on 2019 Medley #2

Filed under Article Medleys, Baseball, Charters, Curmudgucation, FirstAmendment, Holcomb, IN Gen.Assembly, Los Angeles, Madison, Religion, SBOE, Science, SPI, TeacherShortage, TeacherStrikes, vouchers

Education is NOT an Expense


Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn’t a personal expense; it’s an investment in your future.

Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits…they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.

When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public’s investment, but after that wait time, it’s clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.


It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.

It seems that Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) doesn’t agree. He is. apparently, against public schools as stated in this post on facebook from last week.


“What the hell are we doing, putting government in charge of educating our children?”— Jim Lucas, October 4, 2018


Lucas was responding to this article on Fort Wayne’s WANE-TV about the low test scores on this year’s ISTEP – Less than half of Indiana’s students passed ISTEP. Perhaps he only read the title because if he had read the entire article (or had watched the embedded video) he would have read this…

Northwest Allen County Superintendent Chris Himsel says he hasn’t looked at [ISTEP test scores] and doesn’t care to.

“ISTEP does not tell us why the kids passed,” he said. It does not tell us why kids do not pass and therefore it offers us no information that helps us improve instruction for kids. Therefore we will pay very little attention to them.”‘

We shared some of NACS’ results with him. With only 45 percent of his high school students passed both sections of the test, he says that doesn’t line up with the nearly 95 percent of his students passing the national college-readiness ACCUPLACER test.

“There’s a disconnect between the test scores which makes us believe there’s a flaw in the testing system Indiana’s using for the ISTEP,” he said.

And this…

Superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools Phil Downs agrees, calling the ISTEP a waste of time and tax dollars.

“While Southwest Allen County Schools is legally obligated to take the ISTEP+ tests, SACS does not place much value in their results,” he said. “ISTEP+ scores continue to produce results that do not align with any other measures of student performance SACS uses, are in no way useful for teachers, nor are they helpful to students and their parents.”



Lucas is a member of the Republican super-majority in the Indiana House and a member of the House Education Committee. As such, he is at least partly responsible for the condition and quality of public education in Indiana, and he, along with others in the legislature, must be held accountable.

  • He favors the privatization of education and supports vouchers and charter schools. He also supports expensive testing programs. As a consequence, the funding set aside for public schools has been less than what is needed because money for testing and for financial support of voucher and charter schools all come from the same pot of funds.
  • He and his ilk have supported the deprofessionalization of Indiana’s teaching force…the loss of collective bargaining, the lowering of requirements to become a teacher, the lack of autonomy in the classroom, and a 16% decrease (adjusted for inflation) in the salaries of Indiana’s teachers.

In other words, Lucas is a member of the group (the education privatizers in the Indiana House, the Indiana Senate, and the State Board of Education – mostly Republicans) which has removed incentives for teachers, made choices on how and what to teach, yet has held teachers accountable for the decisions of the legislature. Those decisions have caused the current teacher shortage and damaged our public schools. If he doesn’t like how Indiana’s public education is working, he has himself, and his cronies, to blame.

High stakes standardized tests are academically worthless and a waste of money. They measure family income, not achievement. Charter schools and vouchers are diverting funds from public schools. Legislators, like Lucas, who have tied the hands of actual educators, must take responsibility for the damage they have done to public education in Indiana.

Lucas and his fellow Republicans own 70% of the Indiana House of Representatives and 80% of the Indiana Senate.

We can change those percentages on November 6.



Comments Off on Education is NOT an Expense

Filed under Accountability, Charters, Election, IN Gen.Assembly, ISTEP, Privatization, Public Ed, SBOE, Testing, vouchers

2017 Medley #22 – ESSA, A-F, and DAP, oh my!

ESSA, Private Schools, A-F, SBOE, DAP


Grad rates, grades to fall

A decision by the U.S. Education Department will result in thousands of Indiana students’ diplomas not being counted in graduation statistics causing dozens of schools to score lower on the A-F Grading System.

The fact that the USED can, with the backing of the federal ESSA law, lower the value of diplomas and thereby a school’s grade without any change in the actual achievement of the students is an indication that there is something wrong here.

The A-F grading system in Indiana has been wrong from day one. It’s been riddled with confusion and corruption. The original metrics weren’t adequate, said the State Board Of Education, so they “fixed” them. A former State Superintendent, Tony Bennett, manipulated them to increase the scores of favored schools. The mathematical manipulations have done nothing to improve student achievement or give patrons a better understanding of a school’s effectiveness. It has simply become a way to label schools and neighborhoods as “failing” (read “poor”).

This time, however, it’s the USED which is screwing things up.

As has been the case for the last couple of decades, the U.S. (under both Republican and Democratic administrations) seems hell-bent on making it more difficult for teachers and schools to do their jobs, and for students to learn. The only goal seems to be to humiliate students, schools, and neighborhoods where students struggle.

Local schools will see a drop in graduation rates – and related controversial A-F school grades – under a new interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education.

…McCormick lamented that the new Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to be more flexible yet the feds aren’t bending.

She warned that some schools might see their graduation rates drop into the 30 percent to 40 percent level.

…[NACS Superintendent, Chris] Himsel said, “I don’t even pay attention to the A to F stuff. It’s so not related to what we do for kids it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

While…many have lost confidence in that system it is still reported in the media and can cause harm to districts – especially along borders with competing schools allowing transfer students.

But, of course, we can’t let those nasties at the USED damage Indiana’s favored private schools. They’ll still get public tax money for teaching religious doctrine, fixing church steeples, and expanding parochial school buildings, even if their students don’t “measure up.”

After unsuccessful first attempt, private voucher schools use new Indiana law to win reprieve from A-F consequences

Four private schools with repeated years of D and F grades from the state will get to accept new voucher students next fall.

The Indiana State Board of Education today approved Central Christian Academy, Turning Point School, Lutheran South Unity School and Trinity Lutheran School’s requests for waivers after a failed vote last month would have denied them.

The requests take advantage of a new Indiana law passed in April that allows the state board to consider such waivers for private schools that can still show their students have improved academically.

Today, six board members voted in favor of the waivers. Gordon Hendry and Steve Yager were still opposed. State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who also voted no last month, was out sick.

[Note: This method of ignoring “failure” for private schools while punishing the same “failure” in public schools is not unique to Indiana or voucher schools. It happens with charter operators, too. For another example, see Philadelphia: KIPP Gets Whatever It Wants, Despite Poor Performance.]


Test scores could get more important as state board looks to reverse course on A-F grades

To make a bad situation worse, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has decided that getting the right answer is more important than learning.

In an educationally indefensible reversal, the SBOE has chosen to give more weight to “proficiency” than to “growth” in figuring a school’s grade. The discussion was reminiscent of Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation Hearing (although at least the members of the SBOE appeared to understand the concepts), and members of the SBOE agreed with board member David Freitas who said that “Proficiency is more important than growth.”

This means that inadequate standardized tests, which are biased, advantage the wealthy, provide minimal feedback to classroom teachers, penalize non-standard thinkers, and use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores, will become even more important leading to more teaching to the test, focusing on “the bubble-kids,” and outright cheating.

[emphasis added]

Board members Thursday, though, said they think it’s more important to know how students are doing on the ultimate goal: performing on grade level.

“Growth, to me, is much less important than proficiency,” said B.J. Watts, a sixth-grade social studies and science teacher in Evansville.

Board members Tony Walker, Byron Ernest and Kathleen Mote said they, too, would like to see more emphasis on achievement. Walker said that if schools receive an A letter grade, the public should be confident they are already high-achieving.

“Right now, you can be on the road to high-performing and get an A,” he said.


I challenge those members of the SBOE to define grade level. Anyone who has been teaching for more than a few years has seen the definition of grade level change. What was third grade in 1997 isn’t third grade in 2017.

It’s perhaps beneficial that expectations for what students can do should rise as humans grow and knowledge increases and changes. However, there is such a thing as “development.” Students develop at different rates. Humans are not the same. Using a measurement to help identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses is different than using that same measurement to classify a child as “successful” or “failing.”

Meeting students where they are, academically and physically, and helping them reach challenging, yet achievable goals, is called Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP).

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines DAP as

…an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development.

DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals.

This applies to older children as well, since the human brain doesn’t reach full development until sometime in the 20s.

Our obsession with testing…our obsession with trying to make all students learn at the same rate is not developmentally sound and it’s a statistical impossibility.

Punishing students, their teachers, or their schools, for not being “developmentally equal” to others is insane. Stop it!


Comments Off on 2017 Medley #22 – ESSA, A-F, and DAP, oh my!

Filed under A-F Grading, Article Medleys, DAP, ESSA, SBOE, vouchers

The Enemy is Us


Yesterday, April 14, 2025, the Indiana House of Representatives passed SB1, a bill designed to change the makeup of the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE).

SB1: State board of education governance. Makes changes to the composition of the state board of education (state board). Provides that the state board may hire staff and administrative support. Provides that the state board shall elect a chairperson and vice chairperson annually from the members of the state board. Provides that at least six of the members of the state board appointed by the governor must be actively employed in the schools in Indiana and hold a valid teaching license. Provides that a state board member serves a four year term.

This effectively changes the job of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), the only elected official on the SBOE. Unless the SBOE elects the SPI as the chair of the SBOE the job the superintendent was elected to do has been changed midstream by the legislature.

When she defeated Tony Bennett and won election as SPI in 2012, Glenda Ritz was, as were all previous SPI’s for the last hundred years, the designated chairperson of the SBOE. Unfortunately the Republican leadership in the state — the governor and the members of the General Assembly — were not happy that a Democrat defeated their “reformer” hero, Bennett. Since then, the 10 Republican appointed members of the SBOE (some claiming to be Democrats), have blocked Superintendent Ritz at every turn.

An excellent example of this is the behavior of Board Member Hendry (a self-proclaimed Democrat). At a recent SBOE meeting, Superintendent Ritz wanted to introduce a proposal to postpone the accountability requirements because of problems with the implementation of the state standardized test, ISTEP. When the meeting was called to order Hendry instantly demanded that the proposal be taken off of the agenda. He didn’t want to hear any discussion. He didn’t want to listen to any rationale behind the proposal. The other Republican appointed members of the board went along with him and the proposal was removed from the agenda. Hendry did, of course, have the right to do what he did, but the fact that he, and all the other members of the board wouldn’t even consider discussing the proposal is an indication of the petty bickering coming from the 10 Republican appointed board members. (See the video of the meeting HERE)


The Governor and his friends on the SBOE have been blaming Superintendent Ritz for the dysfunction on the board since the election. For her part, Superintendent Ritz has put up with rudeness, eye rolling, petty comments, and outright antagonism from members of the SBOE…and remember that, even as chairperson, the Superintendent does not have the ability to overrule the votes of other members. So, while working with a fairly consistent 10-1 majority against her, the Superintendent has been blamed for the dysfunction by the other members who have been able to change policy at will.

The Republicans in the state deny that SB1 is a politically motivated bill. They claim that the SBOE ought to elect its own chair, just like local school boards. The problem with this argument is that local school boards are elected rather than appointed. It would be a different situation if all members of the SBOE were elected rather than being appointed by the Governor.

Consider, on the other hand, that Glenda Ritz is the only state-wide elected Democrat in Indiana…and that the Republicans are not going to wait until her term is over, but change her job description immediately upon passage of SB1 (see below).

Note also that other state-wide office holders have automatic chairmanships which are not being challenged by legislation. The State Treasurer is the chair of the Public Deposit Insurance Fund. The Lieutenant Governor is the chair of the state’s agriculture commission. These chairmanships are part of the job, just like the chairmanship of the SBOE is the job of the SPI. The positions of State Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor are currently held by Republicans.


During the second reading of SB1 Rep. V. Smith (D-14) presented an amendment (among others) which also indicates that the intent of the bill is political.

Amendment #8 changed only one item on the bill — it moved the effective date to the beginning of the next election cycle. That would mean that in order to remain SPI, Ritz would have to run again, and even if she lost, her opponent would also be guided by the same rules.

By rejecting the amendment, the Republican super-majority plainly stated that the bill was aimed at Superintendent Ritz…and they wanted the SBOE to have the ability to remove her from her position of SBOE chair immediately.

In one of my several attempts to engage my local state representative in a discussion of this bill, I wrote,

…giving the members of the SBOE the right to choose their own chairperson is tantamount to giving them the right to overturn the 2012 election for SPI. The voters of Indiana elected Glenda Ritz to the job of SPI which, at election time, included the position of chair of the SBOE.

Why should ten appointed members of the SBOE have the authority to strip an elected official of her duties?

…the “something needs to be done to relieve the problems on the SBOE” argument doesn’t mean that the wishes of Hoosier voters should be ignored.


Unfortunately, Indiana voters also elected Governor Pence and the members of the Republican super-majority who have pursued the plan to strip Glenda Ritz of her role as SBOE chair. The conflicts surrounding the SBOE, Glenda Ritz, and public education in general are the direct result of Indiana voters telling the state government two different things.

  • We elected Glenda Ritz because we were unhappy with the direction that Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett were taking Indiana’s public education system.
  • Yet we re-elected the legislators who were instrumental in putting the Daniels/Bennett school “reform” platform into place.
  • And we elected Governor Pence who, during his campaign, promised to provide more support for the Daniels/Bennett “reforms.”

We, the voters, built this dysfunction. We voted for Glenda Ritz and the “Ritz plan” to end the Daniels/Bennett “reforms.” And we also voted for the “Pence/Legislature plan” to continue the Daniels/Bennett “reforms.” The conflict will continue unless we change our voting pattern in the next election.

In the meantime, for the most vulnerable citizens of our state, it’s unfortunate that the “Pence/Legislature plan” supporters currently hold the power to make the greatest impact on public education in Indiana.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Comments Off on The Enemy is Us

Filed under IN Gen.Assembly, Pence, Politics, Ritz, SBOE

Policy Makers Need to Share Responsibility


I understand that sound bites are often all that there is time for in a politician’s busy day. But when sound bites translate into poorly thought out policy, then that’s a problem.

NEIFPE, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (Full Disclosure: I’m a member of this group, and run their blog), promoted a “twitter storm” (#PauseAccountability) this past week to bring attention to the fact that Indiana’s statewide test for grades 3 through 8, the ISTEP+, has had so many problems this year (for example, here, here, and here) that using it for high stakes decisions which will have an impact on schools, teachers, and students, is inappropriate and outside the realm of good testing practice. [Just to be clear using the ISTEP for high stakes decisions is always inappropriate and outside the realm of good testing practice. It’s just more obviously wrong to do it this year.]

WISH-TV out of Indianapolis reported on the twitter storm and included comments from a variety of folks…including State Representative Vernon Jordan (D-Gary) and Governor Mike Pence (R). Rep. Jordan took the traditional Democratic focus on Labor and commented about how it would affect the jobs of teachers.

“Definitely our scores are gonna go down,” said Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary,) “and since we have a flawed A through F system and we’re gonna tie these lower scores to that, what happens to the employment of teachers in this state?”

Governor Pence signed on as well with this comment…

“We grade our kids everyday in the classroom,” said Mike Pence, “we can grade our schools every year. I think that accountability is important.”

Jordan’s sound bite only barely touches on the issues…but Governor Pence’s comment says even less than that, and his leadership, after all, is the basis for the policy which is currently in place.


Those of us who have been trained in the appropriate uses of standardized tests know that they are developed with specific uses in mind. Standardized tests, like the ISTEP+, are designed to evaluate student achievement. This does not necessarily correlate directly to school and teacher quality because of the effect of variables outside of the testing environment. That is, there are things that happen outside of school which have an impact on a student’s test score. A score is not entirely the result of a student’s interaction with and relationship to, his or her school and teachers. The economic status of the student has the greatest out-of-school impact as does the student’s physical home environment, educational attainment level of parents, physical, mental, and dental health and numerous other factors.

A test is developed to give an answer to the “what” of achievement, not the “why.” A student might have achieved at level X, but the test itself usually doesn’t explain “why” the student achieved at level X instead of level Y. In other words, the student might have gotten a score in the 98th percentile on the math portion of his state-wide achievement test, but we don’t know why he did. It could be because he has a mathematician parent who has been playing math games with him since his birth. It could be because he has an outside tutor in math, or that he is somehow predisposed to have a high aptitude for math. On another day the same student might have scored in the 12th percentile in math because he came to school sick, or his father and mother split up the night before, or he has a toothache. The test doesn’t explain “why” a student scores at the level he does, only “what” the level is. It is therefore inappropriate to assign a “why” to the results of a test such as, “The student had a good (or bad) teacher and therefore did great (or terrible) on the test,” or “The student’s school has a good (or bad) math program.” To be sure, trends can be identified and established. Schools and teachers can identify areas of weakness and work to improve them, but to attach high stakes consequences to the results of a test based on the “why” is inappropriate.

Analysis of tests is a big deal. Trying to determine the “why” is the stuff of good teaching. “Why did my student score as he did and what can we do to help him to improve” is the question that good teachers ask every day, after every assessment, formal or informal. Teachers do this all the time…

This is why policy makers, when deciding how to proceed with a plan, ought to listen to practitioners who understand 1) how data ought to be used and 2) the consequences of misusing that data.


Now let’s look at what Governor Pence said in his sound bite…

We grade our kids everyday in the classroom…

Absolutely! Good teachers evaluate their students all the time. That’s one of the most important things about teaching…evaluating and analyzing students’ work over an extended period of time. It is much more effective, accurate, and valid than using one test, on one day, to decide a student’s achievement level or to judge the success or failure of his or her teachers and school.

…we can grade our schools every year.

We can, but the way we do it ought to be accurate. The accuracy of a single test given once a year as a means to effectively grade schools, teachers, and students, is debatable…and the accuracy of this year’s ISTEP+, given its problems in development and application, is even more suspect. Waiting until a tool is established and proven to be effective before using it is simple common sense.

I think that accountability is important.

Fine. Then let’s also have accountability for the quality of the test and the quality of the resources within every school in the state. The governor wants students, teachers, and schools to be accountable for their work? Then the governor and other policy makers must accept their share of the responsibility for providing a social, economic, and academic climate in which students can learn.

Communities, states, and the nation ought to share the responsibility of educating our next generation of citizens.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Comments Off on Policy Makers Need to Share Responsibility

Filed under IN Gen.Assembly, Pence, SBOE, Testing

2015 Medley #5: Hating Public Education, Indiana Style

“This is a state that really hates its public schools.” — Peter Greene


The Indiana General Assembly is conducting it’s annual “let’s-see-how-much-we-can-damage-public-education” campaign. This year they started with the Superintendent of Public Instruction. So much has been written about the problems that Superintendent Ritz has with the State Board of Education (SBOE) that it would be impossible for me to attempt to summarize it here. The following, however, expresses the gist of the conflict…

What’s The Matter With Indiana

The Indiana GOP has been trying to separate Ritz from any power. They cite any number of complaints about her work style and competence (the GOP president of the Senate famously commented “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, okay?”) and most of the complaints smell like nothing but political posturing. [emphasis and link added]

…and the most perceptive quote from the entire article…

…This is a state that really hates its public schools.

All three branches of the state government have been working together to privatize public education well before Ritz took office in 2012. She was elected — the lone Democrat winning a state-wide office in a blood-red state — because voters, Republicans and Democrats alike, were tired of the “reformist” education policies of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett.

This was too much for the Republicans in the governor’s office and the legislature to take…so Ritz became the target. How dare she defeat well-funded, “reform”-backed, Tony Bennett. How dare she disagree with the governor and all the “reformist” legislators (and lest I be called partisan, Pence’s opponent in the race for governor was John Gregg…a Democratic “reformer.” I know that the Democrats in the legislature are fighting against the Republican-led “reforms” now, but is it because they really support public education or is it simply that they don’t like Republican-led anything?).


Republicans: 2012 election doesn’t matter

The Republicans in the governor’s office and the legislature have finally gotten their way — or at least they will after Governor Pence signs the bill stripping Superintendent Ritz of her chairmanship of the SBOE. Here’s a report about the vote in the House.

If you’re one of the 1.3 million Hoosiers who voted for Glenda Ritz, congratulations — you’ve potentially been disenfranchised by 58 members of the Indiana General Assembly.

You elected Ritz as superintendent of public instruction and chairwoman of the State Board of Education.

They — 58 Republicans — decided to throw out your vote. After a single hour of debate, they approved a bill Monday removing Ritz as board chairwoman.

You elected a Democrat as a counterbalance to Republican educationpolicies. They said your vote doesn’t matter.

Indiana Senate votes to remove Ritz from chair; here’s how your senator voted

The Senate followed suit…

The Republican-dominated Indiana Senate has advanced a bill that would remove Democratic schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz from automatically chairing the State Board of Education.

Senate members voted 33-17 Tuesday to advance the proposal that would allow board members to elect their own chairman, most likely removing Ritz from the position.

So the precedent has been made and the legislature can now change the job description of a member of the executive department, elected by the people, in the middle of a term of office. Would a Republican legislature dare to change the job description of a Democratic governor (or secretary of state or auditor, or any other state-wide elected office) in the middle of a term? This sets that precedent. Checks and Balances anyone?

The truth is that Glenda Ritz will be stripped of her chairmanship of the SBOE for two simple reasons. First, she defeated Tony Bennett and the Republicans in the state have, from day one, sought to overturn that election. Even Senator Long admitted (in this video starting at about minute 11:00) that some of the moves against the superintendent appear

…like the Republicans are trying to take away her job. And I think it does appear that way right now.

He was talking specifically about the move to make the job of Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position. The fact is, however, that the appearance of partisanship is pervasive.

The second and more immediate reason, is because Glenda Ritz ran against the Republican-led “reform” movement in Indiana — and won. The establishment of CECI, the conflict with the SBOE, the successful move to end her chairmanship over the SBOE, and other bills now before the legislature, are simply the governor and his followers on the SBOE and in the legislature doing everything they can to stifle any dissent over their move to privatize education in Indiana.


IPS would lose out in education funding overhaul

Not satisfied with taking power away from the superintendent and effectively disenfranchising 1.3 million voters, the legislators then turned their attention to the fact that schools with higher needs received higher levels of support. We certainly can’t have that, so the next step was to introduce a bill which would make everything “equal.”

Do they realize that it takes more resources to educate students who live in poverty than wealthy students? Probably…but poor and even middle class constituents don’t donate as much money to political campaigns as do the wealthy and, in Indiana, as in the rest of the nation, money talks.

The shift pushed by conservatives is intended to move toward a “money following the student” plan that helps growing suburban districts but hits urban districts like Indianapolis Public Schools [IPS] hardest. As a result:

•IPS would lose roughly $18 million over the next two years as it continues to lose students.

•Hamilton Southeastern, one of the state’s largest suburban districts, will receive $24 million more.

•Northwest Hendricks Schools Corp, a more rural district, will see an overall increase of close to $1.3 million.

Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said the changes would reduce the gap in per pupil funding among the highest and lowest funded school districts from $2,934 to $1,618 by 2017.

State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools

Indianapolis Public Schools, for example, would see a 6 percent reduction in total state tuition aid by 2017 despite being one of the state’s poorest districts, with more than 75 percent of children coming from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Some of the state’s other poorest cities also would face basic tuition aid cuts: 19 percent for Gary, 10.5 percent for East Chicago and 3 percent for Hammond by 2017.

Meanwhile, the two wealthiest school districts in the state for family income — Zionsville and Carmel — would see large increases in total state basic tuition aid: 10.6 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively, over the two-year budget period. Neither district has more than 10 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.

At the same time, the proposed budget also would provide more money for public charter schools and private schools receiving publicly funded tuition vouchers.

Notice where the big increase in school funding is going, then…to the wealthy, to charter schools, and to vouchers for private and parochial schools.

The U.S. is one of the three “advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students.” So much for our dedication to eliminating the achievement gap.


House moves to shorten ISTEP, broaden state board’s testing role

Members of the SBOE have, since Ritz was elected, argued that the SBOE is the education policy making body and the job of the Department of Education is to carry out that policy. That’s about to change…

Here’s a bill which would give the SBOE more power to micromanage education and the state’s Department of Education and lessen local control of education.

But a series of changes the amendment lays out would address state board concerns over recent months. It requires the department to share data with the state board and consult with its members on testing contracts. House Bill 1072 also would let the board set minimum requirements for student test score gains. That’s a decision local schools get to make under current law.

Thompson and other Republicans on the committee said the bill would not shift any authority from Ritz to the state board. Democrats weren’t buying that the changes would have no influence.

Walker said she found the new rules in House Bill 1072 baffling. The department already consults with the state board, she said, and the bill would only require a duplication of efforts.

“It’s that they don’t trust you,” Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, suggested.

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #203 – February 16, 2015: House Bill 1639

Need more? If passed House Bill 1639 would give the SBOE more micromanaging access…this time to student data, and they’ll spend more tax dollars in the process.

There is, however, no let up in the Statehouse battles over public education…

…House Bill 1639…would put control of a new system to expand access to student records in the hands of the State Board, not the Indiana Department of Education. For the first time, it would make the State Board an administrative agency, handling student data functions that have always been controlled by the Indiana Department of Education. The expanded data access through this data warehouse will cost $4.1 million as projected by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, requiring an independent computer staff for the State Board with a new stand alone computer system. The duplication of services is obvious.

The $4.1 million price tag is more than the current entire annual budget for the State Board of $3 million and of course far more than the annual budget for professional development, which stands at zero.

This is a major salvo in the battle to move functions out of the Indiana Department of Education under the control of State Superintendent Ritz and into the domain of the State Board controlled by Governor Pence.


Indiana: Senate Committee Approves Bill to Exempt Voucher Schools from State Testing

How much worse can it get?

If you’re not yet convinced that the Republican leaders in Indiana hate public schools…how about a bill which would allow private and parochial schools, most of which, receive state money in the form of vouchers, to forego the state mandated testing program. The bill would allow them to “choose their own test.” The budget proposed by the governor gives a higher increase to charter and voucher accepting private schools than to public schools. This is just another plus for private schools…the obvious “choice” of the governor. Public schools don’t get this “choice.”

Today, February 12, the Senate Education Committee voted to exempt voucher schools receiving public money from ISTEP, the state testing program. It was a straight party-line vote, 7-3. The voucher schools may take a test of their own choosing.


House Bill 1639

Ok, one more just for show…

Among the many bills before the legislature there are those which would further the demoralization, and deprofessionalization of teachers by stripping them of what little employee rights they have left, lower qualifications to let Joe Nobody from off the street step into a classroom and teach, and other insane and educationally unsound ideas.

It’s bad enough that teachers’ evaluations are based on student test scores, a practice which is invalid at worse and unreliable at best. The idea behind this bill is to have a popularity contest included in a teacher’s evaluation.

Someone came up with the bright idea of having parents and students share in the evaluation of teachers…because we know that students are mature and experienced enough to recognize excellence in teaching.

Provides that, before July 1, 2016, the state board shall develop a survey to be used by a school corporation to allow parents and grade appropriate students to evaluate certificated employees.


Hunger, poverty, substance abuse, suicide impact Indiana kids at high rates

The governor thinks that Indiana is doing just swell…and it’s true we had a $2 billion at the end of the last fiscal year. Maybe it’s time to spend that money…maybe it’s time to remind the leaders of the state that the reason we collect taxes is so that we can use it to help improve the lot of our citizens.

Instead of wasting time and money fighting against public schools perhaps they could work on some more pressing problems…

While the economy has shown a rebound, it doesn’t seemed to be changing the trajectory of several indicators related to poverty. About 22.3 percent of Indiana children live in poverty, but Lake County has a higher percentage than the state — 27.7 percent in 2013. The poverty rate for children is lower in Porter County — 15 percent — but it has seen a steady increase from 9.9 percent in 2004.

…Suicide…According to a nationwide survey, Indiana has the highest rate in the nation of teens who have considered suicide in the past 12 months — 19 percent — and the second highest rate in the nation of teens who have attempted suicide — 11 percent.

…Stress and Violence…Nineteen percent of Indiana children living in poverty have witnessed domestic violence.

…Substance abuse…Abuse of prescription drugs among teens has increased by more than 95 percent from 2003 to 2014.

…Infant Mortality…In 2012, the state saw 6.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births, but the number was much higher in Lake County at 9.9, among minority groups, rural residents and those who are low-income.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

Comments Off on 2015 Medley #5: Hating Public Education, Indiana Style

Filed under Article Medleys, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, Indiana DOE, Pence, Privatization, Public Ed, Ritz, SBOE