Posted in A-F Grading, Article Medleys, DAP, ESSA, SBOE, 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!

Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, Pence, Politics, Ritz, SBOE

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!

Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, Pence, SBOE, Testing

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!

Posted in Article Medleys, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, Indiana DOE, Pence, Privatization, Public Ed, Ritz, SBOE

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!
Posted in CECI, Pence, Politics, Ritz, SBOE

Reform Rolls Through Indiana

[UPDATE: A quick update on HB 1486. It was recommitted back to education committee to continue to work on it. Apparently the original bill has been changed and is still being worked on to address many of these concerns. Keep an eye on that one…I know I am.]


In early December Governor Pence decided that CECI had to go. CECI is the Center for Education and Career Innovation, a controversial agency he created last year to quietly take become the Indiana Department of “Reformist” Education. The actual Indiana Department of Education (DOE), for those of you who are not from Indiana, is run by Glenda Ritz, a Democrat who won a surprise victory over Reformist favorite, and cheater, Tony Bennett.

With Ritz at the helm of the DOE “reformers” could no longer change the rules for favored charter schools or ignore the rules about politicking.

Ritz also ran on a platform which called for stopping the reform steamroller crushing Indiana’s public education system. The Governor and the Republicans in the state’s General Assembly are in favor of the expansion of Indiana’s already expansive voucher program. They’re for the expansion of Indiana’s charter industry. In other words, the Governor and the Republicans in the General Assembly are in favor of privatizing education in Indiana. Ritz ran on a pro-public education platform against privatization and she won the election handily over the reformist, Bennett.

Once elected, Superintendent Ritz and Governor Pence were in conflict. Most of the conflict was between Ritz and the Governor’s proxy, the State Board of Education (SBOE).

The Governor, to make things easier for himself, created CECI in order to give full time help to the members of the SBOE who were charged with carrying out his agenda. Then, in December, Pence claimed the high road by disbanding CECI (which, as of this writing, hasn’t happened), because it was too controversial.


The Indiana House of Representatives has a supermajority of Republicans. The first education bill this year (HB1609), which passed just yesterday, February 9, 2015, removes the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, as chair of the SBOE. Ritz is the only elected member of the SBOE; all other members of the board are appointed by the Governor. The bill allows the board to choose its own chair.

Now that the only voice of the voters on the SBOE has been reduced to “a member” (assuming the Senate’s version of the bill passes as well) the way is clear for Pence and Co. to continue their assault on public education.

Unfortunately, the DOE still has control of much of the public education process in the state. So, the next bill in the privatization steamroller is HB1486, which would transfer important Department of Education functions to the SBOE. It would also allow them to hire an executive director and staff to run things.

The summary of House Bill 1486 from the General Assembly web site…

Education issues. Requires the state board of education (state board) to adopt voluntary prekindergarten standards that align with the kindergarten through grade 12 standards. Provides that records of the state board shall be kept by the state board. (Current law provides that the records are kept by the state superintendent of public instruction.) Provides that the state board oversees the operation of turnaround academies. Provides that the state board shall appoint an executive director of the state board. Provides that the state board may employ third party experts and consultants to assist the state board in carrying out the state board’s functions. Provides that the state board is considered a state educational authority within the meaning of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Provides that the department of education (department) shall provide any data necessary to conduct an audit or evaluation of any federal or state supported program principally engaged in the provision of education. Provides that the state board may adopt rules relating to performance qualified schools. Provides that a model teacher evaluation plan developed by the department must be approved by the state board. Authorizes the state board to establish academic standards in subject areas determined appropriate by the state board. Provides that the update of academic standards must be revised on a schedule determined by the state board. Makes changes to who may be appointed to the academic standards committee. Provides that the state board may obtain assistance from the legislative services agency with the approval of the legislative council or another entity to ensure the validity and reliability of the performance category or designation placements calculated by the department. Makes various changes to the administration of the ISTEP program. Makes various changes to provisions relating to the assessment of school performance. Requires the state board to require IREAD-3 as a statewide assessment to assess reading skills in grade 3.

In a (rather large) nutshell, HB1486…

  • Moves the records of the SBOE from the DOE to SBOE
  • Gives the SBOE control of the operation of “Turnaround Academies”
  • Allows the SBOE to appoint an executive director (Claire Fiddian-Green, perhaps?)
  • Employ third party “experts and consultants” to assist the SBOE (CECI staff? Tony Bennett?)
  • Makes the SBOE a state educational authority (FERPA)
  • Provides that the Indiana DOE give the SBOE data so the SBOE can conduct an audit or evaluation of any federal (like CECI tried to do with the state’s NCLB waiver) or state program
  • Authorizes the SBOE to establish academic standards in subject areas determined appropriate by themselves
  • Provides that the update of academic standards must be revised on a schedule determined by the SBOE
  • Makes changes to who may be appointed to the academic standards committee. The bill includes higher education representatives with subject matter expertise, and “industry representatives” in addition to subject area teachers and parents
  • Allows the SBOE to obtain assistance from “another entity” to determine A-F categories with the DOE providing data.
  • Gives the SBOE authority to develop and implement ISTEP including but not limited to, content, format, and cut scores
  • Gives the SBOE the option to “check” the DOE school performance ratings
  • Gives SBOE Control over IREAD-3
No wonder Governor Pence was so willing to let CECI go…he knew the legislature would create another, more “reform” friendly Department of Education and attach it to the State Board of Education.

HB1609 now goes to the Senate…which also has a supermajority of Republicans. HB 1486 will likely pass as well. I’ll follow them both…

It looks like the CECI staff members might be able to keep their jobs after all.


I have to add one more thing. In Indiana it’s the Republicans who are working hard to destroy public education. But it isn’t necessarily so everywhere…and it might not have been so in Indiana had Mike Pence not become Governor.

Governor Pence’s opponent in the last election was DFER June 2012 Reformer of the Month, John Gregg. I have no doubt that he would have been an only slightly better Indiana Governor for the public schools of the state.

There are also some Democrats on the Indiana State Board of Education, though it would be hard to identify them by their votes.

My point is that Democrats, by definition, are not necessarily friendly to public education. Take a look at the Illinois legislature and the Governor of New York, for example. Even worse is the President and his US Education Department tool, Arne Duncan.

Reformists all.

The only way this is going to change is if parents and teachers stand up and make a lot of noise


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!
Posted in Charters, Coll Bargaining, Corp Interest, Due Process, Legislatures, Pence, Ritz, SBOE, Teaching Career, Testing, vouchers

An Open Letter to Indiana’s Public School Teachers

Dear Teachers,

Over the last several years…

  • You have lost many of your collective bargaining rights.
  • You have lost the right to due process when it comes to your job. You can now be fired for teaching hard to educate, and hard to accelerate students because…
  • You have lost the right to use your professional judgment with your students, instead being forced to rely on inadequate and massive amounts of testing — testing which robs you and your students of valuable instructional time. Those same tests are now the basis of your evaluation no matter what happens to your students outside of school. You have no control over their family income, their neighborhood safety issues, their emotional health, or the ability of their parents to get them adequate mental, physical, and dental health care. All of those issues have a bearing on your students’ achievement, yet you alone are held responsible for their academic success or failure.
  • You have lost the right to use your school’s communications to discuss “certain” topics, even while former public officials did the same thing.
  • Your schools have lost millions of dollars of tax money being transferred to private schools and charter schools with the ability to choose their clientele, while your schools must accept every child who enters its doors.
  • Your schools have been forced to spend millions of their scarce dollars on those same inadequate and massive testing programs.

This year, there are bills before the state legislature which will…

  • Allow the State Board of Education to usurp the authority of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Indiana Department of Education.
  • Allow charter and non-public schools to administer different tests than the ones your students are required to take.
  • Allow for a hostile takeover of your bargaining agent.
  • Provide for more forced testing at a younger age…and for that testing to be a larger part of your evaluation. 
  • Eliminate your right to any collective bargaining.

This year the Governor’s plan would…

  • Allow private, parochial, and charter schools to circumvent restrictions which your school must follow.
  • Allow even more tax money to be spent on vouchers and charter schools resulting in fewer resources and larger classes in your public school.
  • Increase the interference of so-called “Merit Pay” plans, which deny adequate financial remuneration to teachers who teach hard to educate and hard to accelerate students.

Public schools are starved of resources…public school teachers are forced to teach in ways which are not conducive to real learning…and then public schools and public school teachers are blamed for low achievement.

The Governor, State Board of Education, and legislature are still trying to negate the State Superintendent of Public Instruction election of 2012. They are still trying to privatize public education. They are still trying to destroy the state’s teachers unions.

Isn’t it time for you to speak up? Your students deserve a fully funded public education system. You deserve a profession of which you can be proud, focused on best practices and professional growth not interference by uneducated and inexperienced politicians.

Learn about what the legislature is doing this year. Their actions will have an impact on you and your ability to teach your students. Stay informed with…

  • the Parent Community Network of Monroe County (on FaceBook)
  • the American Federation of Teachers – Indiana (Website).

At the very least contact your legislators and urge them to end the battle against public education and public school educators.


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!
Posted in Bennett, Charters, IN Gen.Assembly, Pence, Public Ed, Ritz, SBOE, vouchers

Mugging Indiana Part 2


Indiana Governor Mike Pence pretends to be conciliatory by dissolving CECI, his failed attempt at a duplicate education department. However, with that one step forward the Governor has taken two…or perhaps more…steps back.

First, Governor Pence will use his supermajority-rubber-stamp-legislature to do what Tony Bennett, CECI, and his minions on the State Board of Education (SBOE) could not do. He is going to remove the State Superintendent of Public Instruction from the position of chair of the SBOE. Defeating Superintendent Glenda Ritz has been his goal since they both took office in 2012. He and his partners in the legislature and the SBOE have spent the last two years trying various methods of overturning the votes of 1.3 millions citizens of Indiana. Now, with the legislature in his pocket, he can orchestrate removing her from her only position as chair of the SBOE.

In the end Glenda Ritz, who won election over the corrupt incumbent, Tony Bennett, will have only one of the 11 seats on the state board and will no longer carry any leverage as chairperson. The rest of the seats will belong to appointees of Bennett’s pal, Mitch Daniels, and Governor Pence himself. Without Superintendent Ritz as chairperson defending public education, the privatizers, led by Elsener, will end all dissent on the board and fully join the governor and legislature in the process of privatizing public education in Indiana.

Pence’s Board of Education overhaul wins backing

Pence announced Thursday that he would like to have his appointees to the State Board of Education select their own chairman, a move that places Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz in danger of losing the chairmanship. Pence won the backing of House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long shortly after his announcement.

The only surprise here is that it took Governor Pence this long to figure out a way to scrub 1.3 million Hoosier votes.

After this final victory over the voters of Indiana the Governor will continue with his ALEC based plans…


The Governor has called for — and the Supermajority in the legislature will undoubtedly give him — increased funding for charter schools in Indiana. The privately run charter schools, operating with little or no public oversight, will take tax money meant for public schools, and use it to enrich their shareholders and CEOs. Almost as an afterthought, they will hire minimally trained or inexperienced instructors to teach children whose neighborhood schools have been closed by the also-now-rubber-stamp-SBOE (See part V. below). Has the Governor checked to see how Indiana’s charters are doing?

Results from Indiana and elsewhere around the country have shown that charter schools don’t do a better job of teaching children than traditional public schools. They enrich shareholders and CEOs, use poorly trained or inexperienced personnel (aka cheaper) whenever possible, and do it all with public tax dollars. Charters have a habit of skimming the best students from traditional public schools (or dumping those lower achieving students who happen to sneak in somehow), so that the most expensive and most difficult to teach students remain in the now drastically underfunded public schools.


The policy which the Governor named “Freedom to Teach” will allow schools to gain exemption from certain regulations in order to “innovate.” The waivers will allow schools to “innovate” by hiring unqualified and unlicensed teachers, ignore the nearly eviscerated collective bargaining law for staff, and ignore other laws meant to protect employees and improve education. With lower staff salaries, more of our tax money will be funneled into the pockets of the businesses, their shareholders, and the CEOs running the schools…some of which will likely find its way back to the reelection coffers of the politicians who made it all possible.


Like charter schools, vouchers don’t improve education or save the state money. Vouchers are tax dollars which flow into church collection plates or corporate bank accounts. The Governor wants to open vouchers up to everyone…and increase yet again the amount of public money allotted for the privatization of Indiana’s schools. Have vouchers saved the state money? Have they improved education?


The now-supermajority SBOE, under direction from the Governor, will be able to take control of money coming from the federal government (privatizers as well) and use it to take over public schools and public school systems. Those schools would then likely be turned over to private corporations to function as charter schools…

…full circle.


We, the voters of Indiana, did this to ourselves. Even though we elected Glenda Ritz, Indiana voters chose as governor Mike Pence who was clear in his quest for privatized education…and reelected the legislature’s architects of the Daniels-Bennett plan for privatizing public education in the state.

Tony Bennett doesn’t need to be in the Superintendent’s chair for his plan to succeed in Indiana.

It’s worth repeating. The Governor’s plan for education is bad for children.

  • Charter schools don’t do any better than traditional public schools 1 2 3
  • Vouchers do nothing to help public education or save money 1 2
  • Testing isn’t teaching and tests don’t measure everything. They especially don’t measure the success or failure of teachers and schools. The number one factor in low test scores is poverty 1 2 3
  • Unions are not the cause of students’ low achievement…and union teachers don’t become teachers just for the high pay 1 2 3
  • Experienced teachers are better than beginners 1
  • Indiana schools are not, and never have been, failing. Poverty is the main cause of academic low achievement 1 2

It’s not too late. The same legislators we elected in 2012 and 2014 can be told that a privatized education system is not what we want for the children of Indiana. If even half of Glenda Ritz’s 2012 supporters contacted state legislators the response would be positive.

Click here to contact your state senators and representatives. Tell them to support PUBLIC schools, not privatization and the deprofessionalization of educators.

After you’ve written to your legislator, contact the legislators on the House Education Committee…and the Senate Education and Career Development Committee…and tell them the same thing.

We can’t wait another two years to stop the Daniels-Bennett-Pence plan for privatization of Indiana’s schools.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!