Archives for category: Indiana

When Indiana Governor Mikr Oence was asked about the sharp drop in state test scores, he responded, “Dont take it personally.”

Donna Roof of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education sent her reply to Governor Pence in this post.

It begins:

“So, Governor Pence, you recently told a teacher not to take the ISTEP results personally.

“Well, actually, Governor…

“When I see developmentally inappropriate education curriculum, I take it personally.

“When I see students suffer from anxiety and other health issues due to pressure to pass high stakes tests, I take it personally.

“When I see students subjected to an abundance of test prep, I take it personally.

“When I see recess being cut to allow for more test prep time, I take it personally.

“When I see children fearing they’ll be held back if they don’t pass a high stakes test, I take it personally.

“When I see neighborhood schools being closed, I take it personally.

“When I see fine arts classes and programs being cut to allow more time for test prep, I take it personally.

“When I see students walking great distances on unsafe roads because there are no busses due to transportation cuts, I take it personally.

“When I see no joy in learning and teaching due to the demands of tests, tests, and more tests, I take it personally.

“When I see teachers with 40+ students in their classes, I take it personally.

“When I see teachers without sufficient resources for their classroom, I take it personally.

“When I see less funding for public schools, I take it personally.

“When I see the outrageous amount of money being wasted on high stakes testing, I take it personally….”

And it ends:

“When you see that I am doing all that I can to ensure you are not re-elected, don’t take it personally.”

Cathy Fuentes-Rower went to the Indiana legislative hearing about the teacher shortage, and she patiently waited seven hours to testify. Cathy is a parent, not a teacher. She was forced to listen to a lineup of “experts” who insisted there was not too much testing, compared to Florida; and there is no teacher shortage, because the superintendents who reported a shortage are biased, and the conservative NCTQ said the data were inconclusive.

When she finally testified, she spoke out boldly.

She said:

I am a mother of four children in public schools.

I know that my children’s learning conditions are their teachers’ working conditions.

This educational environment has become a pressure cooker for our kids and teachers because the legislature has decided that somehow educators weren’t accountable enough. The learning and teaching process has been transformed into a test-taking, data collecting nightmare to somehow prove accountability… at the root of which is an apparent deep distrust of teachers.

We’ve had standardized tests for a long time. But it is what is at stake when the kids take the test now that has transformed their experience.

In the past, standardized tests were just one aspect of an overall assessment of how our kids were doing. We trusted teachers to relay to us how our kids were learning. Now it has become the end-all be-all. If my eleven year-old doesn’t score well on a test, it could affect his teacher’s job, his school’s letter grade, the label on his district, property taxes, and the community as a whole.

This intensity of pressure comes down and lands right on the shoulders of my child.

Who stands between my child and that weight of the world? Buffering him and protecting him from this stress?

His teacher. And for teachers whose students have special needs, live in poverty, or are learning English as a new language, the pressure to perform is tremendous. The consequence is a stigmatizing F on their small heads—or in 3rd grade, flunking.

These policies are not brought about because parents clamored for them. Parents have not been begging for a better school than their neighbor’s child. They’ve been begging for a great school. Period.

Parents want equity. Instead, we get competition.

Competition involves winners and losers. No 6 year-old should be a loser when it comes to educational opportunity.

These recent changes in policy are occurring all over the country. And this is also why the teacher shortage is not unique to Indiana. Bills that have transformed our kids’ learning environment into a pressure cooker are all from the same source: ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). The goal of this organization is to create more competition in education and to privatize it. There is even an Indiana Reform Package of model legislation on the ALEC website touting our reforms. Our governor has written the introduction to the ALEC report card on American Education. Many members of our education committee are or were ALEC members. In fact, you, Rep. Behning, our house education committee chair, were the ALEC chairperson for Indiana for several years.

The A-F grading of schools, teachers’ loss of voice in advocating for kids through the loss of collective bargaining, the draconian 3rd grade reading law, vouchers and charters creating a competition for funding, a developmentally inappropriate 90 minute block of literacy instruction, these are all ALEC laws. They were not backed by research of what are best practices in teaching. They were not created by teachers. Parents do not want this obsession with data.

We want funding for our public schools such that all children have smaller class sizes for individualized instruction. We want WHOLE CHILD accountability for our teachers and our schools. That means research-backed education. Kids learn through play. Are they getting recess? Kids need to have time to follow their interests and do hands-on projects. Are they getting the broad curriculum and what is NOT on the test: social studies and science? Many of these things are being squeezed out for test prep. Do our high schoolers have extracurricular activities—things that keep them connected and wanting to go to school?

We want our teachers to be paid as the professionals that they are and to have more time for teaching and less for testing. You cannot reduce the time on testing if you don’t reduce the stakes attached to it.

We want a multi-measure evaluation of teaching and success.

You cannot say you respect teachers when every single thing they do is micromanaged by having to prove themselves with data. You cannot quantify joy, creativity and critical thinking. My children are not numbers.

They are unique human beings who are learning and growing. I don’t want my eleven year-old college and career-ready because he is a child. I don’t want him to have pressures to perform like an adult, because he is not one. His teachers know how to give him that childhood, they know what is developmentally appropriate for him, AND research (yes data!) shows that giving him these learning experiences will ensure that when the time comes, he will be ready to take his part in our society and our democracy.

So let teachers do their jobs. The best way to do this is to give them a voice, allow them to create policy, not business people and legislators who know nothing about it. Certainly not ALEC backers who make money off of it.

There is nothing more precious to me in this world than my children and every day I entrust them to the care of their teachers. I care more about what they tell me regarding my kids’ education than I do about any stinking ISTEP score. This is because they are the professionals. I trust them to do their jobs.

If you truly support teachers, you will, too.

Thank you.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

Phyllis Bush is a member of the Board of the Network for Public Education. She is a retired teacher and a passionate fighter for better public schools. She is one of the leaders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. She has been outraged again and again by the actions of the Governor and the Legislature that demean public school teachers and show preference for charters, vouchers, and inexperienced teachers.

There was a hearing in Indianapolis to explore why there is a teacher shortage. Phyllis drove there with friends to testify, but the hearing lasted so long that there was no time to hear the public.

This is the letter that Phyllis sent to the Board of NPE:
FYI—six of us from Fort Wayne drove to Indianapolis yesterday to speak at the hearing about the teacher shortage. I figured that there would be at least an hour of “expert” testimony before there would be public comment. However, our “drunk with power” committee chairs decided that we needed even more expert testimony—five and a half hours more. To be fair, there were some members of the committee who pushed back, but because they are in the minority, their views were dismissed as well

I just emailed this to the members of the interim study commission. I was so wired when I got home last night that I couldn’t sleep, and when I finally did get to sleep, I was awakened by a leg cramp—and now I am even more livid about how Kruse and Behning wasted the time of the 40 plus would be speakers—most of whom did not stick around to talk because it got so late. The hearing ended at 8:40 last night.

I hope things are going better in your part of the world.

Phyllis (mad as hell and ready to smack someone upside the head)

Dear Senator ______

Because of the structure of the interim session yesterday, we were unable to stay for the whole marathon hearing. I spoke with Rep. Smith, who then spoke with Sen. Kruse about the length of the hearing. Since there were no assurances of when we might possibly be able to speak and since the “experts” were still testifying at 5:30, our group of six people (who care about public education) decided to leave.
I hope that in the future the Chairs of these committees will be mindful of the fact that many people who wish to have their voices heard come from other parts of the state at their own expense and on their own time. While I realize that it is important to have “expert” testimony (especially paid out of state experts), it seems disrespectful not to pencil in time to listen to the voices Hoosier taxpayers and Hoosier voters.

Thank you,

Phyllis A. Bush
I left a copy of my testimony with Rep. Smith, but just in case you didn’t receive a copy, here it is.
My Testimony for Today’s Hearing
Public education is so important; that is why I keep driving to Indianapolis to testify about various and sundry education issues. Sometimes it seems futile, but I won’t give up. If I don’t speak out when I see the consequences of misguided educational policies that are so fundamentally wrong, then I am complicit in the damage done to public education. Having said that, I will continue to speak out against what seems to be a legislatively orchestrated attempt to destroy public education. I’m tenacious by nature, so I’m in to stay. I’m in until Public Education is made whole.
Given the current teacher scapegoat climate both in Indiana and in the nation, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why there is a teacher shortage. When our legislators and policy makers continuously demean and disrespect teachers, is it any wonder that teachers are leaving the profession faster than rats leave a sinking ship? Is it any wonder that young teachers would not want to stay in a profession where there is little chance for a salary increase based on spurious and often inaccurate data? Is it any wonder that good teachers don’t want to continue spending a great share of their time preparing kids for tests and teaching to the test? Is it any wonder that they don’t want to carry out state mandates which they know are instructionally inappropriate?
If we are to look for the causes of this supposed teacher shortage, the finger should point directly at the feet of government officials in this state and across the nation who have scapegoated, demeaned, and devalued the teaching profession.
When people are belittled or told that they are worthless or inadequate, when the expectations are inappropriate and punitive, when the opportunities for expressing views are stifled, there is a toxic mixture of factors which border on abuse.
How many new teachers will be drawn to a profession where there is no respect, where there are few rights, and where they are viewed with the same lack of respect as minimum wage workers are?
Maybe this committee is asking the wrong questions.
Is there really a shortage of teachers or is it that teachers have fled the profession because of untenable working conditions?
Superintendent Glenda Ritz and her Blue Ribbon Commission have made a list of suggestions which target teacher retention and recruitment, and their list sounds much like what teachers have been asking for since the so-called reforms of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett. Our organization, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, is ready and willing to help by offering concrete suggestions.
Rather than discussing whether or not there is a teaching shortage, perhaps this committee needs to be discussing what is our legislature planning to do to repair the damage that has been done before it is too late?

Documentary about Corporate Takeover of Public Education Debuts Aug. 14

A documentary about corporate and political interest groups attempting to take over America’s public education debuts across the country Friday evening, Aug. 14. The one-hour documentary, “Education, Inc.,” screening begins at 6 p.m. in the Herron School of Art Basille Auditorium, Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St. at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

Sponsored by Indy Apples and IUPUI, the event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the lot west of the Herron School of Art building or the parking garage next to the Natatorium.

The documentary is expected to raise awareness of corporate education reforms in public education throughout the country. As public schools nationwide struggle for funding—complicated by the impact of poverty and politics—the documentary illustrates how “education reformers” see opportunity and access to big money.

Following the screening at IUPUI, a panel of local educator analysts will discuss reaction with viewer participants. Moderator Dr. Khaula Murtadha, IUPUI associate vice chancellor for community engagement, will be joined by panelists Carole Craig, co-chair of the NAACP-Indianapolis education committee; Brandon Cosby, national education leadership consultant; and Laura Schlegel Ruegger, a local public schools parent and attorney who works in education issues across the state.

Education, Inc. was produced by filmmakers and public school parents Brian and Cindy Malone. They said they made the film for house parties and community screenings so that students, parents, citizens and public school advocacy groups start an important conversation about the role and value of public education in America.

If you want to screen the movie in your town, contact the film makers here.

Indiana has a teacher shortage.

Is it surprising? State after state has teacher shortages. This is the outcome of a dozen years of phony “reform,” which demonizes teachers, bust unions, takes away teachers’ right to due process, and ties salaries and evaluations to test scores.

Congratulations, “reformers”!

Dave Bangert of the Journal & Courier writes:

What sort of gymnastics will state lawmakers try to pull off at this point to remedy a looming teacher shortage after years of running off potential, young candidates by convincing Hoosiers that public schools were essentially broken?

And will they actually be willing to shoulder some of the blame?

We’re about to find out.

Last week, the chairmen of the Indiana House and Indiana Senate education committees asked House Speaker Brian Bosma for a summer study into the creeping ambivalence to the teaching profession. It’s a situation that has depleted the ranks of undergrads studying education in state universities and put some districts on their heels when it comes to recruiting for open positions.

In their letter to Bosma, Rep. Robert Behning and Sen. Dennis Kruse laid out numbers that have pricked up ears in recent months. New data from the state show that “licenses issued to first-time teachers (have) declined from 16,578 in 2010 to 6,174 in 2014.”

“We think,” Behning and Kruse wrote, “it would be wise for the Indiana General Assembly to proactively address this issue.”

No kidding.

Where to start?

The biting commentary came right away from teachers, who have been bristling under state-pushed reforms — the killing of collective bargaining, the rise of private school vouchers, pay raises tied in part to student performance on standardized tests and more — put into high gear in 2010.

Was “reform” intended to make teaching an undesirable profession? Was its purpose to drive good teachers out of their classrooms and discourage many from entering teaching? If so, “reform” is working. But it isn’t reform. It’s destruction.

Glenda Ritz released this statement today:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz will seek reelection to her current position in 2016.

INDIANAPOLIS – Glenda Ritz, Superintendent of Public Instruction, issued the following statement announcing her decision to seek reelection as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“Over a million school children are starting school. They begin this school year with the hope and optimism that education can make a difference in their lives. The best use of my time and talents will be to serve our children, their families and the taxpayers of Indiana as Superintendent of Public Instruction. I must continue to be 110% engaged in supporting public education.

Now is not the right time for me to run for governor. Under my leadership, I have brought the discussion of public education into the public discourse and have started to fundamentally change how we support schools. My work is not finished, and my passion is stronger than ever. I am resolutely dedicated to educators, students, and families from Pre-K to graduation.

Recent stories in the news media have pointed out that we do indeed have major issues that impact our families. Two of them particularly concern me—a rising childhood poverty rate and a major decrease in the numbers of college-level students pursuing majors that will lead to teaching. Both of these issues require a redoubling of my commitment to serve as Superintendent to provide the needed wrap-around services to our children and to address the barriers that have been put in place to attract and retain teachers.

The people of Indiana know we need a new governor, a governor that supports public education that directly affects their abilities for better jobs and stronger communities. As Superintendent, I will continue to advocate for what is right to educate our children to improve our economy for all Hoosiers. With the help of all of you, we will keep education the focal point of the gubernatorial race.

Many of my supporters will be disappointed in my decision, but I know that we share a vision for education. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all who have so passionately supported my campaign for governor.

With my personal commitment to doing what is needed to prepare this and future generations for the challenges of tomorrow, I will enthusiastically seek re-election as your Superintendent of Public Instruction. ”


While cleaning up my files, I discovered this excellent article by Alan Ehrenhalt, contributing editor to Governing magazine (and formerly executive editor for 19 years). It was written in 2013, but remains pertinent today.

Ehrenhalt sees through the fraud in the high-stakes testing obsession of our day, in which scores on standardized tests are used to label children, rate teachers, and close schools.

He begins by writing about the Tony Bennett grade-rigging scandal in Indiana, then moves on to Florida, where Jeb Bush launched measurement mania.

He writes:

The Tampa Bay Times newspaper lamented that “after grading schools for 15 years, Florida’s education leaders still cannot get it right.”

One might easily go further and argue that changing the results to make the picture look brighter, whether it involves outright cheating or not, is cause for embarrassment all by itself. If new test questions can have that much effect on a school’s overall performance grade, then why should anybody believe in the integrity of the system?

What’s especially humiliating is that Florida is the birthplace of the school testing movement, the state where former Gov. Jeb Bush decided in 1999 to begin awarding overall letter grades to individual schools to provide information for parents and help assess statewide educational performance. More than a dozen states have begun using a similar system since then, several of them just in the current year. Now they are being told that the Florida model they dutifully copied is too full of flaws to be trusted.

That matters a great deal because a lot more is riding on FCAT test scores than just local bragging rights. If a school receives repeated grades of D or F, it can be required by the state to take a variety of drastic measures, such as making the entire faculty reapply for their jobs, converting the school to a charter or closing it down altogether. So public confidence in the grading process is essential if the state is to have any credibility as a dispenser of draconian educational remedies.

States applying or adapting the Florida model have learned that changing the questions on the test, or switching to a new type of test altogether, can result in wildly fluctuating school grades. School officials in New Mexico this year were delighted to find out that the number of schools receiving A grades had more than doubled in comparison with the results from the year before. Was this the product of innovative new pedagogical techniques? Well, no. It was because the state had abandoned the federally designed No Child Left Behind test and switched to a new one designed by state education experts. Mississippi had a similar experience. Its school test scores went up dramatically because state officials took the expedient step of removing high school graduation rates from the list of test criteria for some schools.

The dramatically higher scores that resulted were a cause for initial state elation. But on further review, they raised another serious question. If the testing process is based on solid educational research, then the results from different tests ought to be reasonably congruent. If the results are dramatically disparate, there is a disturbing suggestion that the people writing the tests aren’t sure what it is they are supposed to be measuring.

Then he shifts his focus to Maine:

Maine is another state that has endured a season of controversy based on the introduction of its new school grading procedures. Gov. Paul LePage, a tireless advocate of school measurement, pushed through a new system this year based largely on the Florida model. Schools were evaluated on student test scores in reading and math; the percentage of students who had shown improvement in their scores during the past year, especially among the bottom 25 percent; graduation rates among upper-level students; and percentage of students who take the national SAT exam.

When the statewide results were tallied, Maine’s schools averaged a C grade—a reasonable enough sounding score. But when researchers in the state began looking at the results in greater detail, they found something that disturbed them. What the tests were really tracking was demographics. Schools in poorer communities around the state nearly all finished lower than their counterparts in affluent suburbs, regardless of academic methods. High schools that were graded A had an average of 9 percent of their students on free or reduced price lunch. Schools that got an F had 61 percent of their students receiving subsidized lunches. To a great extent, the test was simply a measure of poverty, not school quality.

He recognizes that testing has become a problem in itself:

It is hard not to conclude in the end that the school testing movement represents a popular fad in educational policy that is desperately lacking in either substantive methodology or common sense. Its fundamental assumption, underneath all the jargon, is that schools fail because they just aren’t trying hard enough, not because they are being asked to educate pupils who are culturally and socially unprepared to learn. Cooking the books on the tests won’t do anything to solve this problem. All it will do, when the extent of the mischief is revealed, is undermine public confidence in the entire enterprise of school testing.

We have gotten into the business of measuring school performance with precise testing numbers because it’s something we know how to measure. In doing so, we leave aside the subtler and more personal things that teachers and principals do all the time to make their schools function in an orderly way and disseminate as much learning as they possibly can. In the words of Roger Jones, a professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia, one of the states that enacted an A-F grading system this year: “We have gotten so caught up in testing that we have lost sight of a true education.”

Russ Pulliam of the Indystar makes a startling admission: Charter schools in Indiana are mostly low-performing schools. Instead of “saving poor children from failing public schools,” most charters are low-performing.

Pulliam tells the story of Tim Ehrgott, who “was zealous for education reform in the early years.” He worked with Pat Rooney, a businessman who fought for vouchers and created a private scholarship program. He helped build the charter movement and founded his own charter. Now Ehrgott thinks it’s time to crack down on poorly performing charters. Today, Infiana has one of the largest voucher to grams in the nation.

Ehrgott has been schooled by reality.

Ehrgott doesn’t see the overall success that was promised. “Charters in the D-F range should be closed immediately. Those in the C range should not be automatically renewed,” he said. “Produce superior results or be closed.”

“More than half the charters, he added, are getting D or F. “Even when you standardize the results for at risk factors, charters are failing at twice the rate of traditional public schools.”

The hype, spin, and empty promises of the charter movement have run their course. Teach for America’s claims that its inexperienced kids could close the achievement gap are obviously hollow. Chris Barbic’s Achievement School District in Tennessee is a failure. The chickens are coming home to roost. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

Doug Martin reports that Governor Mike Pence is attracting major campaign contributions from the fabulously wealthy circle of friends allied with the Koch Brothers.


Martin writes:


On June 25, just one day after the governor wrote a letter to president Obama saying Indiana would not comply with proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules against greenhouse omissions, Mike Pence’s campaign received a $10,000 gift from Marvin Gilliam of Bristol, Virginia.


Gilliam is the former VP of what was once one of the largest coal producers in America, Cumberland Resources, which was purchased by Massey Energy in 2010.


In 2013, Gilliam and Koch Industries, along with other wealthy donors, financed the gubernatorial campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, a longtime Republican and anti-LGBT climate denier who “used his position to launch an inquisition against a former University of Virginia climate scientist.”


By funding Pence, the Koch Ring knows they will have a steady far-right ally, who will join them in denying climate change, in promoting the privatization of public education, and in their other radical schemes.


Pence will face a strong challenge from State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz. In 2012, she beat rightwing hero Tony Bennett and won more votes than Pence.


The question for Indiana is whether its people are prepared to fight for their state or to hand it over to the corporate elites.


By the way, if you have not read Doug Martin’s Hoosier School Heist, you should. It is a well-documented report on the corporate takeover of Hoosier public schools by profiteers.



The latest poll shows that most Hoosiers want a new governor. 54% want a new governor. Less than a third say they want to re-elect Pence.

Two issues loom over Pence. One was his early support (and then retraction) for a bill that would have allowed people to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation (it was only when major corporations threatened to leave Indiana that Pence changed his views on the bill). The other is education, where Pence has continued hhis predecessor Mitch Daniels’ agenda of privatizing public education.

Go, Hoosiers! Get a new governor who cares about children, public schools, and the future of Indiana and the nation!


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