Archives for category: Indiana

Under Indiana’s former Secretary of Education Tony Bennett, the state determined to crack down on low-performing schools. Five schools were handed over to private management. The result was a disaster. Four schools made no progress at all. Enrollment plummeted at all the takeover schools.

 

 
Two recent comments point up the failure of private management in running public services. You would think that public officials would look at the record and stop privatizing public services and instead work to improve them.

 

 

Reader Chiara writes:

 

“What I love about the (bipartisan) mania for “running government like a business” is how they seem incapable of delivering basic government services.

 
“It’s the worst of both worlds. It’s not good government and it’s not good private sector. It’s this awful hybrid that we seem to be stuck with. Can we have two sectors again- a public sector and a private sector? Can we hire some people who don’t have complete contempt for the public sector they’re supposed to be improving?”

 

 
Another reader recounts the failure of private corporation Edison in Gary, Indiana.

 

 

“Roosevelt school in Gary, IN was taken over a few years ago by EdisonLeaning, a for profit charter school. There is a legal battle between the Gary Community Schools and EdisonLearning as to who is responsible for fixing up the school which is falling apart.

 

 

“Here is a partial quote from The Times of NW Indiana.

 

 

“GARY — As temperatures dipped below 20 degrees, Gary Roosevelt students and teachers stood outside the school Wednesday protesting a lack of heat in the building and the ability to get a quality education.

 
“Students have rarely been in the building since they returned from the Christmas holiday. The school was dismissed a half-day on a couple of days because of problems with the boilers that heat the building. It closed Jan. 8 due to the lack of heat and again Wednesday.

 
“The school is scheduled to be closed Thursday and Friday for development days.

 
“The students say enough is enough.

 
“Roosevelt senior Cary Martin said it’s really bad inside the building.

 
“Some of us have come to expect not being in the building because it’s too cold,” he said.

 
“This happens every year, but it’s time for a change. This is affecting our education. This is really sad.”

 
“He said there are also problems with water inside the building, with few water fountains working and none of the showers in the locker rooms.

 
“Some of my colleagues and friends stink after class because they can’t wash up,” Martin said.

 
“Food is also an issue, along with mold and damage in the school’s band room.

 
“In January 2014, due to the heating failures, a number of pipes burst causing the hallways near the gym to flood with up to 2 inches of water. In June 2014, Indiana American Water Co. turned off the water due to a lack of payment on the bill.

 

“Freshman English teacher Brandi Bullock said the temperature in the hallways ranges in the 40s, while the classroom temperatures are sporadic with some warm classrooms and others freezing.

 
“The problem is that we can’t be in the classrooms because there are not enough warm spaces,” she said. “It used to be that the library was a warm respite from the cold but the boiler that supported that room is not working.”

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette published a stinging editorial against the state’s voucher program, which Republican leaders want to expand.

 

The newspaper is one of the few strong voices supporting public education in a state that was once known for its excellent public schools. Now it has a governor and legislature determined to undermine the public schools, take resources away, punish its teachers, and transfer funds to charter schools and religious schools.

 

Indiana permits for-profit charters, and they are making money at the expense of children and taxpayers.

 

Any number of sleazy, for-profit operators have opened schools in Indiana.

 

The voucher program this year, the editorial estimates, will cost taxpayers about $130 million, which should have gone to community public schools.

 

 

Parents and teachers have been complaining about Indiana’s state testing, called ISTEP. But now David Rutter chimes in to support them in a scathing column printed in the Chicago Tribune. The state tests are worthless, he says, and Indiana is a national joke because of handing control of education over to politicians.

 

 

Public education. Sorry. We apparently can’t do that in Indiana. It’s too hard. And it’s even worse. Not only might Hoosiers parents fret if their public schools are any good, even basic student competence can’t be tested because Indiana can’t figure out a useful academic test.

 

It’s all too hard.

 

The yearlong embarrassing battle over ISTEP is not merely recreational political fisticuffs. It cost the state $65 million to produce an off-the-cuff test that measures nothing verifiable. Public school teachers who put their 400,000 students through the 12-hour torture are not even sure what the test was supposed to measure….

 

If the test were accurate, the state’s entire student body went from marginally intelligent to totally dumb in one year.

 

Don’t worry, though. The state now acknowledges this test was pointless. It’s not even apparent what the point was supposed to be.

 

The idea that any one test can measure 400,000 unique, distinct young human minds seems preposterous on its face….

 

 

Indiana misplaced the point of public education. It’s about children.

 

When schools are transformed into partisan political war zones, predictable devolution always damages the higher good.

 

The Indiana Legislature has decided its function is to punish bad schools and bad teachers by taking money and resources away from the spendthrift offenders. Of course, holding resources hostage hardly ever makes a school better.

 

As occurred this week when 2015 ISTEP results were revealed tardily, the effect is a statewide battery of badly designed tests mandated by amateurs whose only knowledge of public education is the instinct to impose “accountability…..”
Here’s a short chronology on how we reached this particular disaster:

 

1: First, Gov. Mike Pence ditches the reviled Common Core standards and orders “Indiana-specific” standards that are remarkably similar. And do it now.

 

2: Then he does not give state educators enough lead-time to write the standards and pilot-study the resulting test. ISAT is not a pop quiz. The state has constructed a test that students must study for weeks to take.

 

3: Then he fails to realize until it’s too late that changing tests on the fly blows up the testing process and create a large, ugly ripple in every state classroom. It’s the sort of misjudgment that amateurs make.

 

4: Then, finally, he grasps his favorite political excuse by blaming Superintendent of Public Education Glenda Ritz for a botch that mostly is beyond her control but clearly within Pence’s realm. She warned him. He ignored her.

 

At its intellectual heart, Statehouse denizens just played a $65 million joke on Indiana taxpayers, parents, teachers and students.

 

It seems that Indiana’s political leaders want to destroy public education and drive students into charters and voucher schools. The testing mess may have been part of that plan, or I may be crediting them with more forethought and calculation than they can muster.

 

 

The lone critic on the Indianapolis school board has decided not to run for re-election. Gayle Cosby asked critical questions about the board’s “reform” policy of eliminating neighborhood public schools and working closely with charter networks. Board members expressed relief that she is stepping down. Low-income residents will have no voice on the board.

 

A victory for the corporate reformers. Domination is never enough for them. They want total control, no dissent.

In the current climate of union-busting in Indiana, State Senator Pete Miller has proposed a plan to pay teachers more if they have needed skills (like STEM backgrounds), without increasing the funding available. That means that any increased pay will be taken away from other teachers. This is a way to break the unions and to create divisiveness in the schools, in place of collaboration.

 

The reformers never give up on their plans to turn schools into businesses and children into products, with test scores as the “profit.”

 

If you live in Indiana, get active to stop this bad idea. The link shows you how to take action.

A computer glitch did it. Thousands of students in Indiana received the wrong scores on the state tests.

 

Company officials downplayed the problem,  but education officials said the integrity of the tests was crucial, as they will affect student grades, teacher pay, and people’s lives.

 

This is is the latest in a series of flaws that have plagued the computerized testing.

 

 

 

Indiana “School Matters” is great for the rich but a bad deal for other Indianans
“Indiana’s School Scholarship Tax Credit program is “almost too good to be true,” the head of the state’s Lutheran Scholarship Granting Organization tells the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.
“That may be true if you’re one of the rich people getting a 50 percent kickback from the state on your contributions to private K-12 schools. Two-thirds of the credits go to Hoosiers who make more than a half million dollars a year, the JG’s Niki Kelly reports.
“And it’s also a good deal for private schools like those represented by the Lutheran group and the other four Scholarship Granting Organizations that dispense the tax credits. No one else gets such generous help from the state to help with their fundraising.
“But it’s arguably not so good for the Indiana taxpayers who are paying more and more money every year to fund private schools, most of them religious. And it’s not a good deal for public schools that struggle as the state sends more money to private schools.
“Betsy Wiley, president and CEO of the Institute for Quality of Education, another of the Scholarship Granting Organizations, suggests that paying for the program is a wash because the state isn’t paying to educate students who might otherwise be in public school.
“But that’s bogus. It’s likely that most of the scholarships are going to students who would never have attended public schools. So their schooling is an added-on cost for the state.
“More significantly, any student who receives a scholarship from a Scholarship Granting Organization for one year becomes eligible for taxpayer-funded vouchers for as long as his or her family remains income-eligible. And the student’s siblings get vouchers too.
“Indiana’s voucher program was supposedly created to let children from poor families escape “failing” public schools. But the idea that families should first give public schools a chance was quickly dropped. As of 2014-15, two-thirds of new voucher recipients entered the program through the scholarship program. Four-fifths of new voucher recipients had never attended a public school.”

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
PHYLLIS BUSH·MONDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2015
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?

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