Archives for category: Indiana

In recent years, Indiana has gone overboard for charter schools, believing that they held the secret to raising the test scores of low-income students.

But blogger Steve Hinnefeld analyzed the passing rates by income levels and discovered that public schools outperform charter schools in Indiana.

He wrote:

“I merged Department of Education spreadsheets with data on free and reduced-price lunch counts and ISTEP-Plus passing rates. Then I sorted by free-and-reduced-lunch rates and focused on schools where 80 percent or more students qualified for lunch assistance. Results include:

“For charter schools: Average passing rate for both E/LA and math, 48 percent; passing rate for E/LA, 62.3 percent; passing rate for math, 62.5 percent.

“For conventional public schools: Average passing rate for both E/LA and math, 57.2 percent; passing rate for E/LA, 64.1 percent; passing rate for math, 68.1 percent.

“The data set includes only schools that enroll students in grades 3-8, who take ISTEP exams; it excludes high schools and many primary-grade schools. I also tried to screen out nonstandard schools such as juvenile detention centers and dropout recovery schools.”

He also reported that fewer charter schools get high grades from the state than public schools.

Not what you would call a high-performing sector, despite the boasting and promises.

Phyllis Bush, one of the founders of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, describes here the growing sense of hope among her fellow activists.

Bush joined a contingent of colleagues in Austin for the first conference of the Network for Public Education. Bush is a member of the board of NPE.

Everyone, she says, felt the energy in the room when hundreds of Resistance leaders gathered.

She writes:

“Arising from this message of validation, we could feel there is hope and that the tide is turning. Momentum is building, and it feels as though we are approaching a tipping point. The 500 activists at the conference represent thousands more across the country who are questioning the wisdom and the speed with which education reforms and untested policies have been implemented and which ask for virtually no accountability for charter schools and for voucher-funded parochial schools.

“Parents and teachers are protesting the vast amount of instructional time devoted to preparing kids to take tests whose only real value appears to be to label students, teachers schools, and communities as failing…..”

“Throughout the country there is a growing sense of outrage over the bill of goods corporate reformers have sold legislators. The primary way in which these reformers have operated is by writing stock legislation that governs legislation at the state level and threatens local districts with punitive action.

“Throughout the country, there is a growing sense that parents and educators have been right all along; public schools are not failing. The corporate, for-profit reformers view children as data points and test scores; their view is unacceptable. The research shows that this “brave new world” of testing, accountability, charters and vouchers that Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, the Koch brothers, the Walton Foundation and ALEC have promoted is not working.”

“Parents and teachers know that the joy of learning comes from imagining, creating, playing, thinking, experimenting, problem solving and being ready to learn. The joy of learning comes when a child has an “aha moment” when he or she finally gets it. Parents know that play contributes to learning; that children need the physical activity at recess and in gym class just as much as they need “rigor” sitting at a desk; that art and music help children learn much more than learning to practice for a test and bubble in an answer sheet.”

Education activists from both political parties are trying to save public education in Indiana.
They created a Facebook page called “Parents & Educators against the Daniels and Bennett Education Reforms.” It presently has 6,000 followers but expects that number to grow as more people learn about it.
Remember that it was a bipartisan group of voters who turned out corporate reform leader Tony Bennett, who subsequently resigned as superintendent in Florida in the wake of a grade-fixing scandal in Indiana on his watch.
An administrator of the Facebook page sent this message:
Dear Diane,
We have an amazing opportunity in Indiana to dispose of one of our biggest threats to Public Education in our Primary Election in May.
Representative Bob Behning, Chairman of the House Education Committee and former ALEC State Chairman, has a challenger!
We know that you are aware of the damage Behning has caused Public Education in our state, as you have written about him in your posts.
We are asking for your help in deposing him in May.
A Republican named Michael S. Scott ran against Behning in the Primary in 2012, and, while he obviously did not unseat Behning, he had a respectable showing.
Mr. Scott has now thrown his hat into this May’s election. In Indiana, a voter has to declare a party before voting in the Primary.
If we can convince a number of Democrats to declare “Republican,” they will be given the Republican ballot and vote for Scott and against Behning.
There are really no “down sides” for a Democrat voter to do this. In the November General Election, no distinction is made. They can vote for all the Democrats that they want to—even vote straight ticket, if they want. They may have difficulty running for office, in the future, as a Democrat and they will not be asked to work the polls for the Democrat party. These two problems affect almost no one.
The “Up sides” are: *We can send the clearest/loudest message of Hoosier support for Public Schools since Glenda Ritz’s victory over Tony Bennett to our Governor and Lawmakers ; *We can force Behning to spend his campaign funds (largely donated by corporate reformers) on a Primary, thus.. *Demonstrating to these corporate reformers that their money is wasted on Hoosier candidates. Diane, we need your help in making these points to Democrats. As you have long known, the fight to preserve Public Education has to be directed at both parties, as both have elements within who seek to destroy our schools.
That word is getting across in Indiana.
What we need now is for someone with your knowledge, your credibility, and your influence to help all understand that THIS CAUSE IS BIGGER AND MORE IMPORTANT than party affiliation and longtime habits. Many Republicans began to understand that concept when they crossed-over and voted for Glenda Ritz in the 2012 General Election. It may be a little more difficult to convince Democrats to declare “I am a Republican” in the primary so that they can vote for Scott! (It should be added here that there appears to be no Democrat vs. Democrat race in District 91, at any level. So, Democrats would not miss an opportunity to select a candidate for their party by declaring “Republican.”)
We respectfully ask your help. Please vote to support public education in Indiana!
Call (don’t email) the Senate switchboard and tell your senator and any others you know to oppose 
Sen. Carlin Yoder amendmenment (dues deduction)
Call to OPPOSE

It only applies to school employees.  

Senator Yoder has an amendment on HB 1126 –the Wage Payment Act bill to remove dues deduction for school employees. Offering it as a second reading amendment to HB 1126.  This is a direct attack on teachers and applies to no other public sector workers. 

Senate Phones: 317-232-9400
Call now or asap

Julian M. Smith
Scipio Elementary
President JCCTA
ISTA Board of Directors

Mark Giaquinta here explains the hoax of vouchers in Indiana. He served as president of the Fort Wayne school board. It was my privilege to visit some of that city’s excellent public schools when I lectured there a couple of years ago.

Vouchers were sold under the pretext of “helping poor kids escape from failing public schools.” So said the sponsors of the legislation.

In fact, the vouchers are now available for students who never attended public schools. They are a direct subsidy of religious schools.

One church, as Phyllis Bush pointed out in a guest post for Anthony Cody, is using the voucher windfall to repair its steeple.

Is this what the people of Indiana want? Or is it ALEC at work again, undermining a democratic institution?

Mark writes:


The voucher program in Indiana was defended as a method that would allow poor Hoosier children to escape from failing schools. Of course, many of us knew that was nothing more than a slogan. There never was a voucher requirement that to become eligible, the student leave a poor performing school or apply to a higher performing school (putting aside the problem of defining either). In addition, the income requirements extended well into middle class. Finally, the program was expanded to those who never attended public schools, thus eliminating once and for all the “help those poor kids escape” illusion.

The vast majority of voucher money is now spent by those desirous of a religious education; a facet of the educational experience with which public schools cannot compete. The recent release of the Voucher Study details the number of students receiving taxpayer assistance and the names of the various Catholic, Lutheran, Islamic and non-denominational schools they attend. There are approximately 2800 voucher students within the FWCS boundaries. (FN1) FWCS estimates it lost about 500 students to vouchers; therefore more than 80% of the recipients were already parochial school students.

More alarming, the common school fund has not grown to accommodate the policy decision to fund both public and private schools. The result is fewer dollars for all public schools as the common school fund is diverted to ….. church steeples! Yes, you read that correctly. In a recent address to parish members, Rev. Jake Runyon , Pastor of St. Jude Parish, spoke at length on the importance of parishioners applying for the tax funded choice scholarships. His remarks were recorded and are available on the parish web site. Pastor Runyon made it clear that increasing the number of voucher students will, “ease the financial burden on the parish.” He then went on to explain to parishioners that expanding the tax supported scholarships will make it less difficult, “for me to do some certain thing on the Church side of things like fix the steeple, paint the roof and maybe grow the ministries we can do, you know, on the Church side of things.” (at 13:00 to 14:00).

I love my Catholic faith and I am proud of my Catholic education, paid for by my dad. I even introduced a Resolution to the FWCS Board a few years back congratulating our Catholic colleagues for Catholic Schools week. My grandfather, Thomas Kelly, stood in for Bishop Noll and broke the ground for Central Catholic High School (with Superintendant Abbot turning dirt beside him). I am, nonetheless, dismayed and disappointed at this acknowledgement that the common school fund has become part of a shell game to support religious activities. It is my hope that community leaders will speak out forcefully to legislators and bring this sorry chapter of constitutional contempt to an end. I fully understand the consequences of speaking out on this issue but I have no desire to serve on the school board and witness its demise as the result of policies which I believe would shock the consciences of the delegates to our Constitutional Conventions of 1816 and 1850.

Thanks for your consideration.

Mark E. GiaQuinta

FN 1: I have not distinguished between a voucher and a “Choice Scholarship” because both direct public dollars from the common school fund to religious education and because the tax funded scholarship program creates voucher eligibility in subsequent years. It is disappointing that so very few taxpayers and “tax watchdogs” understand how the Scholarships work. A taxpayer creates a scholarship of at least $1,000 for her student at a particular school and receives a tax credit (50%) which is taken from the common school fund. The private school can pay the balance of the tuition because the scholarship is a gateway to a voucher in subsequent years.

Mark E. GiaQuinta, Esq.
444 East Main Street
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
Telephone: (260) 426-0444
Facsimile: (260) 422-0274
Legal Assistant: Carrie Thomas, (260) 399-1528,

The Indiana State Teachers Association reports on a bill to privatize more public schools in Indianapolis. Privatization is not new. It is the theme song of the Obama administration in collaboration with libertarian think tanks and far-right governors.

What is new here is that the legislature is passing this plan with no evidence that it will benefit children or improve education. No, wait, there IS. Evidence. The evidence shows that all such turnovers have failed. This is faith-based policy.

The House Education Committee passed HB 1321 (Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis) 9-4 along party lines.

The bill gives the IPS School Board power to enter into contracts with “special management teams” (i.e. outside vendors) to create “innovation schools,” formerly called under the bill “portfolio schools.” These terms are simply euphemisms for takeover schools.

HB 1321 is being pushed and supported by the IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and IPS school board, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Stand for Children, and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

It is being promoted as an opportunity for collaboration between the school board and charter schools in exchange for “flexibility” with IPS schools earning a grade of D or F. However, the chief bit of flexibility the bill focuses in on is the elimination of teacher rights and input. The superintendent talked about best practices and teacher buy-in, yet his bill models neither.

The main talking points against this bill are:

The IPS School Board was elected and the IPS Superintendent was hired to operate the schools in their school district—not pay middlemen to do their work.

The performance record of these outside private companies taking over schools in this state has been a failure—all 5 schools that have been taken over (now in their 3rd year of operation) remain “F” schools (4 in IPS, 1 in Gary). Taxpayers have paid millions of dollars so far to these companies with no discernible return.

Blaming teachers and their unions is a cop-out and indefensible: in 2011, the General Assembly narrowed bargaining and discussion topics and timelines and created new teacher evaluation and due process laws heavily favoring school employers. It is clear that the intent is to make these teachers “at will” employees.

HB 1321 is an insult to teachers working in some of the most challenging schools in the state and “giving away” students and teachers in these schools is shameful.

Phyllis Bush of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education sent word that it is -16 degrees in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

But the legislature never rests, she says:

“At 1:30 the Senate Education Committee will be discussing taking away the Statewide testing requirements for voucher schools. Anything for keeping the playing field level….just in case you are a glutton for punishment, here is the live stream link:″

Ever busy, the legislature also expects to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which is already illegal.

If you saw a person drowning, would you throw him a life preserver or would you tell him to swim harder? Or perhaps withdraw the lifeline that he was clinging to?

If you saw a visually impaired person trying to cross a busy street, would you help her or would you tell her she is on her own? Or, to make things worse, take away her cane?

This Indiana teacher responded to another reader to explain how Indiana is punishing schools where the scores are low by withdrawing funding that the school needs to help the children:

The state of Indiana has decided that if a school is struggling to bring test scores up, they LOSE money that might otherwise help provide the resources that low-SES schools lack. When school funding is cut because of scores, the first issue to suffer is the budget for materials. The second – pay for teachers and teachers’ positions. This makes it harder to attract and retain the best teachers, and that contributes to the problem you address.

So the state uses funding to punish schools who need the most help. It’s the proverbial vicious cycle! And this is why many suspect and vocally claim that school reformers are deliberately widening the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Republicans in Indiana still can’t get over the fact that the voters elected Glenda Ritz as state commissioner of education in 2012 and tossed out their idol, Tony Bennett, who outspent Ritz 10-1.

Ritz won more votes than Governor Mike Pence.

Ever since the election, Pence has tried to take away the powers of the office of state commissioner of education and transfer them to the state board of education, which he controls.

Here is the latest maneuver.

If you live in Indiana, please take action to stop this blatant power grab!

Tell your representatives to respect the democratic process.

Here is an immediate call to action for this weekend:

The House Education Committee will hear HB1320 at their 8:30 meeting on Monday morning. It creates a statewide student record repository which puts student records and data in the hands of the state board of education. The State Board is staffed by the Center for Education & Career Innovation (CECI), Gov. Pence’s new layer of bureaucracy designed to bypass Glenda Ritz and the Department of Education. According to the fiscal note, security issues and the sensitivity of the data could potentially require the State Board to establish a new stand alone computer system to implement the requirements of this bill. Initial estimates of such a computer system are approximately $3.7 million. Funds for the record repository would have to be appropriated by the legislature in the next budget. Student data is currently in held in the Department of Education and is the key to where federal grants and other funds flow. If this bill passes, it could change that flow to CECI instead of Glenda Ritz’s department.

Let the members of the committee know you see HB1320 as a power grab to bypass the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and ask them to oppose it.

The members are:
Rep. Robert Behning, Chairman  (email:
Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, Vice Chr. (email: )
Rep, Vernon Smith, Ranking Minority Member (email: )
Rep. Lloyd Arnold (email: )

Rep. Kreg Battles (
Rep. Woody Burton,( )
Rep. Ed Clere (
Rep Dale DeVon ( )
Rep. Sue Errington ( )
Rep. Todd Huston ( )
Rep. Jim Lucas ( )
Rep. Jeffrey Thompson ( )
Rep  Shelli VanDenburgh (

The House Switchboard # is 1-800-382-9842 but is not staffed over the weekend and doesn’t take messages. You may be able to call first thing on Monday morning and leave messages for all of these folks.
Please write to all of your friends and let them know about this bill.  We need to network. 

This post was written by Charles J. Morris, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Denison University, who lives in Indianapolis.

Does the ISTEP Measure School Quality and Teacher Effectiveness?

Charles J. Morris1

While there appears to be general agreement that teachers can make a big difference in the lives of students, there is little evidence that performance on standardized tests provides a valid assessment of teacher effectiveness. Nonetheless, at the national, state, and local levels, we are seeing increasing use of test scores to evaluate both schools and teachers, to award merit pay, and even sanction low performing schools and corporations.

This growing trend toward using test scores to evaluate schools and teachers fails to recognize the evidence that factors beyond the control of schools account for most of the variation we see in test scores among school districts throughout a given state. Matthew Di Carlo of the Shanker Institute sums it up this way: “…roughly 60 percent of achievement outcomes is explained by student and family background characteristics…schooling factors explain roughly 20 percent, most of this (10-15 percent) being teacher effects.”2 (The remaining variation is unexplained and considered error variance.) What this basically means is that schools and teachers are being judged to a substantial degree on the basis of factors over which they have little control.

Is the above conclusion also true for the ISTEP, Indiana’s test for measuring student performance and evaluating school quality and teacher effectiveness? The purpose of this short piece is to briefly summarize some evidence which indicates that the same conclusion holds for the ISTEP: Out-of-school factors, namely the socioeconomic profile (SES) of a school district, explain most of the variation we see in test performance from one district to the next.

Consider, for example, the following chart which shows the percent of students who passed both the ELA (English/Language Arts) and Math portions of the 2013 ISTEP as a function of the percentage of students in the corporation (Indiana’s districts) who qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches (FRPL, a commonly used measure of SES):


These data are based on the 56 corporations that have at least 5000 students in the district. As can be seen, there is a very strong correlation between the two variables: The higher the percentage of kids who qualify for FRPL, the lower the passing percentage. Another way of putting it is, if we know the socioeconomic profile of a corporation we can make a very good prediction of where that corporation stands compared to other corporations on the ISTEP. This should not be a surprise to those familiar with the research literature. The same relationship has been found for the various standardized tests used throughout the country.

The above results are based on the performance of all students in each corporation. The following charts show the results separately for 3rd and 8th graders:


Again, we see the same pattern for both grade levels, basically unchanged after 5 years of schooling in a high-scoring or low-scoring corporation. The SES influence is quite strong independently of the schools and teachers in a particular corporation. In fact, if anything, the SES impact appears to become slightly stronger as students progress from the 3rd to 8th grade.

So what are we to make of this obvious association between ISTEP scores of SES? The seemingly inescapable conclusion is that corporations and teachers deserve neither praise nor criticism for how their student compare to other corporations and teachers. Clearly, the socioeconomic profile (SES) of the corporation plays a decisive role. So I ask a simple question: Does anyone seriously believe that if Carmel and Gary (a high and low-performing corporation, respectively) exchanged teachers, the ISTEP scores would suddenly reverse themselves? I don’t think so.

The challenge thus becomes how to respond to the fact that poorer kids are not performing well in our schools. Is there less parental involvement in these communities? Are expectations lower? Do these parents need additional help in becoming more effective mentors? Are after-school tutoring programs a possible solution? What about summer programs? Or pre-school programs? Perhaps all of the above, along with addressing the well-documented and devastating effects that poverty has on the health and well-being of poor children long before they even enter school3.

But one thing seems clear: Judging school and teacher quality on the basis of test scores offers little in the way of a solution. We need to look beyond our schools and teachers if we are going to better prepare all kids for the world they will face in the days ahead.

1Charles J. Morris is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology from Denison University. He resides in Indianapolis.

2Matthew Di Carlo, Shanker Institute (see

3Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error (New York: Knopf, 2013, pp. 91-98).


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