Monday, May 3, 2021

In Case You Missed It – May 3, 2021

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the new Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.
DO WE REALLY NEED STANDARDIZED TESTING DURING COVID?

The United States been obsessed with testing since No Child Left Behind. The increase in testing was supposed to increase student achievement based on the success of the "Texas Miracle" which never actually happened.

We know that the obsession with standardized testing hasn't really helped children learn more, so do we really need to subject kids who have been traumatized by COVID lockdowns, Zoom-schools, and other pandemic adjustments to the stress of high stakes testing?

Just how much have we ILEARNed?

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
As I started teaching in 2002, significant emphasis on testing was just starting. Since that time, our schools across the country have been retooled to improve on the one measure used: performance on the test.

It changed education for the worse. The promise of better schools was made on the idea that educators could and should use results to improve teaching practices. In my life, I have not met a single teacher who had not entered the profession to make a difference for kids. Unfortunately, there has been little to no investment allowing all teachers to have a hand in a meaningful assessment or in providing support in interpreting results to make positive changes.

Accountability for student performance without teachers, schools or districts understanding what scores mean or how school policies and processes need to change is a serious issue. Results of the state summative test can't be used to change classroom instruction directly, but the reality is that we tell teachers they aren't doing it right and we tell them to do it better without any support as to how.

The overemphasis on testing and scores has caused a loss of focus on what kids can and can't do.

Teachers suffering ill effects as severely as students are

This soon-to-be retiring teacher speaks out against inappropriate testing.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
I am retiring in June after 32 years in education as a first and second grade teacher and reading interventionist. I truly have given my heart and soul to children over the years through teaching and loving the ones I have been blessed to know.

I just finished giving the ILEARN practice test for third through fifth grade to children who qualified for various reasons to be tested in a small-group setting. Some reasons are physical, such as vision and hearing issues, others have Individual Education Plans.

I can't begin to tell you the sorrow I feel as we year after year present a "test" to children that is so unbelievably developmentally inappropriate.

Even in a normal year without the threat and complications of COVID-19, the bar continues to be raised to the point that only the brightest, most advantaged children have a chance at success. I worry our state has made a mess of student assessment.
RESHAPING EDUCATION IN INDIANA - GIFTS TO PRIVATIZERS

Indiana lawmakers passed measures that will reshape education. Here’s what you should know.

Among the things you should know is that the supermajority in the 2021 Indiana General Assembly has expanded vouchers to families who make nearly double the median Hoosier income; they have made it more difficult for teachers to join and maintain their union membership; and they made it easier for untrained college graduates to teach in order to alleviate the teacher shortage of their own making. Elections matter.

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana legislators reshaped education in significant ways this year by helping schools cope with setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, eliminating the threat of state takeover for struggling schools, nearly doubling funding, and broadening school vouchers for middle-class families.

The additional $1.9 billion lawmakers directed toward education over the next two years will enable school districts to raise teacher pay — a win for educators that comes a year and a half after thousands rallied at the statehouse to demand better pay.

FWCS NEWS

FWCS to use some virus relief aid for new tech

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools is spending some of its federal coronavirus relief dollars on tablets, laptops and internet providers.

The board Monday approved four sets of technology purchases that will be partially or entirely financed by the second round of federal emergency funding announced in February.

FWCS' allocation was more than $40 million.

The board approved buying 4,493 iPads, including setup services, and 3,693 iPad cases with a keyboard from Apple for about $1.6 million.

The number of cases and iPads don't match because 800 devices don't require a keyboard, and their cases will be bought separately, officials said.
Five questions for Noah Smith: Fort Wayne Community Schools board member

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
I want FWCS to be the district of choice and a source of pride for the Fort Wayne community. As a state, we are not only below average on important educational initiatives like teacher pay, we are well below average. I believe Fort Wayne is an “above average” city and want our school district to be thought of as “above average” as well. I don't see how we can get there without more support from the state, which means more money.

I appreciate the state's new budget for 2022 and 2023 and its investment in our teachers. I hope to see consistency in this investment going forward. As a taxpayer, it's hard to see state leaders throw more money at schools that don't share our “gift” of accountability and transparency, particularly vouchers and (Education Savings Accounts) at private schools, as heretofore there has been a decrease in the support it provides for those traditional public schools that serve over 94% of all students.

ENABLING SEGREGATION IN MINNESOTA

Minnesota: Elites Propose Constitutional Amendment to Enable Segregated Schools

The next step in school choice...standardized tests, and segregation in the name of "efficiency." One wonders why Indiana'a supermajority didn't think of this first.

From Diane Ravitch
...leading figures in the state charter lobby want to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would make segregated schools acceptable, while adding that school quality would be determined by standardized tests.
*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, April 26, 2021

In Case You Missed It – April 26, 2021

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the new Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.

LEARNING LOSS vs COVID TRAUMA

The coronavirus pandemmic has had an impact on school children...academically, socially, and emotionally. Do we need to spend millions of dollars nation-wide for testing? Proponents of testing say that we need to know where the students are academically and provide remediation and academic support. But do tests actually tell us where students are academically or do they simply provide information on socio-economic levels?

Testing has always had limited value. Not everything that we value in education can be tested. Perhaps we should take this opportunity to help students heal from the trauma of COVID-19 before we subject them to tests that will just confirm that wealthy students get higher test scores than students who live in poverty.

Why learning isn’t the most important thing kids lost during the pandemic

From the Answer Sheet
Whatever we do when we return will be historic by definition. If all we come up with is passing out diagnostic tests to quantify learning loss and then track kids into groups for remediation, it will be a terrible failure of imagination.

“You know what’s going to happen to the kids who couldn’t get online last year because they had to support their families or because they were homeless when the sorting happens, right?” asks Berger. “They’re going to be sorted in a way that will only exacerbate the equity issues.”

Trailing down the backside of a steep mountain at long last, and picking up speed as we head into a promising new year, we seem to have our eyes fixed on the wrong problem entirely...

Outrage Continues as Standardized Testing Moves Forward in this COVID-19 School Year

From Jan Resseger
Standardized testing—required this school year by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s U.S. Department of Education despite the disruption of COVID-19—is now happening in many public schools across the United States. But even as the tests are being administered, the anger and protests against this expensive, time consuming, and, many believe, harmful routine are not abating.

Last week, the Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss reported: “The Biden administration is facing growing backlash from state education chiefs, Republican senators, teachers unions and others who say that its insistence that schools give standardized tests to students this year is unfair, and that it is being inconsistent in how it awards testing flexibility to states. Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice has slammed the U.S. Education Department for its ‘indefensible’ logic in rejecting the state’s request for a testing waiver while granting one to the Washington, D.C., school system—the only waiver that has been given. Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, whose state was also denied a waiver, said testing this year ‘isn’t going to show any data that is going to be meaningful for learning moving forward… The controversy represents the newest chapter in a long-running national debate about the value of high-stakes standardized tests. Since 2002, the federal government has mandated schools give most students ELA and math standardized tests every year for the purposes of holding schools accountable for student progress. The scores are also used to rank schools, evaluate teachers, make grade promotion decisions and other purposes.”
TESTS IN FWCS

FWCS adjusts schedules for tests

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools needs middle school students to ditch their routines this week.

Students attending on a blended schedule will learn virtually Monday through Friday, and the remote students will attend in person.

The swap is because of ILEARN.

Students in grades three through eight are required to take the state's standardized test in person.

QUESTIONING MASK MANDATES IN NACS AND EACS

Two local school boards have had to deal with parents arguing against the Governor's mask mandate for K-12 schools.

NACS panel: Masks safe for kids

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Dr. Matthew Sutter, the Allen County health commissioner, said schools are an ideal place to spread COVID-19, which makes adherence to mitigation strategies incredibly important.

“Masks are inexpensive, they're generally well tolerated, and it's worked,” Sutter said...

Board members, particularly President Kent Somers and Steve Bartkus, pressed panelists about potential negative effects – both mentally and physically – of forcing students to wear masks for hours a day.

Evidence does not show masks cause mental health declines, panelists said.

Rather, they said, students are affected by being taken away from their social circles, such as sports and school. Parents' anxieties and home situations are other contributing factors, they said.

“I think we might be a little cavalier in thinking masks are safe,” Somers said, questioning whether there are health trade-offs to wearing masks. “Isn't there some real risks to the kids?”

No, panelists said. Masks can be safely worn.
Mask debate ignites EACS school board meeting as many voiced concerns

From WANE.com
To masks or not to masks? That was the debate at the East Allen County School Board meeting Tuesday night where teachers, parents, students and school administrators voiced their concerns over whether or not to let student unmask while at school.

At times tensions were high and after more than an hour of discussion, the rooms were still spilt.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions there were only so many seats available in the board room. This meant parents, students and other member of the public who wished to speak were asked to wait in the lobby and in other locations of the administration building.

Some parents say that the school should allow students to choose whether or not to wear a mask. They say they are not against teachers or the school system but they are worried about their student’s mental health.

However, one teacher who spoke asked the board to keep the masks as a safety precaution until the end of the school year. To that some of the parents boo-ed him.

EACS USES FEDERAL DOLLARS FOR STIPENDS

EACS doesn't wait on stipends

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The East Allen County Schools board Tuesday didn't want to wait two weeks to endorse Superintendent Marilyn Hissong's request to spend federal coronavirus relief dollars on $500 and $1,000 stipends for employees.

“OK, let's just do this tonight,” board President Todd Buckmaster said when board members embraced Gayle Etzler's suggestion to act immediately on what was presented as a discussion-only item.

Collectively, employees will get about $1,193,500, with individual awards based on part-time and full-time status. Those employed May 14 are eligible.

“We wanted to do this for our staff,” Hissong said. “It took everyone to make this happen this year.”

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, April 19, 2021

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #356 – looming threats and flaws

From Indiana Coalition for Public Education's Vic Smith...
Dear Friends,

With only three days left in this General Assembly session, a dangerous threat to our state remains to be fixed. Education Scholarship Accounts are still in the budget bill, and the bill language does not protect Indiana from extremists, from criminals or from the sudden elimination of all standards and accountability.

Will you send messages today and tomorrow to your legislators and to party leaders who are deciding what will go into the budget about these looming threats and flaws that could be fixed with last minute additions to the bill language?

Fix the Flaws!

What are the glaring problems that have still not been fixed in the current budget bill language on Educational Scholarship Accounts?
Threats include no standards for ESA parent grants, no protection against extremist curriculum, and no background checks for where tax payer dollars will go.

Click here to read the rest and share. You can find your state legislators by clicking here.

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