Monday, November 26, 2018

In Case You Missed It – Nov 26, 2018

Here are links to the articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. 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 Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


"Exploring Assessment Literacy Knowledge in Hoosiers"

So, the state wants to know what we think of standardized testing. Please be sure to give them an opinion or ten.

NOTE: There is no indication on the cover page as to how long this survey will remain active.

From Ball State University
The purpose of our study is to gather data and gauge opinion on the public’s perception of education and standardized testing in Indiana. The data collected will be used to improve the Indiana Department of Education’s messaging efforts, and hopefully, the state of education in Indiana.


Is This The End Of Ed Reform Policy?

From Curmudgucation
...thinky tanks and reformists and wealthy dilettantes and government bureaucrats can continue fiddling and analyzing their fiddlings as they search for the next great Big New Thing in policy. In the meantime, teachers have work to do.


Carol Burris: Indiana’s Scandalous Voucher Program

From Diane Ravitch
We are reminded yet again that the allocation of public money without strict accountability is an invitation to commit fraud and self-dealing.


Kentucky: Governor Calls for “Breaking the Back” of the Teachers’ Union

From Diane Ravitch
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is one of the most revolting figures in the Republican Party. He is a former hedge fund manager and current Tea Party shill.

He calls for “breaking the back” of the teachers union. He says the union is “suffocating” teachers and students.


Marshall Academy faces closure: May shutter by year's end; state board weighs viability

From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The Indiana Charter School Board is considering closing the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, possibly by the end of the year.

A dispute with the school's management company could be the last straw for a school that has performed dismally, said Jim Betley, executive director of the Indiana Charter School Board.

“It's never a good time to close a school but if we have concerns about the viability of a school we have to weigh the pros and cons of that,” he said. “The circumstances don't even look like they are there or will be there in the foreseeable future to show improvement.”

Turnover, academic failure, an enrollment drop and management concerns since the conditional renewal of the school's charter in mid-2017 have Thurgood Marshall on tenuous ground.


How to Talk to Your Family About Privatization

From Diane Ravitch
Like anything involving extended family, Thanksgiving can turn into a combat zone at the first mention of privatization. Just the words “public-private partnership” can send grandma out the door for a cigarette. Is this the year your nephew drops “neoliberalism” at the dinner table?

Here’s some advice to calm the inevitable tension this time around.


Online Preschool - An Oxymoron

From Live Long and Prosper
The latest "reform" insanity is online preschool.

By preschool, I mean a developmentally appropriate environment where young children can experience social interaction, develop an understanding of literature by being read to, and have direct contact with the real world.

Developmentally appropriate does not mean that three- and four-year-olds do so-called "academic" work on worksheets or computers. It means approaching instruction based on research into how children develop and grow. Preschoolers need clay and water-tables, not worksheets. They need blocks, watercolors, and dress up clothes, not tablets and calculators. They need climbers, sandboxes, and slides, not standardized tests and "performance assessments." They need to experience the world with their whole bodies and all of their senses.

Why then, would anyone think that young children would benefit from something called an "online preschool?"


Indiana’s push to raise teacher pay is creating some unlikely allies

Disturbingly ironic that groups like Stand and Teach for America, who work diligently to take $$ away from public schools, are climbing on a bandwagon to increase teacher pay.

From Chalkbeat
It’s not every day that the state’s teachers union, Republican leaders, and education advocacy groups find themselves working toward the same goal. But this year, as Indiana puts teacher pay at the forefront of its legislative priorities, there seems to be an all-hands-on-deck approach to make it happen — and that means some unlikely allies.


Why not grade all schools on growth only?

From School Matters
Most Indiana schools earn A-to-F grades on a formula that gives equal weight to performance and growth on standardized tests. But schools in their first three years of operation – most of which are new charter schools and Indianapolis or Gary “innovation network” schools – can have their grades calculated on growth only, with no consideration of performance. Those schools have an advantage.

As Dylan Peers McCoy of Chalkbeat Indiana pointed out, it means you can’t use the grades to compare schools in a district like IPS. “Of the 11 out of 70 Indianapolis Public Schools campuses that received A marks from the state,” she wrote, “eight were graded based on growth alone.”

So why not grade all schools on growth only, not performance? It seems like that would make a lot of sense. In any given year, schools may not have a lot of control over where their students start out in their math and reading performance. What matters is, do schools help students grow?


Senate Democrats vow to fight for teacher pay hikes during 2019 General Assembly

From The Times
On Friday, Melton and Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, announced they'll be filing legislation next year to increase state funding for education, contingent upon schools providing annual teacher pay raises of 2.5 percent during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.

"Our public school teachers are being drastically underpaid for the important work that they do to prepare our children for their future," Melton said. "Teacher salaries in Indiana have not kept up with inflation, meaning their paychecks have remained stagnant since 2009."


Pre-K sends students on their way

From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Early research for a longitudinal study about the state's On My Way Pre-K program shows the initiative has potential to improve students' early learning skills and readiness for kindergarten, according to a report published last month.

The program serves only 20 of Indiana's 92 counties. Expanding On My Way Pre-K is among the Indiana Department of Education's 2019 legislative priorities.

Stacy Geimer, a kindergarten teacher at Franke Park, can tell which of her students attended preschool.

“They are very independent when they come from pre-K,” Geimer said.

They also come to her classroom knowing their colors, shapes and letters as well as basic skills, including how to hold a pencil and a book.

“It helps tremendously,” Geimer said.


Monday, November 19, 2018

In Case You Missed It – Nov 19, 2018

Here are links to the articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. 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 Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


Kentucky: Beware Voucher Fraud!

From Diane Ravitch
When proposals for vouchers (or scholarships that allow public money to be spent for religious or private schools) is on the ballot, the voters say no. They said NO last week in Arizona by a vote of 65-35%.

EdChoice and the Goldwater Institute are based in Arizona. The Koch brothers and DeVos’ American Federation for Children supported the voucher referendum (called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts), and despite the money and the euphemism, it was defeated overwhelmingly.

Watch out, Kentucky. The voucher zombies are coming for you.


Kansas Will Pay TFA $270,000 for Recruiting 3 Teachers

From Diane Ravitch
You read that right. Kansas is a state that has cut taxes and cut its education budget repeatedly and whose teachers are paid poorly. It is under court order to finance its schools adequately. You may recall that former Governor Sam Brownback imposed a far-right policy of cutting taxes to “grow the economy” while starving the schools and other public services. The experiment failed. Trump appointed him the
“Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.”

So now, because of low salaries, Kansas has teacher shortages. The remedy? A lavish contract with TFA to bring in temp teachers.


Hardly any kids passed ISTEP at one of Indiana’s largest schools. Here’s why it’s not getting an F

Wouldn’t it be nice if our legislators would quit throwing our tax dollars away?

From Chalkbeat
With such high enrollment numbers, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy could together bring in upward of $35 million from the state for this school year, according to funding estimates from the Legislative Services Agency.

At the state’s other full-time virtual charter schools — including those billed as alternative schools like IVPA — state grades are rising as enrollment grows. Indiana Connections Academy is up to a D this year from an F, and Insight School of Indiana is up to a C from an F. For grades under Indiana’s federal plan, the schools received an F and D, respectively.

Indiana Connections Career Academy enrolled about 70 students last year and received no grade, but education department officials say that is because it had too few students to calculate one, despite testing more than 95 percent of them. It’s not uncommon for small schools — especially high schools that have just one tested grade — to not get a grade. This year, the school’s enrollment is up to about 300 students.


Restore Reason: What Happens When Government Services Are Privatized

From Diane Ravitch
...I began to think how this privatization story was paralleling that of education’s. In both cases, those in the public sector are in it for the mission, not the money. In both cases, the private sector only “wins” if the public sector “loses”. In both cases, it is in the interest of the private sector to facilitate the failure of the public sector or make it look like it is failing.

Just as private and charter schools profit when district schools are perceived to be of lower quality, Barry Myers has worked hard to make government provided weather services look inferior to that which the private sector can provide. As Lewis points out, “The more spectacular and expensive the disasters, the more people will pay for warning of them. The more people stand to lose, the more money they will be inclined to pay. The more they pay, the more the weather industry can afford to donate to elected officials, and the more influence it will gain over the political process.”


Northwestern University Economist Uses Data to Prove Students’ Test Scores Fail to Measure Quality Teaching

From Jan Resseger
“These results confirm an idea that many believe to be true but that has not been previously documented—that teacher effects on test scores capture only a fraction of their impact on their students. The fact that teacher impacts on behavior are much stronger predictors of their impact on longer-run outcomes than test-score impacts, and that teacher impacts on test scores and those on behavior are largely unrelated, means that the lion’s share of truly excellent teachers, those who improve long-run outcomes—will not be identified using test-score value added alone… This analysis provides the first hard evidence that such contributions to student progress are both measurable and consequential.”


Nellie Bowles: In America’s Schools, the Rich Get Teachers, the Poor Get Computers

From Diane Ravitch
The parents in Overland Park, Kan., were fed up. They wanted their children off screens, but they needed strength in numbers. First, because no one wants their kid to be the lone weird one without a phone. And second, because taking the phone away from a middle schooler is actually very, very tough.

“We start the meetings by saying, ‘This is hard, we’re in a new frontier, but who is going to help us?’” said Krista Boan, who is leading a Kansas City-based program called START, which stands for Stand Together And Rethink Technology. “We can’t call our moms about this one.”

For the last six months, at night in school libraries across Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., about 150 parents have been meeting to talk about one thing: how to get their children off screens.


Many Indiana schools receive F grades for how they serve students of color and those with disabilities

It is folly to evaluate schools by test scores. It’s also quite unfair that private schools and charter schools that serve few students with disabilities or those in need of 2nd language services get higher scores because they aren’t required to, and for the most part, don’t serve those students. We also need to remember that when your legislators use your tax dollars to fund charters and privates, they are taking needed dollars for resources from the public schools that do serve all students with any needs that they may have.

From Chalkbeat
Schools grades are highly reflective of state test scores, which have a well-documented history of gaps between certain groups of students. Although state test scores tend to make up a smaller overall piece of the federal grades than state grades, it is still the single largest factor, which raises some important caveats, experts say. Differences in test scores between groups of students, often called achievement or opportunity gaps, don’t reflect students’ innate abilities to learn. Nor do they always mean schools are doing a poor job educating different students. Rather, gaps can be attributed to any number of factors, including test question biases, parents’ education, students’ early childhood education, stress, trauma, and more.

Gaps in grades, in this case, could point out areas of inequities between schools, such as differences in teacher quality, curriculum quality, and availability of honors courses. The gaps also show the extent to which income disparities and poverty are present in a school. Students who come from low-income families and those who switch schools frequently tend to do worse on standardized exams, which would result in lower grades.


Laurene Powell Jobs Wants YOU to Run for School Board and Implement Her XQ Program

From Diane Ravitch
Laurene Powell Jobs is urging her allies to run for the local school board and become advocates for her ideas about the importance of reinventing high schools along the lines that she and Arne Duncan have chosen.

She has even provided a handy kit about how to do it.


If People Talked to Other Professionals the Way They Talk to Teachers

From McSweeney's
Ah, a zookeeper. So, you just babysit the animals all day?”

- - -

“My colon never acts this way at home. Are you sure you’re reading the colonoscopy results correctly? Did you ever think that maybe you just don’t like my colon?”


New York: With Republican Loss of State Senate, Charter Schools Endangered

Instead of spending money on privately run, lack-of-accountability charter schools, we should be using tax dollars to improve struggling public schools.

From Diane Ravitch
Since 1998, Senate Republicans continued to support the publicly funded, but privately run schools. Many Democrats say charter schools unfairly compete for students, and the state and local aid attached to them. Advocates of charter schools, including some urban Democrats, say they are a needed alternative to failing traditional schools. Charter schools, for example, are free of some regulations, which allows them to experiment with instruction models such as longer school days. Supporters point to long waiting lists for these schools as proof of their value.


Incentives added to teacher contract

From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Becoming a mentor, committing to certain buildings, and writing and piloting new curriculum are ways teachers in Fort Wayne Community Schools can earn more cash.

The school board Monday approved bonuses and stipends tied to these and other efforts as part of an amendment to the master teacher contract ratified last year with the Fort Wayne Education Association.


José Espinosa: The Truth About Charter Schools That Boast About a 100% College Acceptance Rate

From Diane Ravitch
While 100 percent of charter seniors get accepted to college as required, the public has a right to know the percentage of charter students who didn’t make it to their senior year.

Ed Fuller, Pennsylvania State University professor, found in one of his studies of a particular charter network that when considering the number of students starting in the ninth grade as a cohort, the percentage of charter cohort students who graduated and went on to college was at best 65 percent.

In other words, 35 percent of ninth-graders at a charter network didn’t make it to their graduation….

Just like the BBB, it is our duty to alert the public.


Monday, November 12, 2018

In Case You Missed It – Nov 12, 2018

Here are links to the articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. 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 Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


Kruse Resigns As Education Committee Chair, Raatz Takes Over

From Indiana Public Media
Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) resigned Friday as the chairman of the powerful Education & Career Development Committee. He said in a statement the position is rewarding, but it has also been demanding for him and his family.

He led the committee for 10 years, during which he oversaw huge changes in the state’s education policy, including the teacher evaluation system and private school vouchers.

Controversy surrounded Kruse in 2013 when he introduced a bill that would allow reciting the Lord's Prayer at public schools each day.

Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Centerville) will become the new committee chairman in the 2019 General Assembly.


How backlash to big changes in Indianapolis Public Schools fueled board upsets

A community “votes back” against reform that has wasted tax dollars and diverted resources from students.

From Chalkbeat
Two outsiders who have been critical of the Indianapolis Public Schools board defeated incumbents Tuesday, a change that could prove pivotal for a district that has garnered a national reputation for its partnerships with charter schools.

For over three years, Indianapolis Public Schools has offered a blueprint for an approach to education that blurs the line between charter schools and traditional public districts by launching and rapidly expanding schools run by charter or nonprofit operators but that remain under the district’s umbrella. This year, more than one in four district students attends one of those 20 innovation schools, as the district calls its hybrid model.

But those policies face mounting resistance. Two newly elected school board members could, for the first time, pump the brakes on the dramatic changes the current board has supported.

The results show that “the community is not happy with where IPS is going,” said Dountonia Batts, executive director of the IPS Community Coalition, a grassroots group that got funding from a national teachers union. People, she said, “believe that the community does have power at our public schools, and they don’t want to see that power slip away.”


How many Indiana schools got As in 2018? Depends if state or feds are doing the grading.

Chalkbeat says, "The two grades illustrate differences in priorities..."

The two grades also illustrate the futility of trying to "grade" schools using a single letter grade. In the end the grades are determined by parental income levels. Where are the grades for the legislators from whose failed policies "F" schools originate?

From Chalkbeat
In the upcoming annual release of A-F grades, Indiana schools are receiving not one, but two ratings — and for many of those schools, the two grades are not the same, a sharp contrast that could cause confusion over how well schools are serving students.

One set of grades from the state’s rating system gave higher marks to about one-third of schools, a state presentation shows. The other set, based on new federal standards of the Every Student Succeeds Act, gave far fewer top ratings to schools.

The two grades illustrate differences in priorities — and in politics. Some national experts say the federal standards are tougher on schools than Indiana’s model because they require schools to count more students, such as those in remedial programs, and include other data not pulled from state tests, such as students who are chronically absent or the fluency of those learning English as a new language.


New emergency manager for Gary schools is former Griffith superintendent

From The Chicago Tribune
Former Griffith Public Schools school chief Peter Morikis is the new emergency manager for Gary Community School Corp., replacing Peggy Hinckley who announced her retirement Thursday.


SACS approves earlier school year start

From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The first day of school will come earlier for Southwest Allen County Schools students beginning in 2020.

In a narrow vote – and against input from nearly 2,500 staff, students, parents and community members – school board members on Tuesday approved a 2020-21 district calendar that begins Aug. 5 in exchange for a weeklong fall break in October.


Arizona: Ducey, Koch Brothers, and DeVos Are Already Scheming to Bring Vouchers Back from the Dead

From Diane Ravitch
“Gov. Doug Ducey may have gotten a second term but he also took a powerful punch to the gut as his plan for a massive expansion of school vouchers was killed.

“Arizona voters didn’t just defeat Proposition 305. They stoned the thing, then they tossed it into the street and ran over it.

“Then they backed up and ran over it again.

“Voters defeated Ducey’s voucher plan by more than 2-1."

Carl Sagan: November 9, 1934 - December 20, 1996. Still Teaching from the Grave. 


Good News in Michigan: Voters Reject DeVos Agenda!

From Diane Ravitch
"...By electing Whitmer, voters repudiated the DeVos agenda of defunding and decimating public schools in favor of the for-profit schools that took root in Michigan and failed to help kids. Whitmer will champion expanded healthcare and safe drinking water, and will fight for decency and fairness to put a check on President Trump’s cruel and inhumane agenda. I was proud to spend Election Day campaigning for Whitmer, and AFT members look forward to a governor who will work with us to make life better for Michiganders.”


Public schools' struggle correlates directly to state voucher support

From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
• Since 2010, the total state budget has risen 17 percent.

• Since 2010, the consumer price index (cost of living) has risen 17 percent.

• Since 2010, the education budget has only risen 10 percent.

• Vouchers cost $150 million a year, and the cost is diverted from public school funding, resulting in an actual 7 percent increase in public school funding. (More than half the Indiana voucher recipients never attended public schools.)

• Without vouchers, every public school would get an additional $150 per student.

• Property tax caps have resulted in millions of dollars lost for many school districts.

• Public schools in poor communities annually experience a 10 percent to 60 percent property tax shortfall, equaling tens of millions of lost dollars for some.

• Remedies for lost revenue are no longer provided by the state. Districts now depend on local referendums.

• Lost property taxes that pay for school debt, construction and transportation must be replaced from state dollars intended for student instruction.

• A portion of state tuition support called the “complexity index” provides special funding to meet the needs of the poorest students. Not only has the complexity index dollar amount been decreased to “equalize” the dollars per student among all schools, but the state has decreased the number of students qualifying – for some schools – by half.

• Forbes magazine points out that Indiana is ill advisedly attempting to fund three systems of schools – traditional public, charters and vouchers – with the same budget it once used for only traditional public schools.

• The “money follows the student” mantra for charter school students creates a loss of school funding that is significantly and disproportionately more damaging than the simple sum of the dollars. If a district loses 100 students, the loss can be spread over 12 grades. A classroom still needs a teacher if it has 25 students instead of 30, but the district has lost $600,000 in funding.

• Of the 20 schools or districts receiving the highest per-pupil funding, 18 are charter schools, none of which are required to report profit taking.

• Since 2010, teacher salaries have dropped 16 percent.


From South Carolina to California, charter school-loving billionaires are plowing money into midterm local and education races

From The Answer Sheet
Written by Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch
The objective could not be clearer — influence districts to expand their charter sector until eventually all, or nearly all, schools are privately operated and managed. Those district offices that remain could be filled not by educational leaders but by managers and technicians hired to ensure that buses run on time, schools are opened, closed or transferred to other operators, enrollment is managed, and funding is distributed. Public voice is stifled. Schools become publicly funded businesses.


Monday, November 5, 2018

In Case You Missed It – Nov 5, 2018

Here are links to the articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. 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 Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


Why it matters who governs America’s public schools

From The Answer Sheet by Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch
Public governance of our schools matters for the health of our democracy. The public school was designed to serve and promote the common good; it is paid for by the public, and it belongs to the public, not entrepreneurs...

...Billionaires live in an echo chamber of their own. As they jet across the globe to and from their many homes, the neighborhood school with its bake sales, homecoming dances and lively community elections are foreign and inconsequential...


Arizona: #RedforEd Is So Popular that Even Its Opponents are Hitching Their Wagon to It

From Diane Ravitch
Six months after tens of thousands of red-clad teachers swarmed the Arizona Capitol in a weeklong walkout, demanding higher pay and more funding for schools, education is a dominant issue in the state’s elections next month.

The teachers’ protest movement, which calls itself #RedforEd, has transformed the political battleground. The movement remains so popular in Arizona that candidates and causes across the ideological spectrum are competing to identify with it — including conservatives who, in years past, might have been more likely to criticize teachers or unions than associate with activist educators.


Marching band finals: Homestead 3rd, Carroll 8th in Class A

From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Six Allen County bands competed in the State Marching Band Finals at Lucas Oil Stadium with Homestead High School placing highest among the group.

See how your favorite bands did...


The Truth About ‘Gifted’ Versus High-Achieving Students

From Loudoun Now
Gifted students, on the other hand, may or may not earn high marks in school depending on a host of factors including their interest in the subject being taught, their respect for the depth of knowledge the teacher possesses and even their level of physical comfort in the classroom. Gifted students often frustrate teachers because they don’t quite live up to their potential, especially in classes that are too easy for them. Gifted children often have poor executive function skills so they lose homework and don’t know how to study for exams. Many gifted children have few friends because of their esoteric interests. Sometimes these students feel so isolated that they become depressed … even suicidal. A surprisingly large number of gifted students drop out of high school and never make it to college, despite their high innate intelligence.

While all children have gifts, not all children are “gifted” as defined by researchers and educators around the globe. The most commonly used definition is as follows: “Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (The Columbus Group, 1991)

What this means is that gifted children have ‘special needs’ that the typical classroom teacher does not have the bandwidth or training to address. This is why school districts go to great lengths to identify gifted students—these kids require special support in order for them to stay engaged in the learning process.


Arizona: Parents Use Voucher Money for Personal Purchases, Not Education

From Diane Ravitch
Arizona’s State Auditor identified more than $700,000 in voucher money that was mis-spent for cosmetics, music, movies, clothing, sports apparel, and other personal items. Some even tried to withdraw cash with their state-issued debit cards. The state has not recovered any of the money. The legislature passed a bill to expand the voucher program, which gives parents a debit card for their e Peres, to every student in the state. Auditing will be even more difficult. Millions will be wasted. And many of the state’s children will go without an education.


Failing Brown v. Board of Education

From Curmudgucation
It's like you have twenty kids in a cafeteria, and ten sit down with a steak dinner and the other ten get bowls of cold oatmeal, and when someone complains about it, a bunch of folks pop up to propose some complex system by which one of the oatmeal kids will be sent out to a restaurant across town. No! Just get back out in the kitchen and use the same tools and supplies that you demonstrably already have to make steak dinners for the rest of the kids.

The report quotes NEA president Lily Eskelsen-Garcia saying, in part, "Until you can say every school looks like your best public school, we have not arrived."


More students want to go to popular IPS magnet schools, but they still face barriers to getting in

From Chalkbeat
...the report also shows that some inequities in Indianapolis Public Schools still persist: There still aren’t enough seats at the city’s most sought-after magnet programs to meet the increasing demand. At three out of six of the popular Center for Inquiry and Butler University Laboratory schools, which are mostly clustered in more affluent neighborhoods, only those who live closest could get in last fall during the first round of admissions — and they claimed most of those schools’ open seats.


What’s Wrong with America’s Schools? David Berliner Blames America’s Failure to Eradicate Child Poverty

From Jan Resseger
Despite lots of evidence about why we shouldn’t use test scores as a measure of school quality, for nearly twenty years, government programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have taught people to judge public schools by their standardized test scores. Last week the Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss published an in-depth reflection by David Berliner on what standardized test scores really measure. David Berliner is an expert, a Regents’ professor emeritus at Arizona State University, former president of the American Educational Research Association, and former dean of the College of Education at Arizona State.

Berliner is blunt in his analysis: “(T)he big problems of American education are not in America’s schools. So, reforming the schools, as Jean Anyon once said, is like trying to clean the air on one side of a screen door. It cannot be done! It’s neither this nation’s teachers nor its curriculum that impede the achievement of our children. The roots of America’s educational problems are in the numbers of Americans who live in poverty. America’s educational problems are predominantly in the numbers of kids and their families who are homeless; whose families have no access to Medicaid or other medical services. These are often families to whom low-birth-weight babies are frequently born, leading to many more children needing special education… Our educational problems have their roots in families where food insecurity or hunger is a regular occurrence, or where those with increased lead levels in their bloodstream get no treatments before arriving at a school’s doorsteps. Our problems also stem from the harsh incarceration laws that break up families instead of counseling them and trying to keep them together. And our problems relate to harsh immigration policies that keep millions of families frightened to seek out better lives for themselves and their children...


Mike Pence’s Fake Rabbi Was a Defrocked Fake Rabbi: A Fake Fake Rabbi

From Diane Ravitch
Mike Pence held a rally in Michigan. He wanted to show his respect to the victims of the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The “rabbi” invited to speak was not Jewish. He was a convert to Christianity and part of a group called “Jews for Jesus,” which seeks to convert Jews to Christianity.

But now it turns out that he was defrocked as a “rabbi.”

He was not only a fake rabbi, he was a fake fake rabbi.


Betsy DeVos’ Family Gives $2 Million to Far-Right Candidates

From Diane Ravitch
“Even by the loose standards of U.S. campaign finance laws—and President Donald Trump’s blatant corruption—the donations by the family members of a Cabinet official have been brazen. In February 2018, Richard DeVos, Secretary DeVos’ father-in-law, gave $1 million to the Freedom Partners Action Fund—a political action fund that has long been associated with far-right causes. Over the past year, the DeVos family has also given $350,000 to the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund and another $400,000 to the Republican National Committee.

“The DeVoses have also donated to specific candidates for federal and state office. Wisconsin’s far-right firebrand, Gov. Scott Walker (R), for example, has received more than $635,000 over the past decade from the DeVos family—including $30,000 in 2018. Bill Schuette, Michigan’s Republican attorney general who is running for governor, received almost $40,000 over the past year.


Lawmakers must stand with our public schools

From John Stoffel in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The most disheartening conversation I have had in over 25 years of elementary education was with a mother of a student. She introduced me to her son in this manner: “This is Joseph (not his real name). He's a bad kid. I don't like him and I don't know what to do with him. He's your problem now. I go to court next week, and I think I'll just ask the judge to take him.”

Two things were clear to me after listening to these comments. First, Joseph was not a “bad kid.” Second, most of Joseph's problems were caused by his mother's actions. One may even be inclined to feel anger toward his mother. I know I did. I suppressed my emotions because I knew her son needed my full attention and support.

The mother's casting blame on a “problem” of her own creation is analogous to Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas's response to the results of Indiana's standardized testing scores: “What the hell are we doing, putting government in charge of educating our children?”

One would hope that Lucas' response is that of an outlier. However, since the tenured supermajority tend to vote in lockstep with Lucas, his words unveil an entity that seems to have a complete disdain for public education. Public schools should be viewed as a common good, but similar to Joseph's mother, the Republican-controlled legislature seems to have a distorted perspective of their duty and of the results of their decisions.

On educational policies, the Republican super-majority has voted to add layers of stifling bureaucracy, create departments to circumvent the state superintendent, and divest hundreds of millions of dollars from public school districts to support “choice” – an unfounded ideology.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #46– November 1, 2018

Dear Friends,

“Vic’s Election Notes on Education” contain commentaries on election candidates and my personal candidate endorsements.
There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.


The biggest threat to public education in Indiana is Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s).

ESA’s are in line with Milton Friedman’s plan to do away with public education. His plan was to stop funding public schools and instead give the money to parents.

This radical proposal was thoroughly rejected in the Indiana Senate in 2017. Now two candidates, one in Indiana House District 59 and one in House District 17, want to resurrect ESA legislation. They should be actively opposed in this election by all who support public education.

In this election season, candidates are listening to voters. Voters should let all candidates for the Indiana General Assembly know that Education Savings Accounts are a terrible idea (see below) and any candidate supporting ESA’s will lose their vote.

[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

House District 59 – An open seat after the retirement of Representative Milo Smith

In House District 59 (a large portion of Bartholomew County), I oppose ESA supporter Ryan Lauer, a Republican. I endorse his opponent Columbus North math teacher Dale Nowlin, a Democrat, and I urge all who support public education to do so as well.

Ryan Lauer tried to oust incumbent Republican Representative Milo Smith in the 2016 primary election, saying at the time that his primary reason for running was to bring ESA’s to Indiana. Without explaining that diverting the dollars from public schools would hurt the education of all current public school students and without saying that any student who meets the income guidelines can already go to a private school with a voucher, Mr. Lauer wrote in his January 28, 2016 candidacy announcement that “I will sponsor legislation to bring Education Savings Accounts to Indiana which place more power and greater choice in the hands of parents so that each child has the opportunity to attend the school that works best for them regardless of income.”

He apparently wants to have taxpayers pay the private school tuition for wealthy families and also for home schools, which would be a new and expensive step with no accountability for student outcomes and with a clear potential for fraud. His 2018 website has nearly identical words supporting Education Savings Accounts.

House District 17 – Now held by incumbent Representative Jack Jordan

In House District 17 (all of Marshall County and a large portion of Fulton County), I endorse Michelle Livinghouse over incumbent Representative Jack Jordan in order to stop the attack on public education through ESA’s, and I urge all who support public education to do so as well.

Representative Jordan, a Republican, said in October 2018 in an interim study committee that he supports ESA’s for students with special needs and is considering new ESA legislation, according to a an article in Chalkbeat (Oct. 4, 2018).

We’ve been down this path before. Voters need to speak out now against ESA’s.

The concept of “Educational Savings Accounts” for special education students, which candidates Lauer and Jordan now want to resurrect, was thoroughly rejected in 2017 in Senate Bill 534. The concept is so detrimental to high educational standards and to maintaining accountability with public tax money that it should be abandoned outright as soon as possible.

Why are Educational Savings Accounts so detrimental to education standards in Indiana and to accountability?
1) ESA’s would give public money on a debit card to parents who sign an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” That’s all! It’s a narrow, unregulated, skimpy education. No art, no music, no physical education, no health, no vocational subjects. This would absolutely lower standards for students just as standards for public school students are being raised to higher levels.

2) The plan includes no obligation for annual testing or evaluation or public accountability of student achievement. This is just wrong and in total contrast to testing and accountability in Indiana law.

3) The plan would give public money to high income parents of special education and Section 504 students. This would remove all income limits for this form of voucher. This vast expansion led LSA in 2017 to cite the bill cost as “between $144 million and $206 million.”

4) The plan would give the basic per pupil amount plus the entire amount of public money for special education students directly to parents, paving the way for the real goal detailed in HB 1591 in the 2015 session to give the entire amount of public money to parents of all students on a debit card. These bills to privatize schooling would immediately divert money away from our public school students and over time would undermine funding for all students in both public schools and private voucher schools. This bill undermines the very concept of schools.

5) The plan would allow parents to home school their child with public money, paying for an approved provider, for a tutor and for textbooks. Public school parents would surely like to have the state pay for their textbooks as well, but public school parents must pay their own textbook rental.

6) The plan would give tax money to parents without strong provisions for fraud protection and no defined penalties for fraud. Parents with past records of crime or neglect or abuse are not excluded.

7) While public schools are pushed to ever higher standards, individual families would be allowed by this plan to adopt lower standards. That is not right.
If this concept is not decisively rejected, it will confirm the theory that all of the standards and testing regulations heaped upon our public schools have just been techniques to make privatized vouchers and savings accounts look attractive to individual parents, giving them an incentive to leave the public schools or even the voucher schools to run home schools or independent schools with taxpayer money.

This bill’s concept is based on Milton Friedman’s plan to end community public schools. It should be totally and promptly rejected. This concept is too radical and potentially damaging for any further action.

I urge all public school advocates to share your opposition to ESA’s with your own candidates for the Indiana General Assembly. Between now and Tuesday’s election, candidates will be listening and trying to get your vote. This is the best time to secure their opposition to ESA’s in the coming session.

Then share your concerns with voters you may know in District 59 to support Dale Nowlin and with voters you may know in District 17 to support Michelle Livinghouse.

ESA’s would put public education in Indiana into a death spiral. Your efforts can prevent that outcome. If public education is going to survive in Indiana, voters will make all the difference.

Thank you for actively supporting public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana. In April, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.