Monday, January 6, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Jan 6, 2020

Here are links to last week's 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.


Indiana’s $1 charter school law challenged by 2 more districts, following West Lafayette case

Communities pay for their local schools yet the State of Indiana allows private companies to buy those schools which have closed for $1.

From the Journal & Courier
A pair of Northwest Indiana school districts, fearing they might have to give up recently vacated classroom space for $1 to a charter school, followed West Lafayette Community School Corp.’s lead this week, filing a lawsuit challenging a state law they say is unconstitutional.

On Thursday, the Lake Ridge School Corp. and School City of Hammond filed a suit naming Gov. Eric Holcomb, the State Board of Education and the Indiana Department of Education, arguing that the state law – passed in 2011 and designed as a key piece of Indiana’s school reform movement – treated the districts unfairly and amounted to a “taking without just compensation.”


Indiana’s 2019 graduation rate is steady, but fewer students are passing the exit exam

Perhaps decisions about education should be made by actual educators rather than the reform-informed/influenced legislators.

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana could see fewer students require waivers as it adopts what’s known as graduation pathways, which offers Indiana high schoolers multiple options for completing the requirements to graduate, thus deemphasizing testing. Students choose their path based on their interests, such as going to college or earning a technical certification.

Supporters of the approach say pathways better prepares students for careers, but critics insist the options could lower the bar for Indiana’s students and devalue the state’s diploma.

The new data also shows that virtual schools continue to post some of the lowest overall graduation rates in the state. Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, which closed in September after the state found it inflated enrollment, saw 5.6% of its seniors graduate. Achieve Virtual Education Academy graduated 48%, and Indiana Connections Academy graduated 61%.

Nationally, only about half of virtual students graduate on time, said Gary Miron, a national policy fellow at the National Education Policy Center.


Arguably the two most appalling stories about the standardized testing obsession of the 2010s

There's too much testing. We're using the tests in the wrong ways.

From the Answer Sheet
No teacher had been asked to help write NCLB, and the results showed: Schools were labeled as failing and penalized unfairly; many schools sharply limited or dropped teaching key subjects such as history, science and the arts because only math and reading were tested; and test preparation became the focus of the school day in many classrooms. Recess for young kids? No time.

Arne Duncan...knew that NCLB had been a failure, but he pursued policies that made standardized testing even more important than before. He wanted states to use the scores to evaluate teachers and principals...

There were stories about teachers being evaluated on the test scores of students they didn’t have and subjects they didn’t teach.

There were stories of high-performing teachers getting poor evaluations because of complicated and problematic algorithms that were used to calculate their “worth” in class...

And there were stories of pep rallies and other incentives to get students “excited” about taking standardized tests.

But there were two that still resonate deeply and reveal just how vacant — and mean — some of the policy was...


Chalkbeat: How GreatSchools Inc. Contributes to Segregation

Despite the fact that Separate but Equal was declared unconstitutional in 1954, the US still has segregated schools.

From Diane Ravitch
Matt Barnum and Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee wrote a provocative article about the way that a private school rating agency rates schools and steers patents toward white affluent schools and away from schools where children of color predominate. Larry Cuban reposted the article on his blog.

GreatSchools ratings effectively penalize schools that serve largely low-income students and those serving largely black and Hispanic students, generally giving them significantly lower ratings than schools serving more affluent and more white and Asian students, a Chalkbeat analysis found.


Teachers' pay not on '20 agenda

Teachers...Parents...have you followed up with your legislators and the Governor since the Red for Ed Rally last November? If you don't then we were just making noise with no substance.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
In just 48 days, Indiana lawmakers hope to curb the smoking epidemic, shore up the state's unemployment fund and make some modest changes in education.

But the biggest issue – raising teacher pay – will have to wait until 2021.

The session opens Jan. 6 and must end by midnight March 14. But the desired end-date is March 11 due to NCAA basketball coming to town.

Republicans are holding firm that a short session isn't an appropriate time to open up the state's two-year budget.

But Democrats say that's exactly what they are doing by planning to change the existing budget to pay for a handful of building projects with cash instead of bonding. This is akin to buying a house with cash instead of taking out a mortgage.

Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, proposed funneling some of the excess dollars in the state's reserve fund – $200 million of $300 million identified by Republicans – to an existing Teacher Appreciation Grant program.

Gov. Holcomb talks teacher pay

The challenge, Holcomb says, is trying to put money in teachers’ pockets yet preserve district autonomy.

Holcomb created his “Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission” to address that challenge.

“Thankfully, the Teachers Association (union) is at that table on that teacher commission,” says Holcomb.

“I want to make sure, once again, this is critically important that salaries are locally bargained.”


Schools fight trend to prepare new teachers

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped more than 33% nationwide since 2010, and Indiana has been affected more than most, according to a report this month from the Center for American Progress.

The nine states where enrollments dropped at least 50% include Indiana, 54%, and neighboring Michigan and Illinois, 67% and 60%, respectively, the nonpartisan policy institute found.

The report, “What to Make of Declining Enrollment in Teacher Preparation Programs,” examined federal data from 2010 to 2018, including the number of students who completed such training. That figure dropped 28% in that period.

The trend is worrisome for Fort Wayne Community Schools, the state's largest school district. It serves nearly 30,000 students.


Education Law Center: The Failure of Vouchers in Texas and of Voucher Expansion in Arizona

From Diane Ravitch
It has not been a good year for vouchers. The research continues to show that they don’t “save poor kids from failing schools.” They are in fact more likely to cause their academic performance to decline.

Pastors for Texas Children has led the effort to block vouchers in Texas and SOS Arizona led the effort to block voucher expansion in Arizona.

Voucher advocates (Koch-funded) are coming back with new legislation for 2020, and Arizona SOS has pledged to beat them again.

There are heroes among us.


WI: Pre-K Cyberschool Shenanigans

With all the news about the damage screen-time is doing to young children you'd think that legislators would be against more of it, yet here we have another state falling for the online preschool scam...just like Indiana.

From Curmudgucation
A few Wisconsin legislators have a dumb idea for a law. They'd like to spend $1.5 million on cyberschool-- on line computerized instruction-- for pre-schoolers.

This is just layers and layers of dumb.

First, cyberschools in general have proven to be lousy. Spectacularly lousy-- and that's in a study run by an organization sympathetic to charters.. Students would be better off spending a year playing video games lousy. So bad that even other charter school promoters won't defend them lousy. In short, outside very specific sets of special needs, there is no evidence that cyberschooling works.

Second, while there is still considerable debate, the general consensus is that screen time for littles should be somewhere between very small amounts and none at all.

Third, academic studies are a lousy idea for littles, unlikely to yield real benefits even as they may create real harm.


A tiny Indiana town saw promise in virtual charter schools. Then things started to unravel.

The lesson to be learned here is that you cannot trust charter schools to have the best interests of children in mind. The Bottom Line is profit...

From Chalkbeat*
When Indiana’s largest charter network collapsed earlier this year after an enrollment scandal that triggered state and federal investigations, the resulting mess left hundreds of students scrambling for transcripts, dozens of teachers unpaid, and $40 million still owed to the state.

The downfall of Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy also placed under the microscope Daleville Community Schools, a tiny rural district that runs just two brick-and-mortar schools serving fewer than 1,000 students in total.

Despite having no experience as a charter authorizer, Daleville took on an oversight role when Indiana Virtual School opened in 2011 and, over the years, accepted more than $3.2 million in state funding to monitor them and ensure their success.


What’s next for Indy ‘turnaround academies’?

From School Matters
It seemed like a victory for Indianapolis Public Schools when the Indiana Charter School Board voted Dec. 13 to reject charter applications for three Indianapolis “turnaround academy” schools.

But it’s not over till it’s over. The fate of the schools – Emmerich Manual High School, T.C. Howe School and Emma Donnan Middle School – is still in the hands of the State Board of Education. And the board has already turned a cold shoulder to the idea of returning the schools to IPS.

The State Board of Education will consider what happens next at its Jan. 15 meeting.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.


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