Monday, December 21, 2020

In Case You Missed It – December 21, 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.

Note: The next posting of NEIFPE's In Case You Missed it, will be on January 4, 2020
Bye, Betsy!


Borowitz: Betsy DeVos Leaves with a Warning

From Diane Ravitch
Andy Borowitz, a humorist for The New Yorker, says that Betsy DeVos is worried that Biden might actually appoint an educator to run the U.S. Department of Education.

He begins:
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Calling the prospect a “nightmare scenario,” Betsy DeVos warned that President-elect Joe Biden will pick an Education Secretary with a background in education.

The outgoing Education Secretary warned that putting someone with a “pro-education bias” in her job would be like “naming a fox to be Secretary of Hens.”

“For the past four years, I have worked tirelessly to keep our schools free from education,” she said. “It deeply saddens me to think that all of my hard work will go to waste.”


Virtual program switches school districts after Indiana scrutinizes stipends

It seems like Indiana will never learn.

From Chalkbeat*
After drawing scrutiny from the state, a school that offers Indiana families financial support to educate their children at home is switching to a new district partner.

Tech Trep Academy, a Utah-based company, opened its first Indiana program this year through a partnership with the Middlebury Community Schools district outside Elkhart. The unusual school uses state education funding to give parents $1,700 stipends for classes and materials to educate their children at home. Parents can provide much of the instruction, with help and oversight from certified educators.

But just weeks after Tech Trep Academy began enrolling students in Indiana, the state notified Middlebury officials that reimbursing families for purchases violated a law that bars schools from offering enrollment incentives. To avoid running afoul of the law, the school told parents that it would make purchases for them directly from vendors.

After the state flagged the issue, Middlebury officials decided they had had enough...

Instead of closing the school, which enrolls about 165 students, the district worked with Tech Trep to find a new partner. Next semester, the school will move under the auspices of the Cloverdale Community Schools, a 1,000-student district in a farming community near Greencastle.


Six Arguments For Giving The Big Standardized Tests This School Year (And Why Biden’s Education Secretary Should Ignore Them)

Here are some bad reasons to test during the pandemic...bad reasons to test at all.

From Peter Greene in Forbes
Last year, in the face of general pandemic chaos, states canceled the annual Big Standardized Test, if not with Betsy DeVos’s blessing, at least with her consent. But DeVos has signaled that similar waivers from this year’s test would not be given on her watch. Now that her watch is soon to end, what about the next secretary of education?

Testing is a billion-dollar industry. In Texas alone, the annual cost of administering the test is approaching $100 million. Shutting down the tests two years running will be a costly proposition for testing companies, so it’s not surprising that pressure is mounting for states to commit to administering a test this year, particularly with a new education secretary on the horizon.

Across the nation, certain pro-testing arguments keep surfacing. Here are some of the most common, and why neither state nor federal authorities should be swayed by them.


Be prepared for change, FWCS families urged

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Winter break won't begin for Fort Wayne Community Schools students until Friday, but Superintendent Mark Daniel already is assigning homework to families – make backup plans for when classes resume Jan. 4.

“Because we do not know what our area will look like in two weeks, families should be prepared for any scenario,” Daniel said in a letter to families Tuesday. “This will be true not just for the start of the second semester but for many months to come.”

He suggests that families plan for fully remote learning. FWCS tries to give as much notice as possible about switches in learning formats, he said, but changes could be announced for a school or the district with little warning because illness – not planned time off – is involved.


Corona: Cut vouchers to pay teachers

The Commission’s report on teacher pay has finally been released and reports what we knew all along - teacher pay needs to increase. Unfortunately, Governor Holcomb can postpone any teacher increase since there are more pressing needs due to COVID-19.

Furthermore, most of the suggestions just pass the buck back to cash-strapped local school districts rather than doing much at the state level.

FWCS Board member, Steve Corona, has a better idea.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The 37 ideas a state panel recommended for raising teacher pay did not include one approach that a Fort Wayne Community Schools board member would like lawmakers to consider.

"My suggestion, in addition to those 37 recommendations, is that the General Assembly looks at seriously cutting the amount of money they will budget for vouchers," board member Steve Corona said. "If they're serious about raising teacher pay in public schools, this is the fund that they need to take a look at."

Corona pitched his ideas during the board meeting Monday, hours after the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission released a 183-page report with recommendations for short- and long-term approaches to increasing average teacher pay to at least $60,000 in Indiana.

Panel: Teachers deserve $60,000

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission on Monday released a 183-page report with 37 recommendations for short- and long-term approaches to increasing average teacher pay to at least $60,000 in Indiana.

The suggestions for school districts include limiting health care plans and passing operating referendums. State-level options include shifting money from a generous college tax credit and raising state taxes.

"There is a gap between competitive pay and Indiana's current teacher salaries, and it has contributed to many challenges facing our education system today," the report said.

"Fewer students are enrolling in or completing teacher preparation programs, and fewer Hoosiers are earning teaching licenses. While there are varying opinions among the public about whether there is a 'teacher shortage,' the data is clear: Indiana has significant challenges in attracting and retaining qualified teachers."

Indiana report calls for $600 million more from districts, state to increase teacher pay

From Chalkbeat*
A report released Monday pressures Indiana school districts to pay a large part of the estimated $600 million a year needed to raise teacher pay. But it acknowledges the state also must substantially increase funding to make salaries more competitive.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s teacher pay commission has been working on the recommendations for nearly two years. The commission calls for increasing average teacher salaries to $60,000 per year, up from about $51,000.

The report includes 37 recommendations to increase teacher pay. About a dozen suggestions offer ways for local districts to trim costs or increase revenue, including reducing healthcare spending, cutting staff, and asking voters for property tax increases.

Commission recommends $60K average salary for Indiana teachers

A state commission studying how to make Indiana’s teacher pay competitive with surrounding states has come up with a solution – pay them more.

The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission on Monday released its report on improving teacher compensation in Indiana. The commission’s 182-page final report details a “gap” between competitive pay and Indiana’s current teacher salaries, which contributes to the challenges plaguing the state’s education system.

The commission found that Indiana’s average teacher salary of $51,119 in the 2018-19 school year ranked 38th for average teacher salaries out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The state’s teacher pay fell 18 percent below the national average, the report said.

*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


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #347 – December 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

Sound the alarm! We don’t need a new legislative crisis during this horrendous pandemic.

Word from the Statehouse is that the Republican supermajority plans to give public tax money to upper income and wealthy private school parents to pay their private school tuition. Currently, vouchers pay all or part of private school tuition for families earning $95,000 or less for a family of four. The proposed plan would remove all income caps.

This is obviously a bad idea during our economic crisis. It would not give school choice to any additional students. The students from upper income and wealthy families are already going to private schools. This plan would just shift the tuition bill for those upper income families to public taxpayers, including low income taxpayers.

This proposal is tone deaf to the fact that public schools serving students of poverty face cuts in the upcoming budget due to the Covid recession. This idea shamefully proposes to take from the poor and give to the rich.

It’s not right. This should not stand.

There is also talk of giving public tuition money to home school parents for the first time. This is another expensive idea that is totally wrong during the pandemic crisis. Since home schools are unregulated and unsupervised, whether or not public dollars would be used to teach children to support our democracy and the U.S. Constitution would be unknown.

These proposals to divert money to private school and home school parents should be non-starters during the pandemic and economic crisis we are in. Contact legislators to make that point.

Let your State Representative and your State Senator know that this is the wrong time to divert funding from public taxpayers to give to wealthy parents who want their children to go to religious or private schools or to home school parents.

Email or contact your legislators, or any legislator, at your earliest opportunity. Then add an email to the leaders of both the House, Speaker Huston (, and the Senate, President ProTempore Bray (

Tell them that during this crisis giving more money to higher income and wealthy families is wrong.

Tell them this idea is not a mandate of the election because it was not a visible issue in the campaign.

Tell them this is no time to revisit the bitter 2011 battle over private school vouchers.

Tell them they should support our current public schools to the maximum degree during this recession and not try to drive a nail in their coffin.

Thank you for supporting public education in Indiana!

Stay safe,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

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 of 2018, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.


Monday, December 14, 2020

In Case You Missed It – December 14, 2020

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on 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.

Teresa Thayer Snyder: What Shall We Do About the Children After the Pandemic

Look at any article about education during the pandemic and you'll likely see a reference to how kids are "falling behind." Diane Ravitch's guest blogger asks, "falling behind what?"

From Diane Ravitch
I am writing today about the children of this pandemic. After a lifetime of working among the young, I feel compelled to address the concerns that are being expressed by so many of my peers about the deficits the children will demonstrate when they finally return to school. My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic which is affecting millions of people around the country and the world. It speaks to one of my biggest fears for the children when they return. In our determination to “catch them up,” I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on? The models no longer apply, the benchmarks are no longer valid, the trend analyses have been interrupted. We must not forget that those arbitrary measures were established by people, not ordained by God. We can make those invalid measures as obsolete as a crank up telephone! They simply do not apply.

Survey: During Pandemic, Teachers Are Working More And Enjoying It Less

The results from the Horace Mann survey are worth checking out. 

From Peter Greene in Forbes
The greatest number of teachers in the survey were working in person (497) while 319 were teaching online and 379 were working in a hybrid model. But a full 924 (77%) of respondents said that work was taking more time this year than last year, with only 52 (4.3%) saying they were spending less time teaching this year. This may come as a surprise to some critics; on Twitter, one poster called the current situation a “de facto teacher strike,” as if teachers are not doing any actual work currently. In fact, preparing lessons to be delivered through a variety of pipelines requires extra preparation.

When asked if they were enjoying their work in education more or less now than they did last year, 113 (9.7%) said they are enjoying it more, while 698 (60%) said less. This is not entirely a surprise; google “teachers frustrated by remote learning” and read accounts from all over the country of teacher (and parent) frustration with pandemic education.

FWCS Lincoln Elementary goes virtual until January

Due to a significant number of staff absences, all Lincoln Elementary School students will work remotely Dec. 10-17, Fort Wayne Community Schools announced Tuesday.

FWCS said that students will attend in-person on Wednesday and will bring home electronic devices and other supplies needed for at-home learning.

Students are expected to return to the classroom after winter break, Jan. 4.


Mrs. Gates Still Doesn't Get It, Still.

Bill and Melinda Gates still don’t seem to understand that their meddling in education has caused harm.

From Curmudgucation
You know, if Bill and I had had more decision-making authority in education, maybe we would’ve gotten farther in the United States. But we haven’t. Some of the things that we piloted or tried got rejected, or didn’t work, and I think there’s a very healthy ecosystem of parents and teachers’ unions and mayors and city councils that make those education decisions. I wish the U.S. school system was better for all kids.
Yikes. I mean, yikes. First of all, it's not "some of the things"-- all of the things that the Gates have tried in education, from small schools to the Common Core, have failed. Yes, they got rejected, in the same way the average person rejects stewed liver covered with toad wart dressing--they were bad. (And lets not forget that sometimes, rather than being rejected, the Gates just walked out on projects in the middle, leaving someone else holding the bag.) And whatever their many problems were, the biggest problem was not that Bill and Melinda Gates didn't have enough power over the system. Note also that her "very healthy ecosystem" includes pretty much everybody. If everyone else had just let the Gates be in charge, it would have been fine! Yikes. After all this time, all this money, and all this failure, she still doesn't understand that when it comes to education, they are amateurs who don't know enough about how education works and who don't bother to talk to actual experts (without checking to make sure they're sympathetic and then handing them a big pile of money first, which tends to blunt the critical faculties --looking at you NEA and AFT).


Jeff Bryant: What Is Worse Than DeVos?

This post from Diane Ravitch includes information about outside money thrown into the Indianapolis School Board race...

From Diane Ravitch
In the 2020 school board election in Indianapolis, local teachers and grassroots groups the Indiana Coalition for Public Education and the IPS Community Coalition backed four candidates against a slate of opponents whom locals accuse of representing outside interests. At stake, according to WFYI, was “an ideological tilt” over whether the district would continue to “collaborate with outside groups and charter organizations” or “return to more traditional methods of improving struggling schools.”

Both sides raise the banner of “improving struggling schools,” but locals say what’s really at stake is whether voters retain democratic control of their public schools or see them turned over to private, unelected boards and their corporate supporters and funders.

Oklahoma: Governor Stitt Appoints Home-Schooling Anti-Masker to State Board of Education

Local school boards are elected. Why aren't all state school boards? In Indiana, the governor appoints 9 of the 11 school board members. The other two are selected by the leaders of the legislative houses. The only voice Indiana voters have in state-wide public education policy is in the election of the governor.

From Diane Ravitch
Kurt Bollenbach of Kingfisher, who was appointed in April 2019 to serve a four-year term, recently supported a high-profile move to claw back more than $11 million in state funding from Epic Charter Schools and a failed attempt to mandate masks in all public schools.

He also recently drew public criticism from school choice advocates for leading a delay of approval for a couple of private schools to begin accepting state-funded scholarships for disabled students and foster children over questions about whether the schools’ anti-discrimination policies met minimum state and federal requirements.

Stitt replaced Bollenbach by appointing a home-schooling parent who opposes mask-wearing during the pandemic to the State Board of Education.

Monday, December 7, 2020

In Case You Missed It – December 7, 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.


Combating Standardized Testing Derangement Syndrome (STDs) in the English Language Arts

Are standardized tests worth all the expense? Are they worth the time it takes to prepare, administer and return the tests? Are the results accurate and worth all the effort?

Bob Shepherd Online
The dirty secret of the standardized testing industry is the breathtakingly low quality of the tests themselves. I worked in the educational publishing industry at very high levels for more than twenty years. I have produced materials for all the major textbook publishers and most of the standardized test publishers, and I know from experience that quality control processes in the standardized testing industry have dropped to such low levels that the tests, these days, are typically extraordinarily sloppy and neither reliable nor valid. They typically have not been subjected to anything like the validation and standardization procedures used, in the past, with intelligence tests, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and so on. The mathematics tests are marginally better than are the tests in ELA, US History, and Science, but they are not great. The tests in English Language Arts are truly appalling. A few comments about those...


For Teachers, “Silence of Our Friends” May be Worst Part of Pandemic

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
Teachers want a safe place to work.

But in 2020 that is too much to ask.

As the global COVID-19 pandemic rages out of control throughout most parts of the United States, teachers all across the country want to be able to do their jobs in a way that won’t put themselves or their loved ones in danger.

In most cases that means remote instruction – teaching students via the Internet through video conferencing software like Zoom.

However, numerous leaders and organizations that historically are supportive of teachers have refused to support them here.

The rush to keep classrooms open and thus keep the economy running has overtaken any respect for science, any concern for safety, and any appeal to compassion.

I’m a former district leader. Here’s what Indiana schools will need to reopen with confidence.

Hope is not a plan.  Former Washington Township Superintendent lays out the needs for a safe plan to reopen schools. He emphasizes increased funding, COVID-19 testing for all, and an end to standardized testing.

From Chalkbeat*
In my more than 30 years of experiences in roles from classroom teacher to Washington Township superintendent, I’ve learned that there are no simple solutions to complicated problems.

Re-opening our public schools is one of those complicated problems. Let’s face it: Indiana is not going to recover economically until our more than one million school children go back to school. “Who will care for my children when I’m back to work?” needs an answer, or our efforts to restore the economy will fail.

Getting students back into school buildings, though, is going to be tougher than many realize. If I were a superintendent today, I would be assuming that at least 25% of the parents in my district would be reluctant to send their kids to school because they don’t think schools will be safe. I’d bet the percentage would be similar for employees, from teachers to bus drivers, custodians, and food service employees. Parents do not knowingly put their children in dangerous places, and teachers and staff do not want to work in dangerous places, either.


Keep Your Promises

NEIFPE is proud to be one of the organizations to sign this statement from the Network for Public Education.

From NPE
We congratulate President-elect, Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, on their historic victory. We look forward to working with them as they fulfill their promised commitment to our nation’s public schools.

The promises made during the campaign drew support from public education advocates across the nation. With those promises in mind, these are the top five K-12 priorities that they should keep at the forefront as they govern.

1. Rebuild our nation's public schools, which have been battered by the pandemic, two decades of failed federal policy, and years of financial neglect.
2. Reject efforts to privatize public schools, whether those efforts be via vouchers or charter schools.
3. End the era of high-stakes standardized testing--in both the immediate future and beyond.
4. Promote diversity, desegregation (both among and within schools), and commit to eliminating institutional racism in school policy and practices.
5. Promote educational practices that are child-centered, inquiry-based, intellectually challenging, culturally responsive, and respectful of all students' innate capacities and potential to thrive.


The telling things Barack Obama wrote — and didn’t mention — about his education policies in new memoir

From the Answer Sheet
Obama’s education agenda surprised many of his supporters, who had expected him to address inequity in public schools and to de-emphasize high-stakes standardized testing, which had become the key metric to hold schools accountable under the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind law.

But Obama did not. Instead, he allowed Education Secretary Arne Duncan to push a strident education overhaul program that made standardized testing even more important than NCLB had, and that became highly controversial across the political spectrum for different reasons. Critics called it “corporate reform” because it used methods more common in business than in civic institutions, such as using big data, closing schools that underperformed, and eliminating or weakening of teacher tenure and seniority rights.


Student teachers learning to adapt

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
As K-12 schools navigated their first full semester during the pandemic, student teachers not only conducted lessons in traditional and nontraditional ways, but also managed responsibilities during quarantines -- theirs and their mentor teachers'.

Dan Torlone of Saint Francis described student teachers' challenges another way.

"Is it beneficial that your rowboat is sinking, and you have to learn how to swim?" Torlone, director of field experiences, asked. "What they're all understanding is a power of collaboration with their peers."

*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