Monday, July 19, 2021

In Case You Missed It – July 19, 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.

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As usual, standardized tests show us what we already know. In this case, that the ongoing pandemic has hurt children's test scores and hurt the test scores of poor children worse than those with more resources.

It's time we end our obsession with tests and focus on the needs of children. We've known for decades that students in poverty, often attending schools that are poorly resourced, score lower on standardized tests. That's not due to poor teaching but to poverty itself. The main target should be alleviating the poverty of children living in low-income homes, approximately 1 out of every 6 American children, not shaming children, schools, and districts for the number of low-income students they educate.

ILEARN results show pandemic had an impact

From School Matters
COVID-19 clearly impacted learning, as everyone expected it would. Between 2019 and 2021, the share of students who scored proficient on the tests declined by about 8 percentage points in English/language arts and by about 11 percentage points in math. The share of students who were proficient in both English/language arts and math declined from 37.1% to 28.6%. (The test wasn’t given in 2020).

This isn’t entirely an apples-to-apples situation, and the department cautioned against comparing 2019 and 2021 scores. For one thing, the 2019 scores included only students who were enrolled at the same school for 162 days, while the 2021 scores apparently included all students who were tested. State officials said they’re thinking of 2021 as a “new baseline” for measuring future improvement.

But it’s not surprising that test scores, overall, were lower in 2021. Schools moved online for the last two months of the 2019-20 school year, when the pandemic began. While circumstances varied by school district, many students were fully or partially online in 2020-21.

Indiana ILEARN test scores plunge unevenly

From Chalkbeat*
As education officials had warned, Indiana elementary and middle school test scores plunged this year, with only a fraction testing proficient in English and math, much fewer than two years ago.

Results of the annual ILEARN state tests released Wednesday show that 28.6% of students statewide in grades 3 through 8 tested proficient in both English and math. In 2019, the last time the test was given, 37.1% passed.

In Indianapolis Public Schools, which has a high proportion of students from struggling families, only 10% showed proficiency in both English and math.

Last spring, states debated whether testing students amid a pandemic was fair to them and schools. Indiana decided to test, and required even students learning remotely to take the annual standardized exams in person— though state lawmakers won’t punish schools for the results.

The results highlight the uneven toll that the pandemic and economic shutdown have exacted, hitting students of color and those from low-income families particularly hard. That in turn has left a wide chasm in performance between those students and their wealthier peers.

Conspiracy theories about the danger of masks are still causing trouble for America's public schools. Sadly, as the coronavirus delta variant increases its hold on the country, it's possible that masks will become necessary again. Groups of parents fueled by right-wing conspiracy theories deny that masks are effective, claim that masks cause CO2 poisoning, carry 5G antennas, or at the very least, inhibit "freedom," have been attacking school boards around the country demanding that children be allowed to go to school mask-free.

Of course, teachers are caught in the middle.

NACS board condemns threats to staff

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The Northwest Allen County Schools board – which has drawn months of heated public comment that began over the mask mandate – issued a statement Wednesday condemning threats to its educators.

The statement, which board President Kent Somers first read at the June 28 meeting, asks people to demonstrate respect towards those with whom they may disagree.

“We are issuing this statement after learning that threats may have been made, or at least implied, against NACS representatives,” the board said. “To be clear, we fully support the First Amendment and the right to engage in legitimate disagreement, but we must unequivocally condemn any threat to our educators.”

SACS board votes to make masks optional

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Southwest Allen County Schools is planning a year of traditional, in-person classes where masks will be optional for all students and staff.

Masks will only be required on buses per federal order.

The five-member school board unanimously endorsed these and other changes – including welcoming school visitors again – to the district's return to classroom plan Tuesday night.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's revised guidance on mask-wearing in schools wasn't mentioned. The agency said Friday vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings.

The Government Should Make Unvaccinated Students & Staff Mask Up in Schools

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
As a classroom teacher, I cannot enforce safety protocols in my school all by myself.

I can’t make students and coworkers wear masks.

I can’t require people to show me their medical records to determine with any degree of certainty who is and is not fully vaccinated.

But when it comes to Covid-19, the federal government is again throwing up its hands and leaving all safety protocols to small town government officials, local school directors, and schmucks like me.

The result is a patchwork of inconsistent and inadequate safety directives that put far too many at risk.

Here we go again.

Suit: Online charters bilked state of millions

The loosely regulated charter school sector has been scandal-ridden for years. The Network for Public Education has documented charter school scandals going back more than a decade and has detailed hundreds of them on their website under the title, Another Day Another Charter Scandal.

States with a large charter presence haven't paid much attention to the scandals since pro-charter donors line the campaign coffers of many legislators. Now, however, with the privatization movement emulating former Ed Secretary DeVos, and focusing more on vouchers, the charter sector is in danger of losing out to its more profitable privatization competitor. To that end, Indiana has filed suit against a couple of virtual charters for doing what charters do...pocketing taxpayer dollars.

Maybe it's time for Indiana and other states to rethink school privatization.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The leaders of two now-closed Indiana online charter schools are accused in a new lawsuit of defrauding the state of more than $150 million by padding their student enrollments and inappropriately paying money to a web of related businesses.

The lawsuit announced Monday by the Indiana attorney general's office comes almost two years after Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy shut down amid a state investigation that found the two online schools improperly claimed about 14,000 students as enrolled between 2011 and 2019, even though they had no online course activity.

The lawsuit seeks repayment of about $69 million it claims the schools wrongly received in state student enrollment payments. It also seeks $86 million that officials say the schools improperly paid to more than a dozen companies linked to them by common business officers or relatives and did so with little or no documentation.

“This massive attempt to defraud Hoosier taxpayers through complex schemes truly boggles the mind,” state Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement.

Indiana sues ex-virtual schools and officials for $154 million in alleged fraud

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana officials have filed suit against two defunct online charter schools and their officers for allegedly defrauding the state of $154 million by padding student enrollment.

State Attorney General Todd Rokita alleged that former officers and others related to the Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy fraudulently received and spent tuition paid to educate online students.

Last winter, a state audit covering eight years alleged that the schools dramatically inflated enrollment over their actual number of students, thus wrongly receiving more than $68 million in state payments.

A Chalkbeat investigation in 2017 found financial conflicts of interest at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy as well as dismally low academic results. The two virtual charter schools shut down in 2019 after the allegations of enrollment fraud.

*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


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