Monday, December 6, 2021

In Case You Missed It – December 6, 2021

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

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

We have news about Allen County school systems...gaining students, buses, and pay raises. Read about it below.

Sheila Kennedy takes Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita to task for jumping on the "critical race theory" bandwagon in his attack on public education school boards and his quest for the office of Governor.

Finally, there is an article about school vouchers in Missouri, the banning of books around the country, and a reminder that standardized testing isn't a panacea.


County districts maintain gain

School systems in Allen County are growing.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Calls for a student boycott on fall count day didn't upend Northwest Allen County Schools' decades-long streak of gaining students.

Like the three other Allen County public school districts, NACS saw its average daily membership -- a term used in state code -- increase.

These totals do not reflect student enrollment, stressed Holly Lawson, Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman. Enrollment reflects actual students in attendance Oct. 1, and that statewide data was being finalized as of mid-November.

Fall count day was Sept. 17, but the state Department of Education only recently released the final numbers, which are used to determine basic grant funding for schools.

SACS plans nonteaching staff to get 5.5% raises

SACS provides an increase in salaries for essential workers.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Southwest Allen County Schools is awaiting the board's approval to invest $425,000 in pay increases for nonteaching personnel.

The district can support the across-the-board 5.5% raises for classified staff based on additional funding from the state and the 116-student increase in average daily membership, Business Manager Mark Snyder told the board Wednesday.

“Classified staff”refers to employees such as cafeteria workers, maintenance and custodial staff, bus drivers, mechanics, nurses and support workers.

“We are excited to be able to offer a 5.5% increase for all of our classified staff,” Snyder said, adding these employees have received 3.5% and 2.5% raises in recent years.

SACS driver shortfall to worsen: Busing options considered as district growth expected

SACS is growing and needs bus drivers.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The houses popping up along Bass Road underscore how today's school bus driver shortage has the possibility to get worse as Southwest Allen County Schools' enrollment grows.

“Bass Road is putting in hundreds of houses – hundreds of houses – so we've got a lot of growth that we have to prepare for,” Steve Lake, transportation director, told the board Wednesday. “We have to be ready for all those new kids to come in.”

The pandemic has exacerbated a widespread school bus driver shortage, officials have said. Locally, this has led to excessive transportation delays at Fort Wayne Community Schools and temporary route cancellations at SACS.

“Do I see an end to the issue of driver shortage? I don't see an end to that right now,” Lake said during his annual report on transportation. “So, we're going to have to get smarter and be a lot more efficient.”

Rokita Again

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita panders to those who are against teaching history. His choice is to further polarize the electorate in order to increase his chance for the office of Governor. Sadly, it just might work.

From Sheila Kennedy
The entire “Parents Bill of Rights” is a “look at me–I’m with you” message to the angry and misinformed parents who have descended on school board meetings to demand a curriculum with which they can feel comfortable. I will refrain from characterizing their desired curriculum, except to note that historical accuracy and civics education–especially study of the First and Fourteenth Amendments (Separation of Church and State and the Equal Protection clause)– are not what they are demanding.

If we’re looking for the causes of “polarization,” we need look no farther than Rokita, the lawmakers who agree with him, and the parents that they and the other Republican culture warriors are gleefully manipulating.

I would love to believe that the transparency of Rokita’s pandering, along with his other off-putting behaviors, will repel Indiana voters and dash his gubernatorial ambitions. He is, after all, held in considerable disdain among Hoosier politicos– very much including Republican ones.

But this is Indiana.


Missouri Parent to Legislature: Don’t Defund Our Rural Schools with Charters and Vouchers

More vouchers...this time in Missouri.

From Diane Ravitch
From Public Voices for Public Schools

I tell you the story of rural schools because we are in a fight to keep our public schools funded and open in Missouri. In my state, we are 49th in funding for public schools. We don’t provide public schools with enough for the basics. The state funds just 32% of schools’ budgets, which means that residents must pay for the bulk of their local school expenses through property taxes. That means that our system is highly inequitable. The defunding of Missouri public schools has happened over the last decade, but has been on warp speed in the last five years. The school funding formula was adjusted to lower the amount a few years back, meaning we lowered the funding bar to be able to claim we met the bar. And now, even more bad news for Missouri rural schools: a voucher scheme.


I Teach Banned Books

Should parent groups be allowed to ban books in public schools? Do parents have the right to choose what other parents' students read? What if I want to ban a book that you don't want to? 

That's what we have school boards and book adoption committees for!

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
If you want people to do something, forbid them from doing it.

As a middle school language arts teacher, that’s always worked for me.

Many of my students are reluctant readers.

If a text is longer than a Tweet or a YouTube description, most of them would rather skip it.

And when it comes to books, many of them wouldn’t intentionally crack one open under any circumstances.

Unless you tell them not to.

Unless you point out a specific book on the shelf and say it’s off limits.

Unless you open it up right in front of them before quickly snatching it away and saying, “Oops! I forgot! We can’t read that one!”

So most of my curriculum is made up of banned books.

The Giver, Silent to the Bone, The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill a Mockingbird – all forbidden in one place or another.

Just not in my district.

In fact, my school board has included each of these books on the approved reading list.

That doesn’t mean I have to use them.


A Reminder About The Uselessness Of Test Scores

Do test scores tell us anything? 

From Curmudgucation
As we move through the latest stage of the pandemic in schools, we still get a lot of noise about how we Really Need to get those Big Standardized Test scores collected and crunched, because only then can we address Learning Loss or Pandemic Stumble or general Falling Behind.

In doing so, we once again make the same old mistake of trying to use Big Standardized Test scores as a measure of future success (at its most extreme in the "students will suffer with years or lost earnings" think pieces). There is no particular reason to believe this is true...

In other words, a rich kid who drops out of high school has as much a chance of success as a poor kid who graduates from college.

There are plenty of theories about why this is so. A Georgetown study concluded that early tests scores are less predictive of future success than socio-economic status. Those researchers point to an idea that echoes the issue of social capital that Robert Putnam explores in Our Kids-- that wealthier families have connections that both help locate opportunities for children (My kid really likes ponies, and I know a guy who runs a stable) as well as providing a safety net. As the Georgetown report puts it
When students from affluent families stumble, they have a softer landing and assistance getting back on track, while those in adverse environments are more likely to land on rocky ground and never recover.

**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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