Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #20– July 8, 2014

Dear Friends,

Governor Pence is ready to lower the boom on State Superintendent Ritz at tomorrow’s State Board of Education meeting.

Perhaps he is miffed that the State Superintendent brought up a reading assessment proposal at the recent Roundtable meeting that he opposed. Perhaps he hasn’t gotten over the 2012 election.

A resolution entitled “Resolution Regarding Amendments to Meeting Procedures” would remove the powers of the State Superintendent to determine the location and date of meetings and to make rulings as the chair.

Apparently, the election is still being contested by the Governor and by members of the State Board who instead of respecting the decisions of Superintendent Ritz as the elected State Superintendent are attempting to diminish her powers rather than abide by her judgments as a duly elected official.

This is a direct threat to our electoral system in our democracy. The Governor and several State Board members are acting as if they are unaware of the concept that when voters empower an official by electing them, that elected official’s judgments and policies deserve respect until the next election.
[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.]
The Election of 2012 and the Election of 2016

It is hard to know whether opponents are still fighting the election of 2012 or preparing positions for the election of 2016 by trying to make Superintendent Ritz look weak.

The “Resolution Regarding Amendments to Meeting Procedures” would strip several powers of the State Superintendent and give them to “Board staff”, a concept that didn’t exist last year on the 4th of July and was put in place without any policy review or approvals by the Indiana General Assembly. Governor Pence created “Board staff” by cobbling together $6 million dollars in the already passed state budget and creating the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI) by executive fiat.

There was controversy about when to have a special meeting of the State Board in June. When it was held on June 23rd, disagreements erupted over a resolution brought by Brad Oliver who wanted to insert State Board oversight at the last minute over the federal waiver which the Indiana Department of Education was preparing for submission on June 30th. Superintendent Ritz denied the addition to the agenda on procedural grounds. Instead of accepting her ruling, the Governor and State Board members want to change the procedures so that she can never rule against them in the future.

Based on that confrontation, Governor Pence proposes the following specific changes to be voted on tomorrow, July 9th:
  • “Board staff” instead of “The Chair” shall “determine the location of the meetings”.
  • “Special meetings will be held at a date and time convenient to the members and at a location determined” by “Board staff” instead by “the Chair.”
  • The procedure for appealing a ruling “applies to all actions and decisions otherwise addressed in these Board Meeting Procedures, including but not limited to, calling a special meeting or the addition of agenda items.”
  • Any dispute about the interpretation of Board Meeting procedures will be settled immediately by a vote “during the meeting in which the dispute arose and may not be delayed to a future meeting.”
  • The current Ad Hoc committee procedure to revise Meeting Procedures is deleted.
The complete resolution and the redline change of Meeting Procedures can be seen on this link:


It is easy to see why State Board members want these changes. They want to win every battle. They believe they know better than Superintendent Ritz, and they want to prevail. They want the power of the Chair.

It is not as easy to see why Governor Pence wants to raise this highly partisan battle at this time.
  • · Does he think that crushing the powers of the lone Democrat in the Statehouse will bolster his presidential credentials with the right wing of his party?
  • · Is he trying to punish Superintendent Ritz for speaking out for reading assessments at the recent Education Roundtable meeting and forcing him to publicly oppose the proposal?
  • · Is this payback to Superintendent Ritz because her financial officials recently announced that Governor Pence’s voucher expansion program is no longer a money saver for the state but instead has become a new net fiscal expense costing $15.8 million?
From his point of view, the voters put a thorn in his side, and now he is trying to weak it and remove it to the extent possible.

Governor Pence has already demonstrated that he favors private school over public schools. He has already signed a budget giving public schools historically low funding for non-recession eras (only 1% increase in the current year, far less than the current official 2.1% cost of living increase) leaving many public schools in dire financial condition. The list of electoral talking points is growing if he now wants to take out the powers of the duly elected State Superintendent.

Make no mistake: Governors have great power. He could stop this assault on the power of the State Superintendent overnight if he wanted to. If his super majority is ready to crush one of their few opponents, he could call off the dogs. The fact that he hasn’t done so is telling.

Perhaps in the glorious buzz of a presidential run for Governor Pence he has forgotten that Superintendent Ritz got 1.3 million votes, more than he did, in the 2012 election. She has many supporters who trust her judgments in helping Indiana students achieve. They know that she is a skilled educator and not a long term politician. They know that she has been surrounded by political opponents from Day 1 in the Statehouse and many of her policy initiatives have not even been given a fair hearing.

Only time will tell if this highly partisan attack in the middle of July will succeed. July is traditionally the month when the State Board takes a break and does not even hold a meeting. This group does not take a vacation. Perhaps they think with so many people on a July break, no one will notice what they do to the powers of the elected State Superintendent.

Contact the Governor and State Board Members

The State Board meeting where this resolution will be considered is tomorrow, July 9th at 9am in the Government Center South. If you feel strongly about keeping the current powers of the Chair in the hands of the State Superintendent, contact members of the State Board and the Governor today.

Urge them to respect the wishes of over 1.3 million Hoosiers who voted to give Glenda Ritz the powers of the office, not thinking that political attempts would be made to undermine and reduce the authority of the State Superintendent. This partisan plan is unseemly for the supermajority to pursue and could backfire on them politically. Urge them to withdraw this resolution.

Tell them you respect Superintendent Ritz as our elected State Superintendent, and they should too. Tell them if the supermajority in Indiana acts to crush the powers of the State Superintendent, it will be long remembered by the fair-minded voters of Indiana who want education policy to made with respect for duly elected officials and without partisan rancor.

Please send your messages today. In addition, it would be a good idea to send copies to members of the General Assembly. They are supposed to have a strong hand in education policy, and they like to keep hyper-partisanship out of the education arena.

Glenda Ritz strongly supports public education. Thanks for working to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com 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.


Vic’s Statehouse Notes #180 – July 8, 2014

Dear Friends,

The banned metrics of measuring student growth by comparisons with peers are back again. Despite a law getting rid of them, the State Board will vote on a resolution tomorrow to use them another year.

HEA 1427 was passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2013 saying that the A-F system in Indiana “may not be based on a measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.” This culminated a three year effort to fix the flawed A-F system by rejecting the use of bell curve statistics in assessing student growth and by measuring the growth of students against fixed criteria.

Now, a resolution brought by State Board member Brad Oliver is on the July 9th State Board agenda which, among other topics, would use peer comparisons to measure growth again in 2014-15.

It is as if the General Assembly didn’t pass HEA 1427 at all. How can the State Board continue to ignore the law?

I urge you to contact State Board members before their July 9th meeting to say that the “Resolution Regarding ESEA Waiver Compliance” is wrong on growth and should be withdrawn.

Evading the Law

I and others have been campaigning against the unfairness of judging growth through comparisons to statewide peers since 2011. I rejoiced when the Indiana General Assembly passed the following language in 2013 in HEA 1427, Section 5:
“Not later than November 15, 2013, the state board shall establish new categories or designations of school performance under the requirements of this chapter to replace 511 IAC 6.2-6. The new standards of assessing school performance:
(1) must be based on a measurement of individual student academic performance and growth to proficiency; and
(2) may not be based on a measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.
511 IAC 6.2-6 is void on the effective date of the emergency or final rules adopted under this section.”
I thought the law would actually be implemented, but state board members have resisted. State Board Secretary Dan Elsener has stated many times in meetings his support of the current system that the General Assembly tried to void. Now the Oliver resolution breathes more life into the flawed growth measure using the following language: (this is but a small part of the resolution with many controversial points)

“WHEREAS, Dr. Damian Betebenner, an associate at The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment in Dover, New Hampshire, who advised Indiana on the creation of the Indiana Growth Model, and who is under contract with the SBOE to advise on modifications to the state’s A-F school accountability system, has found that growth may be calculated utilizing data from the2014-2015 ISTEP+ assessment using an equi-percentile concordance analysis that will be both valid and reliable.
  • Per SBOE regulation, 511 IAC 6.2-6 shall be followed for the A-F School Accountability System for federal and state accountability purposes;
  • Growth in 2014-15 shall be calculated according to the methodology recommended by Dr. Damian Betebenner and approved by the SBOE;”
Dr. Betebenner has described in a report that his recommendation is based on Student Growth Percentiles, the same methodology Dr. Bennett put in the A-F system that the General Assembly tried to void due to the peer comparisons used.

Dr. Betebenner devised the system that the General Assembly rejected. Of course he is going to say that it is just fine.

This resolution shows that the State Board has made no progress in getting Indiana to criterion-referenced comparisons for growth as the General Assembly asked for and as we all should ask for.

Send a Message

I urge you to send a message today to State Board members with a copy to your legislators. The message is that the “Resolution Regarding ESEA Waiver Compliance” has not been vetted and should be withdrawn. It tries to reverse the General Assembly’s action in HEA 1427 to remove peer comparisons from Indiana’s growth model.

The entire proposed resolution with all of its controversies can be seen on this link:


It is astonishing that the State Board is ignoring the call for fair comparisons in Indiana’s growth model. The growth of every student should be measured based on fixed criterion measures, not on Student Growth Percentiles or any other metric where growth can vary based on how peers across the state perform.

Your messages make a big difference. Thanks for participating! Please keep up your steadfast support of fair metrics to judge the performance of public schools!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE has worked since 2011 to support public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. The new ICPE membership year began July 1, 2014 and extends through June 30, 2015. We need your membership to help pay the bills for ICPE lobbying efforts. It is time for all of our supporters to renew for the new membership year. I urge you to go to our website today to renew your membership. Thank you!

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session. We need 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 www.icpe2011.com 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.

Monday, July 7, 2014

CALL TO ACTION: Tell the Governor, State Board of Education, and your legislators to allow Superintendent Glenda Ritz to do her job

Reposted from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education--Monroe County and South Central Indiana
When over 1,300,000 Indiana voters of both parties elected Glenda Ritz for state superintendent of public instruction it was a clear message that we wanted change in education. However, Gov. Pence, his appointed state board and the supermajority in our state legislature have spent the last two and a half years denying that mandate and throwing roadblocks in Ritz’s way.

We have watched in amazement as our state legislature continued the attack on public education and even introduced bills to take away Ritz’s authority. When these bills failed, we were outraged to see our governor use his executive power to create a second, shadow department of education, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, using millions of our taxpayer dollars.

This blatant usurping of Ritz’s authority and continual disrespect to the voters is now to be compounded by new rules being put forth tomorrow, July 9th, which replaces responsibilities of the chair (Ritz) with the “board staff” or CECI for creating agenda items and procedures.

Granted, it is a difficult situation to have a publicly elected superintendent and her department of education try to work effectively with a state board of education and a SECOND department of education who are tasked with the corporate reform agenda of the governor. The addition of an expensive, unnecessary education department chaired by Claire Fiddian-Greene (who is not an educator) further complicates the situation. All concerned claim to be “for the kids” yet one side represents a democratic process; the other represents an undermining of that process.

It would seem that our legislators who sit passively by and allow our children to be pawns in this political game are ignoring our message in allowing the governor and many of his state board members to void our votes.

Let us be clear:

We voted for Glenda Ritz because we believe that public education is the cornerstone of our democracy.

We voted for Glenda Ritz because we believe that public tax dollars belong in public schools.

We voted for Glenda Ritz because we believe in the profession of teaching and that educators, not politicians, should make policy decisions.

We voted for Glenda Ritz because we know that testing does not equal teaching and that our children are suffering under the use of tests as punishments to schools, teachers and kids within.

We voted for Glenda Ritz most of all because we know that these politicians, fed by their donors, care more about turning our schools into a for-profit venture where the dollar, not the child, is the bottom line.

How can we support Glenda Ritz and reinforce our votes and get our message across? Vote wisely this fall. In the meantime:

Contact Governor Pence: http://in.gov/gov/2333.htm

Contact the SBOE members: http://www.in.gov/sboe/2527.htm and http://www.in.gov/sboe/2423.htm

Contact your state legislators: https://capwiz.com/nea/in/home/

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Look at Education Policy

This four minute excerpt is the final part of a talk by Joshua Katz. Watch the full length original, TheToxic Culture of Education, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnC6IABJXOI#t=84

Text for above from Opt Out Orlando (not an exact transcript).
How do we address this on a large scale? I believe in Horace Mann’s 1850′s vision of an education system that can improve mankind. In public education, we have an amazing opportunity to mold a better future. What we are currently doing is so toxic and I have two solutions that would be better. I’m not a fan of this idea, but it would be better than what is happening now: we could completely defund public education and put the 750 billion dollars back in our pockets. No more taxpayer money going to private companies in the name of public education and on the heads of our students. Because let me tell you, it isn’t reaching our classrooms and students and it’s certainly not reaching the teachers. The second plan, which I am in support of, is to double down on public education. Eliminate the toxic policies and the corruption in profit flow. Get the money more directly to the students. Allow them to be successful, focus on them, on their non-cognitive factors, on their abilities. Train and allow the teachers to work with their students and assess their students on what they truly need to know: thinking, reasoning, and learning. I believe in the potential greatness of a public education system DONE RIGHT. In fact, most of my colleagues do as well.

Speaking of my colleagues…what about all the talk about teachers? The public narrative, thanks to “education reformers” like Michelle Rhee and Bill Gates, paints a picture that our schools are teeming with horrible teachers. Most teachers are accomplishing amazing feats of human achievement and motivation with their students. What teachers are able to accomplish is being done in a “professional” environment of questioning, belittling, and self doubt due to “accountability” measures for ALL teachers because “teachers can’t be fired”. If you want to compare education to business, check out HR and employee relations. Companies empower employees, encourage employee growth, believe in employee morale, and reward employee success. Yet in our toxic culture, we call a teacher “successful” IF AND ONLY IF students can score well on a 4 hour computer based test. We evaluate teachers based on what is written on their boards or hung up on their walls, or spotted by an administrator with an iPad in a three minute observation. We blame teachers for students who are hungry, homeless, without guidance, or without character. I don’t even need to mention teacher pay. You cannot measure how successful a teacher truly is in the life of a student! How do you measure when a teacher acts as mental health counselor for a student that has suffered a family loss? How do you measure when a student is able to eat dinner only because a teacher is paying for it? How do you measure a student learning something new based on immediate feedback from an assignment because the teacher stayed up until midnight the night before grading papers? How do you measure when a teacher spends thousands of dollars of their own money to have supplies in their classrooms? And we blame the teachers for accountability policies they had no place in creating.

Why not develop a system that invests in the teachers’ relationship with the students? Why not invest directly in the students? Why not encourage teachers to create their own assessment systems to fit their students’ needs? Why not allow them to collaborate with one another or at least have a peer review system to better serve their students (like in other professions)? Why not involve them in the policy making decisions at the school level, the district level, the state level, the national level?

The truth about education policy is that it is written and enforced by people who have either spent little or no time in the classroom with the students that these very policies affect. Why not allow the individuals in direct contact with students to mold and shape the environment of the students? Education is the only industry that is developing a product without any valid market research from its users! Students aren’t asked what they want or need. Teachers aren’t asked what would work for their students. Teachers are not the enemy: it’s the private companies like Pearson and interest groups like ALEC, that write policies and laws that are passed over steak dinners with words like “accountability” and “rigor” to perpetuate their bottom lines on the heads of our students. Follow the money: of all the tax dollars that go into education, how much goes directly to students? How much goes directly to a teacher’s relationship with students (which by the way are another leading indicator of student success)? Compare that to how much goes to private companies for materials and resources, as well as bureaucracy? Just follow the money.

We must change the public narrative on education. We must fight our Toxic Culture! We must end high stakes testing for the sake of “accountability”. Let’s have education policy that builds up our students with sensible human standards instead of fitting them into robotic boxes for “college readiness”. Let’s focus on getting students out there in the evolving global economy. Let’s focus on teaching them the important things: how to read, how to think, how to research, how to reason, how to master basic skills, and how to be good citizens. Let’s talk about the Non-Cognitive factors that are the true measures of student achievement: persistence, integrity, character.

Let’s teach them how to learn and how to innovate, NOT how to take tests. We must change the focus of our Toxic Culture away from curriculum, teachers, and schools, and WE MUST focus on our students!

Let’s stop measuring fish by how well they climb trees.
Joshua Katz is a high school math teacher in Orange County, FL.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Time to Focus on the Students

This four minute excerpt is the third part of a talk by Joshua Katz. We'll post the last part next week. Watch the full length original, TheToxic Culture of Education, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnC6IABJXOI#t=84

Text for above from Opt Out Orlando (not an exact transcript).
Our main focus is on the schools, on the teachers, on the curriculum. We need to start paying attention to our students. If a student fails Algebra 1 in the ninth grade, chances are it is not because they do not understand the material. Chances are it’s not because the teacher isn’t teaching. Chances are it’s not because of the school. Chances are it is because the student lacks some type of intangible characteristic (a “Non-Cognitive Behavior”) that enables them to succeed. Things like persistence, initiative, social skills, common sense, a full belly, or a good night’s sleep. However, none of these things are considered in our definition of “student achievement”. None of these things are considered in our policies.

All the talk about failing schools and failing teachers and how to improve teachers and improve schools NEEDS to be changed to failing students and how to improve students. How can we help them to be better students? How can we help them to be better people? How can we help them with these Non-Cognitive factors like integrity and work ethic? How can we feed them? Give them a place to sleep? It’s the public narrative that needs to be shifted. We have to discuss what is happening with our students, even the Honors students. Because right now we are simply creating a massive population of future citizens who are afraid to attempt anything challenging, unable to read or think critically, or unable to find ways to earn a meaningful income, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Right now, our system pushes ALL students to study abstract classes in order to be “college ready”. We throw around buzzwords like “rigor” and “STEM”. It sounds good, right?

The reality is that the word “rigor” has completely replaced the word “relevant”. I met with our district and pitched an idea to bring back Home Economics, but this time as a math credit. First words in the response: “it’s not rigorous”. So, forget relevance. Forget teaching students about measurements, about taxes and discounts, about loans, about debt, event planning, or the reality of fractions. It’s not as rigorous as Factoring Trinomials and Graphing Logarithms, so it can’t fit. There’s no room for it in our Toxic Culture of Education. There’s also no room for the arts and for imagination, which are being systematically removed from schools. There is no profit in that, either.

We have felt the effects of our education policies. There are thousands of highly skilled jobs that are currently vacant. There is opportunity for small business development and innovation like never before. And we are relying on highly skilled immigrants. But where are our graduates?

There is an ENORMOUS opportunity in our economy for our students, but we just don’t enable it in our schools because we are focusing on “college ready” and “rigor”.

If we focus our attention on getting students the resources they need in order to find their place in the community, the economy, THOSE students would value education more highly, use their time more wisely, and make better decisions outside of school. Let’s keep the college bound students going to college. They need to continue their path, but we need them to be more successful and more innovative. But what about THOSE students?

I have students that want to be tattoo artists, mechanics, and barbers. They want work, some want to open their own businesses. But..they are THOSE students. They consistently fail classes and get themselves in trouble in school, and may not graduate. So I say: let’s scrap Algebra for them and teach them some tangible skills (like we did in the system before it was labeled as a “failure”). Let’s get them out there making a living for themselves, rather than spending another $10,000 in tax money to pay for another year of school for them to learn how to factor trinomials, which they won’t. Why Not get them into the economy?
Joshua Katz is a high school math teacher in Orange County, FL.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Missing the Mark in Education Reform

This three minute excerpt is the second part of a talk by Joshua Katz. We'll post the last 2 parts over the next few weeks. Watch the full length original, TheToxic Culture of Education, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnC6IABJXOI#t=84

Text for above from Opt Out Orlando (not an exact transcript).
How can we possibly believe standardized testing accurately measures student achievement? How can it measure student growth? How can it measure that “a-ha” moment when a student’s light is finally lit? That moment when a student says “thank you” for helping him graduate with a 2.0 GPA? That moment when a student athlete works hard in study hall and finally gets a C in her class because her coach helped? How can we attach a number to that moment when a 5th grader finally has the ability to write his own name (who is labeled a failure for himself, his teacher, AND his school)? But we crave education standardization, we believe we need high stakes testing, and we eat up misinformation provided by companies using test results with no validity.

Our testing culture begins in elementary school. Colleagues of mine deal with third graders who are suffering from anxiety for standardized testing. From a one-day, 4 hour, computer-based test, the future path of the student is set, the academic identity is established, and the message is delivered loud and clear: either you CAN make it, or you CAN’T make it. No matter what the teacher tells them about how good they are or what talents they have, if they don’t score well on that test, they know what it means. They define themselves. In the third grade. It’s starting to happen in kindergarten.

So these students continue testing, continue failing, and the districts continue new initiatives that can solve the problem. Who makes these products? Who has these solutions? Our super villain. Companies like Pearson and McGraw Hill which operate on legislation and policy written by private lobbying groups like ALEC. Buy the next textbook, the next workbook, the next software package. I’ve been through four Algebra textbooks in seven years. And that’s where the schools and districts are spending all the money. And we stick to the standardized test (guess who makes those?).

We illogically attempt to compare education to business, we ignore the impact of poverty and hunger, we pay no attention the non cognitive factors that are realistic predictors and measures of student success, and that way, we can place the blame on the teachers and schools. And because we have a Toxic Culture of Education, policies, teachers, and schools have accepted accountability for students, including all THOSE students. We take the blame for a student that has no moral compass. We take the blame for a student that cannot focus because he hasn’t eaten since yesterday’s lunch. We take the blame for a student that cannot stay awake in class because she spends her nights on a different couch, depending on which friend takes her in. When those students don’t “score well”, we get blamed. And we take it. We accept it. Because we love the kids. We are the only ones protecting them from this Toxic Culture of Education.

And what do we do as a system? Our only interest in education “reform” is to create policies that include additional standardized testing, to place higher stresses on teachers and students, and continue the picture of failure so private companies can sell the answer. And all this ignores highly publicized and easily available data on effective policy-making and effective practices. And it’s about to get worse. The Common Core will do more damage its high-stakes test (not to mention its myopic standards masked in a guise of “critical thinking” which is just developmentally inappropriate “rote”. I see my daughter’s work in the first grade. They ain’t fooling me). Any education reform that does not address high stakes testing and the non-cognitive factors of true student achievement, like character and personal habits, is a waste of time and it kills our kids.
Joshua Katz is a high school math teacher in Orange County, FL.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Outrageous Shortcut to Teaching

NEIFPE member Terry Springer responds to REPA III.
I am outraged by the proposal to grant a short cut into teaching that the State Board of Education is now considering. I think I speak with some authority since I hold both a B.A. and M.A. in English and also took the education courses required to earn my license as a teacher in Indiana.

Having a B.A. in English gave me knowledge about literature, writing, and grammar, but it in no way prepared me to teach high school students - and especially struggling students - how to read and analyze novels, poems, essays nor to write about them. I loved my college English classes, but they did not teach me how children learn nor what I needed do to facilitate that learning. The education courses including student teaching did. I still struggled the first year because teaching five classes each with 30 or more students is challenging. That is at least 150 individual personalities with different reading skills and interests. In what other profession, is one person expected to meet the needs of that many people in less than 300 minutes a day? But it is the profession I chose fully aware of the challenge I was accepting.

So I am outraged when the State Board of Education may adopt REPA 3 and grant a short cut to people who have a degree and take a test. I know that it sets the scene for our children to be guinea pigs for those who have not demonstrated that they can teach or that they really understand what will be required of them. They will not have to demonstrate that they can work with kids effectively. The premise that underlies such a program seems to be that having content knowledge supersedes being able to communicate it effectively. The people who want to become teachers in this way may be required to get training in the first two years, but that means that on the first day of school and the second and the third, these people will be flying by the seat of their pants.

Should we not question why anyone would want to take this shortcut?
Obviously, teaching was not their first choice in professions, and certainly, most other professions pay better than teaching. So what motivates these people? Is it not being able to find a job in their chosen profession? Is it the result of downsizing in their previous employment?

There is a system in place for people who want to enter the teaching profession after being in a different profession. It's called Transition to Teaching and those with college degrees in other areas can take classes and do student teaching and thus come into the profession with some understanding of what teaching really involves, of how to teach and of how to manage a classroom. In short, they will have gone through the process of becoming a teacher. Isn't that process required in the education of engineers, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, biologists, accountants? Aren't most college students required to do internships in addition to their classes? Who would go to a doctor who has a degree in English who took a test and was awarded temporarily the right to diagnose health problems and prescribe treatment while he or she got the training to read the results of a blood test or an x-ray in night classes?

Should the State Board of Education pass this short cut, there is a simple way to deal with the people who enter teaching under REPA 3. First, don't hire them. Districts can choose to hire only those who possess conventional teaching licenses awarded because of their degrees and certifications earned in accredited universities. Second, parents can demand that the teachers of their children be licensed in this way. Parents should be vigilant and ask for the credentials of their children's teachers. If the teacher does not possess these credentials, parents can demand that their children be placed with a different teacher.

This demand may be difficult; however, under such circumstances, both the State Board of Education and the school district will have failed in the responsibility to insure to the best of their abilities that qualified teachers are in the classroom.
Do you agree? Click to contact Indiana State Board of Education members.