Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tony Bennett’s policies have narrowed the curriculum to Math and English/Language Arts.

Tony Bennett's  focus on high stakes testing has put a huge priority on the two subjects schools must score well in for a high grade.   Even survival as a school is at stake under the threat of state closure or takeover.  Going further in this campaign, Tony Bennett has proposed state takeovers of whole school districts based on math and English/Language Arts scores.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Closing a Public School what Tony Bennett Calls a Beautiful Day

--Tony Bennett, Superintendent of Public Schools, 
September 2010.

--Michael Milken, venture capitalist billionaire, 
convicted felon for racketeering and securities fraud, 
established controversial  K12 company

State Superintendent Tony Bennett has received nearly 1.5 million dollars in campaign donations, but only a handful cannot be traced to the corporate school reform movement.  These donors are not acting out of benevolence to Hoosier children.  Through recent changes in the law, charter schools are manipulating real estate purchases then extorting rent from the public tax payer.

Estimates are Bennett will "grade" more than 20% of schools  in serious need of improvement or failing.  This ploy is so the Indiana Department of Education can hand over these schools to charter corporations.  One can easily imagine that at the end of his tenure as superintendent, Bennett will be richly rewarded.

Hoosiers, don't be charter fooled.  What most people want from charter schools is simply what we should want from all public schools.  Instead, Bennett's system of charters do not outperform public schools and simultaneously weaken the public school system.  As John Kuhn demonstrates
Our nation’s model charters haven’t cracked a code for educating inner city students; they have cracked a code for isolating motivated inner city students and parents who see education as a way out of poverty, and filtering out the rest. 
…When they hold up choice and charters as our nation’s panacea, their sleight of hand may temporarily obstruct our view of the kids left out on the sidewalk, the kids unwelcome in their brave new dynamic, but it doesn’t disappear them from the face of the earth.

Tony Bennett's strategy for improving pubic education is not a "public" solution at all. It excludes and shuffles poorer students around like a hustler with a shell game.  All the while, Bennett continues to open markets to his corporate sponsors while never once addressing that Governor Daniels  cut $300 million dollars from the state's educational budget, or that nearly 25% of Hoosier Children now live in poverty.  

Hoosiers must recognize that Tony Bennett's charter school solution is nothing more than a bit of trickery: it funnels public tax dollars to big corporations while providing an illusion of choice to Hoosier families.

Glenda Ritz is Bennett's challenger.  She is in favor of restricting charter school distinctions and reining in the corporate siphoning of public education tax dollars.

Please talk with neighbors and friends who are not familiar with education issues to enlist their support for Glenda Ritz.  That is a vital step to counteract the enormous advantage in TV advertising held by Tony Bennett and his campaign that has been so well funded by those profiteering from Hoosier education.  Your actions will make all the difference if Glenda Ritz is going to win in this grassroots campaign. 


Below are just a few of the stories of Bennett's phony reform plan.

My last post described my concerns about one charter school application, Nexus Academy of Indianapolis, that seems to be more about profits and expansion than meeting educational needs of a community. Another similar charter school type is also being proposed during this Fall 2012 charter application cycle called Premier High School by Responsive Education Solutions, Inc

A Teacher's Fight
October 14, 2012

If a number of schools in a single district fail, Bennett says the state’s takeover model may be expandable.

“I think that is a discussion I hope the General Assembly has in 2013 is how we address systemic failure of districts,” (Bennett) says.

September 3, 2012 
Indiana Public Media

"I'm fed up," (parent, Kelly Shafer) said. "For somebody who supported Charter Schools USA and believed in them, they have lost my trust and respect. It breaks my heart." 

In general, parents and others do not believe Charter Schools USA has done enough to ensure safety at the Eastside school. Hallways are chaotic. Fights have broken out. 

Beyond that, Shaffer says her daughter's health class had no permanent teacher for six weeks, and what was supposed to be an Advanced Placement calculus class was folded into a college preparatory calculus section. She also said about a half-dozen teachers have quit.

--by Scott Elliot
September 21, 2012, IndyStar

In his university lectures on business ethics, Dennis Bakke, President and CEO of Imagine Charter Schools,  often says that “leadership is about… freeing people to make decisions,” but his actions running over 70 public charter schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia shows that money and control are the main issues, not civil rights or children’s educational or safety issues.

Headquartered in Virginia, Bakke often sends his people into poverty-stricken areas in big U.S. cities, hand-picks a school board to use Imagine’s non-profit branch to become a charter school, then uses Schoolhouse Finance, Imagine’s for-profit real estate affiliate, to buy the school buildings.  Then Schoolhouse Finance charges the school rent, which is sometimes nearly 40 percent of the school’s overall budget.  Or, as is the case with Imagine Schools’ selling of 27 school buildings for $206 million to Entertainment Properties Trust, a real estate owner of theaters, Imagine leases back the buildings and then subleases them to the charter school holders. If anyone on the school boards, or in the schools themselves, protests, Imagine quickly gets rid of them.

But Bennett, an unabashed charter-school supporter, also stands to benefit directly if the education bills are approved. His wife, Tina Bennett, is school improvement/new schools development consultant for the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association. Her work would presumably increase with the opening of new Indiana charter schools.

Tina Bennett is also assistant director of the Teach for America program at Marian University in Indianapolis. Marian's president is Daniel J. Elsener, who also happens to serve on the Indiana State Board of Education.

The small Catholic university was awarded a $500,000 principal training grant from the Indiana Department of Education last year. A spokeswoman for Tony Bennett told the Indianapolis Star at the time that the superintendent's wife wasn't involved in the program, but the contract proposal cites Marian's partnership with Teach for America as an example of prior leadership in the area of school turnaround programs.

February 7, 2011, Journal Gazette

If you are willing to believe that the market will solve school quality problems you must also believe that, by its nature, the market will also bring Hoosier school children and our education system racketeering, security fraud, and insider scandals.  They always accompany each other. In fact, under Tony Bennett, it's already here.

Even More Resources

Charter schools appear to have about 17% high achieving, 46% average, and 37% low achieving characteristics when compared to public schools.

charter schools were substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition, and language. While charter schools have rapidly grown, the strong segregative pattern found in 2001 is virtually unchanged through 2007.

Many states appear committed, then, to contradictorypolicies: Increasing charter schools and thus their autonomy while decreasing public school autonomy within an accountability system that prescribes curriculum and expands the testing regime.


A Teacher's Fight
Reflections on teaching from my experiences as a 6th grade public school teacher and 5th grade charter school teacher in Indiana.

Excellent resource about charter school myths from Massachusetts.  Hilarious.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Out of the Frying Pan (REPA), and into the Fire (REPA II)

Update October 5th, 2012:  The REPA II hearing  took place in June where about 30 people spoke against the plan.  No one supported it.  Tony Bennett was not there to listen.  In fact, only one member of the state board was present to hear concerns.

REPA II was expected to be acted upon in August, but the vote was delayed until December.  Since it seems the first hearing was purposely held after most schools dismissed and teachers would be left unaware, one must wonder if the August vote was purposely delayed so this bill can quietly pass after the election.

June 8th

This summer, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) is recommending even more changes to the Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability (REPA II) despite warning cries again from all directions; State Superintendents, Indiana’s Music and Art teachers, advocates for special education, and the Dean of Education at Indiana University, who recognizes REPA II as "nothing less than the de-professionalization of teaching."

To start at the beginning, in 2010 the IDOE passed REPA.  REPA originated from flawed sources: The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) grade of “D” for Hoosier teacher preparedness; the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirement for “highly effective teacher training”; and Race to the Top (RttT) requirements to compete for federal funds.

Tony Bennett: An Indiana Fiasco


That is the best description of the way Tony Bennett is implementing his A-F system for school letter grades.  If you think fiasco is too strong a word, consider the following facts:

1)    On August 30th at the State Board meeting, Tony Bennett announced that the preliminary grades which were to be given to schools that day were not ready but would be delayed until September 10th.

2)    On Sept. 10th, a memo announced a further delay.  Preliminary grades were finally released to schools on Sept. 19th --- 21 days late.
3)    On Sept. 19th, schools began checking the state's student data lists against their own lists to prepare possible appeals which were due by Oct. 3rd.  One superintendent told me it would take three staff members working full time for two weeks to check all the data.

4)    On Sept. 20th, the data websites suddenly disappeared for several hours.  It was later learned that corrections were being made by IDOE.

5)    On Sept. 21st, Friday, late in the afternoon, a whole new set of revised preliminary grades were posted to schools.  Local officials who had been checking the data lists for two days had to start over.  Fiasco. The appeals deadline was not extended.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Contextual Accountability

John Kuhn, a Superintendent of Public Schools in Texas, unveils not only the charter school myth but also why new teacher evaluation schemes will not work in this piece that calls out  faux reformers.

Every school is a microcosm of the community it serves—that is, every school that serves any and all students in the neighborhood. Peaceful schools are nestled in peaceful environs. If there are drugs or violence in the streets, educators will contend with drugs and violence working their way into the school like crickets through unseen cracks. If there are racist or misogynistic attitudes in the homes, they will manifest themselves on campus. And so it goes. If there is materialism, superiority, entitlement, narcissism, coldness, anti-intellectualism, vanity, laziness, or greed ensconced in the hearts of the parents or grandparents or neighbors or pastors or businessmen or family friends who act out their human dialogues in the public space shared with students, then students will bring traces of those attitudes with them into class and the air will hang with secondhand dysfunction.

Educators spend entire careers—some without even realizing it—trying to accentuate and play off of students’ positive outside influences and minimize or at least sidestep their negative ones, just to prepare the groundwork so they can teach their content. Teaching doesn’t happen in a vacuum, an obvious fact which bears repeating only because it’s so common to hear people go on and on about teacher quality as the ultimate driver of student learning. Too many experts spout the mogul-endorsed “no excuses” mantra reflexively when the conversation turns to the context of student lives, and in so doing effectively refuse to talk seriously about the increasingly debilitating conditions of that context.

As though it doesn’t matter. As though it needn’t be tended to. As though a serious education can occur no matter what is going on there. “Poverty isn’t destiny” is trite and meaningless and pretends to honor poor kids for their wide-open potential while actually disrespecting their experiences and neglecting to patch their holes; it posits that there is no such phenomenon as generational need and that neither public policy nor wealth distribution warrants consideration as a contributing factor in the formation of American kids. Poverty is water in the gas tank of education, but its apologists facilely condemn a pit crew of teachers who—not allowed to say the water won’t combust—are pushing sputtering lives, but not fast enough, around a track where youthful suburban rockets whiz by in their mall rat garb.

Meanwhile, high-performing charter schools are portrayed as having cracked the code when it comes to educating poor inner city students. In reality, the quiet secret to their trumpeted success is simply a strategic divorce of cultures. Via lottery-purified enrollment, high-hurdled parent involvement, and hair-trigger expulsions, the highest of the high-performers embrace select children from the neighborhood while flatly rejecting the broad sweep of the neighborhood’s culture, preferring to substitute their own pre-manufactured culture-like products. Culture goes to neighborhood schools; it is there that we see the health or frailties our nation’s policies have wrought in our neediest zip codes. Tragically, creatively-selective charter schools portend national blindness to the suffering our policies foster.

This is, of course, far less inspirational than the heroic charter school packaging we see on Education Nation’s store shelves. Our nation’s model charters haven’t cracked a code for educating inner city students; they have cracked a code for isolating motivated inner city students and parents who see education as a way out of poverty, and filtering out the rest. They do this by implementing exclusionary practices not available to traditional schools. Charters are free to purify their campuses of undesirable test scores, and the media will reliably gloss over attrition rates and highlight academic results that have been fully uprooted from the context that saddles every nearby traditional public school. Ultimately, the hope of the school reformer is tangled up in a knot with non-universal education. When they hold up choice and charters as our nation’s panacea, their sleight of hand may temporarily obstruct our view of the kids left out on the sidewalk, the kids unwelcome in their brave new dynamic, but it doesn’t disappear them from the face of the earth. After charters capitalize on the manipulation of context, that context still exists and it still has a name and a face and a future. The media ulimately asks us to pretend that shuffling ruffians fixes them, that a shell game with troubled kids is something noble, is “the answer.” But context will win out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Study: Students from high schools with improving ISTEP scores perform no better on ACT exams

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A study published this week in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching covering thousands of Indiana high school seniors from three graduating classes finds that students at schools showing consistent improvement on the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress exam performed no better on the ACT science and math college entrance exams than classmates from declining schools.

Click here to read entire article at the original source.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ISTEP + Scores Released: Winners and Losers Announced

Tony Bennett, Superintendent of Public Schools in Indiana, is using student tests scores this election year to be the big winner after ISTEP results were released July 10th.  The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) homepage boasts Hoosier Students Set New Performance Records”.
Indiana’s students earned another year of record breaking scores on the Indiana Statewide Testing for Education Progress Plus (ISTEP+), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett announced today … “More students are getting a world class education in our schools.”

Bennett translates improved scores on the ISTEP as “getting a world class education.” Ironically, the opposite is true.