Thursday, November 8, 2012

Many, many thanks. Goodbye.

To the thousands of passionate parents and educators who I have been connected with through this blog:

Thank you very much.


This blog is not where I choose to dwell.

Though this blog is ending, my work is only beginning elsewhere.
There is still so much to do.

Well meet again.

Next time it will be better.

Why Ritz Won

So many stories are circulating focused on why Tony Bennett lost his rebid for State Superintendent of Public Education in Indiana.  His support for Common Core did him in.  It was the power of  the teachers' unions.  Over-emphasis of standardized testing alarmed parents.  At the most, each story is perhaps a small piece of the puzzle.  More accurately, these pieces represent the perspective of  out-of-state analysts and preservationists of education reform profit schemes.

Here's more to why Ritz won. I believe it to be more truthful than what I've read so far because I witnessed it firsthand. Before the narrative, a little hometown background.

Huntington County, Indiana  is the conservative "hometown" to Vice-President Dan Quayle. In 2012, Bennett received 54% of the vote here, as compared to 66% four years earlier. Given a bit more time, Bennett might  have become the first republican to lose a statewide election here in decades.

How did 2,000 voters in one small county switch to Ritz this year?  Hard work and passionate activism.  Many educators, parents, and those who knew of Bennett's detrimental policies  in this county made contacts with everyone they knew, and even approached strangers to get the word out.  They worked social networks, made phone calls, sent postcards, and communicated the message by all means.  By November, the message was buzzing and growing exponentially.

More importantly, why did this happen?  Every article I have read to date is not only off topic, but repeatedly fails to even mention the most important factor of the election - children.  The group of citizens who worked to elect Ritz  in Huntington, and Ritz herself, did it because they care about all children.

And so it went from county to county as Ritz criss-crossed the state uniting all those concerned about Hoosier children.  Not surprisingly, concern for children turned out to be a non-party issue.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Before the Election for State Superintendent, a Letter Every Hoosier Voter Should Read

Dear Hoosiers,

Over forty articles on my website attest to current state superintendent Tony Bennett's systematic destruction of one of the finest, democratic institutions in Indiana  –  Public Education. With only today, November 5, 2012, before election, this one brief piece sums them up concisely.

Only two types of education "reform" actually exist.  One is to provide incentives to educators, such as allowing academic freedom to teach in meaningful ways (not teaching to a test). The only other real reform is for Indiana to eliminate childhood poverty.  Tony Bennett has never been a leading vocal advocate for impoverished children, if he has even advocated for them at all.

1. Tony Bennett has impeded teacher performance.

With purposely mislabeled policies, Bennett deceitfully claims he has provided incentives to teachers.  However, while he was at the helm, morale among teachers sunk to an all-time low, college enrollment  in the field of education plummeted, great teachers abandoned the profession, and early retirement rates increased.  His leadership has not produced better teachers; it has demoralized an entire profession.

2. Tony Bennett has never advocated for the needs of children.

While Tony Bennett was in office, $300 million dollars was cut from the education budget.  Not once did he ever attempt to reverse that trend.  As a republican, I understand eliminating wasteful spending.  Fellow Hoosiers, to eliminate $300 million dollars from education when the state claims to have a two billion dollar surplus, compounded by the fact nearly 25% of Indiana children live in poverty, should be simply unacceptable, regardless of party affiliation.

In fact, what Bennett has done to our most at-risk students is egregious.  Tony Bennett has labeled children failures.  Tony Bennett has shut down children's neighborhood schools.  Tony Bennett has sold children out to the highest corporate bidder.

One may argue, as Bennett does, that test scores and graduation rates are up in Indiana.  This is all phony data.  Data will always be used in the way that serves the faction controlling and manipulating it.  Always.  If you do not believe this, there is no point to read further.

What cannot be controlled and manipulated so easily though is genuine care for those you supposedly serve.  Bennett has not genuinely cared for or served educators.  More tragically, he has not genuinely cared for or served over one million Hoosier children for four unhealthy years.  Bennett cannot pull off this charade because he cannot serve two masters.

Glenda Ritz understands the situation, and will sever the connections with Tony Bennett's true master;  the corporations poisoning public education.

Fellow Hoosiers, please support public education at the polls tomorrow with a vote for Glenda Ritz.



Are Indiana Schools 3 Times Worse than Florida's? Indiana's Own School Chief Tony Bennett Wants You to Believe It.

Tony Bennett’s school letter grade system has produced D’s and F’s for 18.6% of all Indiana Schools, in contrast to Florida where 6% of all schools get D’s and F’s.  Yet Indiana clearly outscores Florida on a common test taken in all states, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The evidence that Indiana schools perform better than Florida schools is in the attached page, which is the testimony I gave in Public Comments after letter grades were approved and made public at the October 31st meeting of the State Board of Education.  I wanted to make sure board members had seen the actual National Assessment results which show they are undervaluing Indiana schools compared to Florida.  Despite all the tax breaks and business recruitment efforts made by the General Assembly to attract businesses to Indiana, don’t look for any businesses to move here from Florida or from other places when our schools have been undervalued by a flawed system.

The state totals announced on Wednesday were –
41.0% of schools were graded A
20.1% of schools were graded B
20.4% of schools were graded C
11.6% of schools were graded D
   7.0% of schools were graded F

While Tony Bennett called this “a positive day,” the system remains flawed and mystifying to many educators, especially at the elementary and middle school level.  Consider these two schools that Tony Bennett apparently believes are “bad” schools:

·         Liberty Early elementary in MSD Decatur got a D.  It serves only pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.  These students have not been tested on ISTEP+.  So how did they get a D?  In Tony Bennett’s drive to hold every school accountable, early childhood centers are given grades based on the average of the elementary schools that they feed students to.  The elementary students are tested in grades 3 through 6, so Liberty Early elementary was graded on the performance of students that the school has not interacted with for three years.

·         William Bell School #60 in the Indianapolis Public Schools got an F.  It serves only K through 2 students who have not taken ISTEP+.  It reopened this year as a Reggio magnet school under the guidance of Butler University.  Nearly all of the students are new this year under the new magnet program philosophy, yet under the feeder school rule cited above and based on students from past years, Tony Bennett celebrated its rebirth by giving it an F.

Has all common sense left Tony Bennett in implementing this A-F system?

The Indiana Growth Model
The controversial growth model is used for elementary and middle schools in the A-F system to bump up or bump down the grade after the primary grade is determined based on total percent passing.  Growth is based on bell-curve statistics comparing students to a statewide cohort of peers.  The growth metrics continue to produce mystifying and inexplicable results which anger educators:

Exhibit 1  

One frustrated principal in northern Indiana had a 5th grader who has scored Pass+ since the 3rd grade who this year scored 39 scale score points above the Pass+ cut off score for English/Language Arts.  Yet, the student was marked as “Low Growth.”  The principal asked “How is that possible?” with an added comment “It is so maddening.”


Exhibit 2 

The Indiana Association Public School Superintendents has distributed an analysis of the growth model written by Chris Himsel, superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools and formerly the director of testing in Lafayette.  His comments, dated October 26th, are telling: 

“Because the score is based on a normal curve that compares kids within score bands, no predictability or transparency exists.  Likewise, kids whose scores increase at a rate 2 or 3 times the rate that the cut score increases can be low growth while other students whose scale score decreases compared to the previous year can be considered high growth – it all depends on who the student is compared to.  Likewise, a student whose score increases 25 points may be high growth one year, and a different student in the same grade level the following year may be considered low growth for the exact same 25 point increase the next year.  This does not make sense and does not measure growth.  It measures competition among students and assumes no matter how much or how little learning is taking place that some students are high, others are typical, and some are low.   . . .

I will need to explain it to parents and media members in the next few weeks, and I do not know how I will accomplish it since I do not understand it myself.  I do not understand how some students can have their score decrease and be considered high growth while others see dramatic increases in their scale score and are considered low growth.  I do not understand how one cut off for determining growth bonus points or growth penalty points is 36.2%, another is 42.5%, another 39.2%, another is 44.9%, etc.  It looks like the policymakers are trying to determine a cut off that identifies a particular quantity of students or schools in certain categories. “ 

His full statement was written in response to a legislator who had asked about the A-F system, and he attached a page which I have attached for you showing how random and unpredictable scores can be under Tony Bennett’s Indiana Growth Model.  The attached page alone is a powerful indictment of how the system plays out and gives a strong rationale for revising the A-F formula.

Exhibit 3

A central Indiana superintendent and principal have verified that an elementary student with a perfect score for two years in a row was labeled as “Low Growth.”  An appeal to IDOE made no difference.

Yes, that said “perfect score.”  How many individuals and schools need to be hurt by this system before we conclude that it must be revised?

That’s three strikes, and this A-F system should be out.

What more needs to be said.  We need a change.

The Election is in Three Days

After all the hearings and all the commentary about problems in the A-F system, Tony Bennett has not listened and continues to enthusiastically defend the system.  Elections in a democracy were devised for situations like this.  When leaders don’t listen, new leaders can be elected.  Voting for Glenda Ritz is the only avenue left to correct the A-F system that has already damaged many schools and stands to hurt economic development efforts in many communities.
A new poll announced Friday (Nov. 2nd) shows Tony Bennett at 40% and Glenda Ritz at 36%.  Obviously, many remain undecided.  Your efforts today, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday could make THE difference in bringing victory to this improbable grassroots campaign to defeat the million-dollar campaign of Tony Bennett propelled by out-of-state money.

I have attached another Glenda Ritz handout that you can copy and take door-to-door in the closing days of this race. Does participation in our democracy make a difference?  Absolutely. 

The candidate with the most votes on Tuesday will set policies for the next four years.  Before the election, please reach out to 20 additional friends and neighbors who are undecided or unaware of these issues to make sure that the next four years will be led by Glenda Ritz.  Your work at the grassroots will make all the difference.

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Must Read Piece from Doug Martin at Schools Matter

Indiana DOE Stalls Freedom of Information Act Naming Joel Klein and Jeb Bush and Detailing the Dog and Pony Tony Tour

Why I Will Vote Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

For everyone interested in the election for State Superintendent, I want to answer one question before November 6th:

Why have I worked feverishly to support Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction?

Current superintendent Tony Bennett’s agenda is a thinly-veiled attempt to allow private corporation take-over of public education.  This is the reason Bennett has pushed for right to work laws, relaxed teacher licensing, merit based pay, bogus teacher contracts, school vouchers, standardized testing extremes, Common Core standards, A-F school grades, take-over of entire school districts…

I have no doubt behind Bennett’s agenda for school “reform” is a corporate-sponsored push to make schools a profitable market place.  As public education is a pillar for democracy, it is philosophically unallowable for Bennett’s agenda to manifest itself in my community.

Glenda Ritz will work to undo all of Tony Bennett’s “faux reform”.

Still, I have come to the realization that this is not the reason I have worked tirelessly to support Ritz for Public Education.

Yesterday, a young co-worker slumped into the classroom at the end of the day and simply asked, “Do you believe you still can make an impact in your student’s lives?”

The answer is, "No."

Under Tony Bennett, school has become a competitive factory,  my everyday decision-making is replaced by a “map” of what I must teach and when, emphasis is put on test scores:  I am no longer free to impact students.

Every day under Tony Bennett’s reform, each student’s personality, dreams, gifts, pains, spirit, and diverse array of human-ness is lost to me, replaced by sets of data and test scores. I am no longer able to nurture student’s creative expressions of freedom.

Why have I worked feverishly to support Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction?

So I can teach.

Friday, November 2, 2012

In Indiana, "Just Let Me Teach" means Ousting Tony Bennett

If Bennett is pushed out by a candidate who has far fewer resources than he does to wage a campaign, it would send a strong signal about how the public perceives his reform policies.
 Valerie Strauss on November 1, 2012
Read entire article here at the Washington Post