Monday, December 5, 2016

An Open Letter to Members of the Indiana General Assembly and the State Board of Education

Honorable Members of the Indiana General Assembly and Members of the State Board of Education:

The superintendents of Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS) District I School Corporations want to make you aware of some serious concerns we have regarding the status and use of the current assessment system in Indiana. While we are firmly committed to accountability at every level, we believe the high stakes ISTEP+ assessment system that is used to measure student achievement, evaluate teacher performance and effectiveness, and grade our schools, does not accurately reflect the teaching and learning that takes place every day in our public schools.

Whether the state continues to mandate ISTEP+ or a similar test by a different name, the use of a one-time test does not and cannot accurately reflect the achievement and growth of our students, the performance of our teachers and quality of our schools. Our teachers regularly monitor the learning taking place in their classrooms via locally developed and nationally recognized assessments that provide immediate results which are used to drive instruction. Receiving ISTEP+ test results six months – or more – after the test was given is almost useless. 

In each of the past two school years, significant changes were made to the current ISTEP+ test. The rush to make these changes, without providing educators ample time to “retool” curriculum and instruction in the classroom, resulted in lower test scores across the state in all tested subjects at all tested grade levels and an unnecessary decline in school and school corporation grades across Indiana.

Inconsistencies within the test itself make it very difficult, if not impossible, to use those test results in a meaningful way. Attempting to compare test scores and passing rates (i.e. student achievement) from one year to the next, especially when the spring 2016 test changed significantly from the previous year, is problematic at best.

For the reasons stated above, we support HEA 1395 that called for the end of ISTEP+ at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. It is extremely disappointing that the committee charged with finding and recommending a replacement for the ISTEP+ fiasco chose not to make a recommendation that would resolve issues associated with our broken and irreparable assessment system. Reportedly, several meaningful options were not allowed to be presented and/or discussed by the committee during their deliberations. If true, such actions are sad and frustrating. Maintaining the status quo with ISTEP+ will only continue to project a tainted and inaccurate assessment of the achievements of our students, teachers and public schools.

If the objective of our state’s high stakes accountability system is to accurately report student achievement to the public, then the data from the currently flawed system must not be used. We respectfully request our elected officials and members of the State Board of Education to ignore the most recent results of the totally broken ISTEP+ assessment and not use them to place letter grades on our schools. The A-F grading system needs to be suspended again and schools need to be provided with a hold harmless provision regarding the results of the 2015- 2016 ISTEP+ assessment, similar to what was done last year.

Signed: District I Superintendents

Michelle Riise Argos Community Schools
Nathan Kleefisch MSD of Boone Township
James White Bremen Public Schools
Lucinda Douglass Caston School Corporation
Teresa Eineman Crown Point Community School Corporation
Chuck Kitchell Culver Community Schools Corporation
David Pruis Duneland School Corporation
Paige McNulty School City of East Chicago
Rod Gardin East Porter School Corporation
Dan Foster Eastern Pulaski Community School Corporation
Pete Morikis Griffith Public Schools
Walter Watkins School City of Hammond
Tom Taylor Hanover Community School Corporation
Brian Smith School Town of Highland
Peggy Buffington School City of Hobart
Aaron Case Kankakee Valley Schools
A.J. Gappa Knox Community School Corporation
Larry Veracco Lake Central School Corporation
Sharon Johnson-Shirley Lake Ridge Schools
Tom Cripliver Lake Station Community Schools
Mark Francesconi LaPorte Community School Corporation
Jeff Studebaker Merrillville Community School Corporation
Jeff Hendrix School Town of Munster
Curtiss Strietelmeier MSD of New Durham Township
Paul White New Prairie United School Corporation
Annette Zupin North Judson-San Pierre Schools
Destin Haas North Newton School Corporation
Donald Harman Oregon-Davis School Corporation
Daniel Tyree Plymouth Community School Corporation
Richard Weigel Portage Township Schools
Stacey Schmidt Porter Township School Corporation
Ned Speicher Rensselaer Central School Corporation
Steve Disney River Forest Community School Corporation
Jana Vance Rochester Community School Corporation
Linda Wiltfong South Central Community School Corporation
Kenneth Rudnick South Newton School Corporation
Debra Howe Tri-Creek School Corporation
Donna Burroughs Triton School Corporation
Tim Somers Tri-Township Consolidated School Corporation
John Hunter Union Township School Corporation
Ric Frataccia Valparaiso Community Schools
Don Street West Central School Corporation
Cynthia Scroggins School City of Whiting

Indiana Superintendents Speak Up Against Broken ISTEP+ ... And We Couldn't Agree More


Over 40 Superintendents from School Systems located in the 1st Congressional District signed an "Open Letter to Members of the Indiana General Assembly and the State Board of Education" with an important message about the most recent ISTEP+ results...

"We respectfully request our elected officials and members of the State Board of Education to ignore the most recent results of the totally broken ISTEP+ assessment and not use them to place letter grades on our schools. The A-F grading system needs to be suspended again and schools need to be provided with a hold harmless provision regarding the results of the 2015- 2016 ISTEP+ assessment, similar to what was done last year."

Here is a link to the full letter. Or you can take a look at the images below.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tuesday Tattler - Post-Election 2016 - What's Dr. McCormick Up To?

So, as I began to recover from the disappointment of election day, I found myself cautiously optimistic with the comments and "campaign speak" of our newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction.  I thought, "maybe the voters see some type of promise from her experience and her ideas".  It didn't take long for me to realize I was kidding myself.  I went back to her back-peddling statement about changing her mind that "it would be OK for the SPI to be appointed instead of elected".  That comment continued to stick in my head. However, I was calmed by her statements about being non-political, transparent, and open to all stakeholders.

WELL, WELL, WELL...Imagine my surprise when I noticed, while checking post election tweets, that this "non-political - transparent - open to all" Superintendent-elect had blocked the Hoosier Voices Twitter account from following or viewing tweets from the @DrMcCormickIN twitter feed.  What is she concerned about?  She won the election.  Is she afraid we will hold her accountable for her campaign comments?  Does she fear being reminded of her "Plan" for Indiana's schools?  Dr. McCormick blocked the Hoosier Voices twitter account, however, my personal account and those of many other PUBLIC education advocates can still view, follow, re-tweet, and reply to posts from the @DrMcCormickIN account.  There are still many ways for us to keep an eye on her actions and hold her accountable for all of her claims and our expectations.

Dr. McCormick was elected, touting a "plan" that appears to please voters in some way.  Her similarities with Glenda Ritz in most areas were frighteningly confusing.  How could a candidate touted by the GOP establishment, groomed by Tony Bennett, and paid for by Bennett's former donors be anything near to what Glenda Ritz has been as a torch bearer for Indiana's PUBLIC schools.  Is Dr. McCormick just naive enough to think these donors and her GOP "pals" will allow her to do anything other than their bidding to continue destroying Public education here in our state or was she so good in her deceptive nature to persuade voters to believing she would be our new champion? 

Which Dr. McCormick will Hoosiers see once the legislature begins to pull her toward the wishes of the GOP's big "education policy" donors.  With House Education Chair Bob Behning, House Speaker Brian Bosma, Senate President Pro-Tempore David Long, Senate Education Chair Dennis Kruse, and Even Governor-Elect Holcomb all receiving large donations from privatization and voucher supporters like Christel DeHaan, Fred Klipsch, Hoosiers for Quality Education, and the Institute for Quality Education, it appears it would be difficult for Dr. McCormick to go against these Tony Bennett donors and reverse the GOP course of continued robbery of our PUBLIC schools.  Will she be "allowed" to work with ALL stakeholders and do what needs to be done to reverse course and build up our public schools, or will she prove to be another puppet like Tony Bennett and bow to the GOP leadership and their donors to drain our public schools further and allow further demeaning actions toward Indiana's public school educators.

One thing is for certain.  ALL stakeholders need to stay informed, stay alert, and be ready to stand up and be heard at a moment's notice.  We all must hold our elected representatives accountable for our children and the future of our PUBLIC schools.  We at Hoosier Voices WILL NOT GIVE UP! We will continue to fight for high quality PUBLIC education for ALL Hoosiers! We will not give up!


Sunday, October 30, 2016

$390K - What Does It Look Like to Buy Julie Olthoff In The 11th Hour?

$390,000...That is all it took to earn buy Julie Olthoff's vote for the next 2 years. Just like any other situation where one purchases an object, the purchaser needs to know exactly what they are getting. This is what Bosma, Behning, and the well-monied House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC) PAC lobbyists will get from Olthoff...

More destruction of PUBLIC Education - Olthoff has consistently aligned her vote with the school privatization lobby and why would she change over the next two years with so much money coming her way to guarantee she will vote the party line instead of what is best for her constituents. Christel DeHaan (think Christel Charters), Hoosiers For Quality Education(think religious zealots bent on publicly funding private religious education), and a PAC that passes money through for the Koch Bros - that is who is buying Olthoff. Get the picture?

She expanded charter school funding and opened the door for more charter schools to set up shop in Indiana on the taxpayers dime. She established policy that expanded the voucher system which siphons money right off the top of public education. She established policy that disregarded the will of the voters and marginalized the role of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, by removing her constitutional authority to preside over the SBOE  - and she did this without even putting the issue to public question.

Well, the proof is in the pudding folks, and tonight we are serving pudding for dessert. 

Here is the campaign contribution report showing how Olthoff received $390,000 from the House Republican Campaign Committee in the 11th hour, literally just days before election day.

Here is a link to the campaign finance report showing where the House Republican Campaign Committee received their $$$$. I would attach an image, but it is over 110 pages long, so yeah...

Take a look at these records and follow the $$$ back to the original source, and you too will see how the school privatization lobby has created a wicked web of deception by purchasing politicians for play during assembly, then filtering the money multiple times to cover their tracks.