Saturday, July 24, 2010

IDE will train "turnaround" principals at Marian College

As an indication that the state may actually be serious about taking over chronically under performing schools, the IDE has chosen Marian College, in Indianapolis to train new principals as turnaround specialists and experts in teacher evaluation, including the use of statistics like test scores. The justification is that 60% of student achievement is tied to the abilities of principals and teachers (how they came up with that number was not explained). Naturally the state's teacher training universities who gave us our current crop of educators call this an unnecessary duplication of effort. But according to Andrea Neal's column in today's Sentinel and Indy Star the whole idea is to turn out principals who will operate differently than the ones we have now. And perhaps the IDE realizes that playing musical chairs with principals (and teachers) of failing schools a la FWCS won't fix anything.

Of course there are a lot of unanswered questions about the overall strategy. Where these new principals will come from and what their backgrounds are has not been revealed. And if they can identify bad teachers but can't improve them, what can they do to remove them? It's also unclear how well a new high school principal can succeed, if he has no control over social promotion in the middle schools feeding his school. It seems unlikely that taking over a small number of schools in a system which is systemically failing like FWCS is going to work unless the whole system is taken over.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mitch wants empty schools available for charters

Chanting their version of a Randy Newman tune the JG is still singing "Don't want no charter schools 'round here". Naturally they're opposed to making empty schools like Elmhurst available to charters because it would draw money from FWCS. It especially galls them that the charter might be run by a for profit company like Imagine. So what's the problem? If Imagine fails it will go out of business and disappear. FWCS has failed south of Coliseum but there's virtually no way to make them disappear.

We no longer have an academically viable public high school on this side of town. SSHS, NSHS and Wayne can't be fixed by this district. In the words of Abilgail and Stephan Thernstrom in "No Excuses", union dominated public districts "can't solve the problem because they are they problem". Fixing them will require a state takeover and/or competition which will force changes or put them out of business. Otherwise they will only preserve the status quo for the benefit of district employees.

At the end Ms. Frisco says Mitch's proposal will put a "long term burden on the taxpayers". When did the JG suddenly become sympathetic to the plight of the taxpayers? What is this long term burden assertion based on? Nothing more than the need to fill in some space at the end of the editorial. The ultimate burden on the taxpayers is the 50% of the kids coming out of FWCS high schools with an eighth grade education.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Political Savvy" needed to pass school bond referendums

Indiana University reported that 42% of school bond referendums submitted to voters since the adoption of the new law were approved. In contrast to predictions that no one would ever be able to pass another bond issue, IU concluded that getting a bond issue passed depended on convincing voters that the district was after "needs", not "wants". Sounds like the most important thing is to tell the truth.

What honesty has to do with "political savvy" was not explained.