Sunday, September 26, 2010

Challenge to the JG

It appears the JG editorial staff will not interview (all?) school board candidates as they have in the past. Instead they have requested candidates to respond to a questionnaire, which they will presumably use to choose whom they endorse.

I'm challenging the JG to publish the candidates' responses verbatim without editing or embellishment instead of using selected parts to support their predetermined views. If brevity is a problem tell the candidates to reduce them to a maximum word count. If the answers are incoherent, so be it. I'll stand by my answers and anything I've said in this blog over the past two years. Nothing I've written has been deleted or changed. I don't have a problem with any voter reading any blog in it's entirety, but I do have a problem with the JG using isolated pieces out of context as they've done in the past.

I would even suggest that both papers forego endorsements entirely. Print the candidates' views fairly and let the readers decide for themselves whom to vote for. But that's probably asking too much.

Friday, September 24, 2010

National Merit Scholarships, good news and bad news

The National Merit Scholarship foundation recently announced the semifinalists for Northeast Indiana. The good news is that FWCS has one semifinalist, Peter Manges, from Snider High School. Congratulations to Peter and good luck toward becoming a finalist. Actually luck has nothing to do with it. If he becomes a finalist, he will have earned it.

The bad news is that one semifinalist in all five high schools ties FWCS with home schoolers. Canterbury, where FWCS school board president Mark GiaQuinta sent his kids, had eight semifinalist, Dwenger and Homestead each had two and Carroll had one. Yeah, I know, it's not "fair" to expect kids from FWCS to do as well as those from suburban districts. It's more expedient to push them though our "LEAD" schools with social promotion and give them a diploma to get them out the door. Let them find out what "fair" means when they they get into the real world.

A long, long time ago my graduating class at SSHS had ten finalists and twice that number of semifinalists. My how things have changed. For the worse.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Volunteer for tutoring with United Way

United Way is trying to find 1000 volunteers to tutor in the region's elementary schools. Literacy by the end of the third grade is absolutely essential for any student's success in higher grades. The middle schools and high school's can't improve unless third grade literacy improves.

Providing one on one help works. You can only work with a few kids but on the other hand you actually see the result. Schools will never be able to pay for enough professionals to meet the need. The community has to step up or watch the slide in achievement continue.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Indy public schools almost number 2

After losing over 8000 students since 2003 to charter schools and flight to the suburbs, Indianapolis Public Schools is just barely larger than FWCS. Both have about 32,000 students. What's striking is that IPS spends about $500m per year versus $300m for FWCS. Apparently more money hasn't helped to improve the academics. So where does it all go?

Indianapolis voters also approved a major bond issue (bigger than the one FWCS proposed) two years ago to redo their buildings. Looks like better buildings don't help either, especially when you have to pay the extra taxes without any benefit in academic achievement.

So far FWCS is holding even, which they attributed to being more attractive to parents than charter schools. Well, maybe, but I don't think so. Indy has more charter schools because the the state legislature allowed the mayor to create them. Fort Wayne's mayor turned down that opportunity years ago. If Fort Wayne had more charter school options, especially on the south side of town, it would be a different story. Imagine on Wells street exceeded its official charter capacity this year, which naturally triggered a critical JG editorial yesterday. Good reason for Wendy and the JG to fight charters tooth and nail.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Harding HS gets NEW principal

EACS which has several schools in the same situation under PL221 as FWCS has hired a new principal, Kent Hoffman, at Harding High School. A new principal from New York City no less, not a principal transferred from another failing school like FWCS has at Wayne and South Side. Ahead of tonight's EACS board meeting to recommend a plan for reorganizing the district, it would seem that Harding might survive as is, despite the JG's never ending call for EACS to address its "academic inequalities".

What does that mean? Harding at 28.7% combined passing on the ISTEP and rising the last time the GQE was given in 2009, was doing better than Wayne at 25.7% and dropping. I've never heard any calls from the JG about FWCS needing to address academic inequality.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

People who live in glass houses...

The worst thing amidst all the calls for Kevin Brown to resign after his DUI arrest are the morality lectures. Today we got one from the JG citing the irony of Mr. Brown's proposal for an "ethics" code for board members at the board meeting the night of the incident. Well it may be ironic but there is in fact no 'ethics" code that has anything to do with morality so whatever happens is solely up to Mr. Brown. His term is over in three months and he will have to explain himself to voters in November to stay on the board.

So what else would be contained in an "ethics" code for school board members in addition to the DUI that could be applied ex post facto to Mr. Brown? Alcoholism, smoking pot, using hard drugs, adultery, reckless driving, conflicts of interest (like taking money from the teachers' union or building contractors), filing false campaign finance reports, unpaid parking tickets.......? Let's have a code and require all the current board members to sign a statement that they are innocent of all the above and anything else we can think of that would set a bad example for our kids.

Until that happens spare us the moralizing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Movie "Waiting for Superman" reveals "Inconvenient Truth"

Anyone wondering why a public education system conceived a hundred years ago can't adapt to the realities of the digital age should read the Sept. 20 issue of Time Magazine. The new film is by Davis Guggenheim, the director of "An Inconvenient Truth" and serves as the lead in to a 16 page report on public education. TIME describes a number of changes beginning to take hold, which it sees as a hopeful sign that reform is on the way.

Well, maybe. It's a long article but a story about teacher evaluations is indicative of the obstacles. A few weeks ago the Los Angele Times revealed that they had used improvement in test scores from students of 6000 district teachers to rate their effectiveness. Using "value added" statistical models they were able to reliably identify the worst and best teachers in their study. The results were consistent over seven years of data.

Predictably the teachers union called for a boycott of the paper but backed down. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked why it took a newspaper to do what the school district should have done years ago? A few days later the LA school board endorsed using the data as part of future teacher evaluations and is now negotiating with the union to make it happen.

Unfortunately, the shame of failure is not going to motivate much of the education establishment to change. Like FWCS, most of them will need the threat of extinction staring them in the face. With a lack of public outrage, the push has to come from politicians with more courage than we're used to seeing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

No extra credit for feigned outrage

I agree Marlin Stutzman's attempt to recruit volunteers for his campaign through FWCS was inappropriate. And giving students extra credit for campaigning is also questionable, although FWCS teachers aren't all averse to such generosity, like how many cans math students collect in a can drive (can you count?), so they can give kids a passing grade.

But the official reaction is ludicrous. This incident would not even have come to light if Stutzman weren't a Republican, As far as I know every school board member is a Democrat. Krista Stockman owes her salary to their good will and as a former JG reporter probably has the same political leanings. But Stutzman's opponent for the house seat, Dr. Tom ("it's time we tried something new") Hayhurst, who campaigned for lifetime board member Steve Corona, made the biggest ass of himself by jumping on the bandwagon with his tirade. He gets no extra credit at all.