Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mitch's "love for teachers" is unrequited

In his interview with Mark Mellinger on Ch. 15 last night Gov. Mitch Daniels proclaimed his love for Indiana teachers. Unfortunately few teachers are going to love him back, if he's serious about using something other than seniority to determine retention and pay. Even though the Governor and Tony Bennett are talking about a growth or "value added" model to quantify teacher effectiveness, I've never heard a teacher in favor of being judged by statistics or any kind. It seems that performance in their profession can't be measured. They are the exception to the scientific rule that theories (of competence) have to be supported by data.

The use of test scores as a component of teacher evaluations seems to be gaining ground. Obama and Arne Duncan are pushing it in Race to the Top. Last fall the ACLU sued the Los Angeles Public Schools to prevent the layoffs of teachers by seniority, arguing that losing younger teachers would disproportionately affect the success of inner city schools because most older teachers refused to work there and those that did were not necessarily better teachers. They got the district and the union to modify their layoff criterion. In the recent "interview" issue of Newsweek Bill Gates challenged union leader Randi Weingartner on why teacher pay should be predictable by nothing other than the length of their tenure. Randi didn't have an answer. She defended teachers unions by saying that unions are the basis for our middle class.

Does that mean without unions teachers would be lower class?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

High school graduation rates up, economy still down

High school graduation rates across the state and at FWCS improved by about 2% last year, the IDE reported. What's not clear is why that happened. FWCS, of course, attributes its increase to "high school reinvent" so maybe the whole state did that as well. A more likely explanation is that job prospects for teenagers, especially black males are pretty grim in this recession so they are opting to stay in school, which improves their chances and postpones the job search. Record college enrollments are driven by the same motive.

We'll see if the trend continues when the economy picks up.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Give Harding to the state

What does EACS hope to accomplish by turning Harding into a magnet school? Harding students will spend a lot of time on buses going to distant other schools. That will help them about as much as busing FWCS kids to Nothrup and Snider from the south side of Fort Wayne, namely not at all. When they establish the magnet school, students will have to be bused from distant parts of the county to Harding. It's hard to imagine who would want their kids to be bused from Leo or Heritage to Harding for a "college preparatory" course. Then there's the cost of additional busing. The effect of sending low achievers to high achieving high schools.

Harding parents are upset about the busing and "cultural" issues. It's hard to feel sorry for them. Their kids are largely responsible for the school's failure and their kids now have a chance to go to better schools. The parents who should be upset are the ones with kids going to the other four high schools. Those schools are going to go downhill and they get to pay the tab.

The lunacy of this decision is obvious in a letter from Rev. Stephen Terry in this morning's JG. He says it's about preserving local control and instituting educational "excellence". Please! Where has his concern for excellence been for the last two decades. There was no concern until the state threatened to step in and control the MONEY. And hire a new staff. Which may be just what's needed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is the state getting ready to pounce?

If you read Karen Frisco's column today about the December meeting of the State Board of Education, you'd think the IDE was scheming to turn our failing high schools over to a greedy for profit operator as soon as possible. If you watch the video of part 2 of the December meeting ( www.doe.in.gov./stateboard/), however, you might question her hysteria at the thought of losing "local control". There are a number of steps necessary for a state takeover, like getting another round of ECA test results (not the 3-8 ISTEP+ which she erroneously refers to) this spring which have to come up by 3% to get the high schools off the hook for a while.

In the case of SSHS, for example, their math passing rate would only have to go from the current 19% to an equally pathetic 22% to meet the low bar they established last spring. That could happen with a random statistical fluctuation or an easier test, like we saw with the ISTEP+. Nevertheless Karen thinks it's ironic that we taxpayers would have to continue paying for the $30 million remodeling bond for South Side, or the $60 million bond for NSHS if they grab that one, only to have it turned into a charter school. But she saw nothing ironic with spending another $1 billion or so to remodel other district schools a few years ago which might also get taken over down the road. Pissing that money away was "sensible".

The JG and the district are in la la land. We can only hope the IDE brings them back to reality.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where is Wolcotville?

Today's Sentinel had a letter from Richard Poor of Wolcotville, suggesting to FWCS parents that they need to make their complaints about FWCS known to the school board. The only difference between talking to our school board and talking to a brick wall is that the head brick, Mark GiaQuinta, will have the police haul you out of the room if you get too uppity. Just to make sure they don't get embarrassed, they won't let the public speak until after the meeting is adjourned and the TV cameras are turned off. As board member John Peirce opined, " why let the public use our facilities to criticise us?".

Then Mr. Poor suggests using Wendy's upcoming evaluation as an opportunity to change. Apparently he doesn't know she has a no cut contract and that her performance has no bearing on her continued employment. Never did since the day she was hired for that matter.

Must be a different world up there in Wolcotville.