Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ISTA on the Job: Voucher Lawsuit Update

December 19, 2011

Marion County Judge Hears Oral Arguments on school voucher lawsuit today

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marion County Judge Michael Keele today heard oral arguments for summary judgment, as well as motions to dismiss filed earlier by defendants, in the case against Indiana's new school voucher program, the Choice Scholarship Program, brought against the state by 12 defendants supported by ISTA and NEA.

Supporters of the lawsuit against the state's unconstitutional school voucher program hope that Judge Keele will rule on the pending motions promptly after today's hearing. When Judge Keele issues his final judgment, the case will then proceed to either the Court of Appeals or the Indiana Supreme Court.

"The issue here is simple," said Teresa Meredith, ISTA Vice President and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "Indiana's Constitution prohibits the use of public funds to pay for teaching religion, and the vast number of schools receiving these voucher dollars are private, religious schools that teach religion as an important part of their educational programs."

ISTA and NEA continue to reaffirm their determination to continue to litigate the constitutionality of the Choice Scholarship Program.

ISTA strongly believes in the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims and hopes to get a final decision on those merits as quickly as possible.

Friday, December 16, 2011

December Newsletter

Click on the images of the FWEA Experience and the FWEA Experience Insert below to download and read the latest issue.

In this issue: 
  • Aging FWCS Buildings
  • State Intervention Comparisons: How does FWCS compare to other districts around the state?
  • Teachers Using Social Media: Review FWCS Policy
  • What do you get for your Union Dues?  
Download the insert for 
  • Voucher Numbers from around the state 
  • FWEA Membership numbers
  • Information on Teacher Awards
  • Important Dates

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Research Doesn't Back Up Key Education Reforms

Research doesn’t back up key ed reforms
By Valerie Strauss
There is no solid evidence supporting many of the positions on teachers and teacher evaluation taken by some school reformers today, according to a new assessment of research on the subject.

The Education Writers Association released a new brief that draws on more than 40 research studies or research syntheses, as well as interviews with scholars who work in this field.

You can read the entire brief (written by Education Week assistant editor Stephen Sawchuk), but here are the bottom-line conclusions of each section:

Q) Are teachers the most important factor affecting student achievement?

A) Research has shown that the variation in student achievement is predominantly a product of individual and family background characteristics. Of the school factors that have been isolated for study, teachers are probably the most important determinants of how students will perform on standardized tests.

Q) Are value-added estimations reliable or stable?

A) Value-added models appear to pick up some differences in teacher quality, but they can be influenced by a number of factors, such as the statistical controls selected. They may also be affected by the characteristics of schools and peers. The impact of unmeasured factors in schools, such as principals and choice of curriculum, is less clear.

Q) What are the differences in achievement between students who have effective or ineffective teachers for several years in a row?

A) Some teachers produce stronger achievement gains among their students than others do. However, estimates of an individual teacher’s effectiveness can vary from year to year, and the impact of an effective teacher seems to decrease with time. The cumulative effect on students’ learning from having a succession of strong teachers is not clear.

Q) Do teacher characteristics such as academic achievement, years of experience, and certification affect student test scores?

A) Teachers improve in effectiveness at least over their first few years on the job. Characteristics such as board certification, and content knowledge in math sometimes are linked with student achievement. Still, these factors don’t explain much of the differences in teacher effectiveness overall.

Q) Does merit pay for teachers produce better student achievement or retain more-effective teachers?

A) In the United States, merit pay exclusively focused on rewarding teachers whose students produce gains has not been shown to improve student achievement, though some international studies show positive effects. Research has been mixed on comprehensive pay models that incorporate other elements, such as professional development. Scholars are still examining whether such programs might work over time by attracting more effective teachers.

Q) Do students in unionized states do better than students in states without unions?

A) Students tend to do well in some heavily unionized states, but it isn’t possible to conclude that it is the presence or absence of unions that cause that achievement.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Good News from ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger

November 9, 2011

In a historic, decisive and crucial victory, last night our neighbors in Ohio voted overwhelmingly to repeal Senate Bill 5 – Gov. John Kasich’s attack on public employee collective bargaining rights. By a nearly two-to-one margin, Ohio’s voters told Gov. Kasich and members of Ohio’s legislature that “enough is enough” – the attack on teachers, firefighters, nurses and other public employees needs to stop.

According to a leader in the We Are Ohio organization, Ohioians sent a message to all politicians last night: We don’t turn our backs on people who watch ours, and they used their citizen veto to reject Senate Bill 5.

Hoosier educators and others who support our state’s middle class need to take Ohio’s enthusiasm and make sure it spreads during the upcoming legislative session and 2012 election campaign. I am sure that if collective bargaining rights were put on the ballot in Indiana, we would see similar results to what happened yesterday in Ohio. Overwhelmingly, Hoosiers support the rights of teachers and other public employees.

Ohio’s results should give us hope as Hoosiers that we, too, can get ready now for tomorrow’s victories. This battle isn’t about Republicans. It isn’t about Democrats. It’s about giving educators and other middle class workers a voice on their jobs. It’s about protecting and growing middle class jobs.

Please take a few minutes to celebrate Ohio’s victory, but keep in mind that Indiana educators, their friends and families need to find their own energy and commitment to stop the continued attacks against them orchestrated during the last session of the General Assembly.

Let’s remind Indiana’s policymakers to take a long, hard look at the message that Ohio voters sent to their governor and legislature yesterday. We are all in this fight together – and we all need to do whatever we can for us to be successful.

Let’s learn from what our Ohio colleagues accomplished yesterday – they spoke up, they knocked on doors, they phone banked, they spoke at public forums, they never backed away from discussing or debating the issues with their friends, their neighbors, their policymakers or with the media. They spoke truth to power. And they won.

We can certainly take hope and inspiration from our neighbors to the east.

Some early and interesting analysis from We Are Ohio:

  • The vote to repeal Senate Bill 5 won in 82 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
  • 2,145,042 No votes were cast for repeal – 255,862 more votes than Gov. Kasich received in his 2010 election win.
  • Statewide turnout was nearly 3.5 million votes – the highest turnout in decades for an off-year election in the state.

There's also good election news from our neighbor to the north, the Michigan Education Association. They targeted for recall the chairman of the House Education Committee for his support of policies that weakened teacher tenure and cut funding to public education. Last night, after the results were in, Republican state Rep. Paul Scott accepted the results showing he had been recalled by the voters in his district.

MEA officials said the recall vote reflects backlash over anti-public education policies adopted since Gov. Rick Snyder became governor this year and his political party gained control of both legislative chambers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ISTA on the Job: Relief from NCLB Restrictions 9/26/2011

September 27, 2011

Obama, Duncan to provide relief from many NCLB restrictions

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the National Education Association, supported by thousands and thousands of its members, late last week President Barack Obama announced a plan to provide relief to Indiana and the other states from many of the onerous provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Yesterday, ISTA delivered a letter to Dr. Tony Bennett from ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger asking the Indiana Department of Education to quickly apply for the waivers available under this program to provide much-needed relief to Hoosier school districts from the undue burdens caused by this law and its regulations, especially the punitive AYP system.

It's important to know that this package, while an important interim step for relief, cannot address all of the problems that remain with NCLB. Comprehensive changes made by Congress during reauthorization remain an ultimate goal for the Association.

Here is the text of President Schnellenberger's letter to Dr. Bennett:

September 26, 2011

Dr. Tony Bennett
Superintendent of Public Instruction
State of Indiana
Room 229, Statehouse
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2798

Dear Dr. Bennett,

Indiana’s educators are pleased that President Obama has outlined how Indiana and other states can get relief from some of the most onerous ESEA (NCLB) provisions in exchange for serious state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability and ensure that all students are on track to graduate from college and be career ready.

As president of the state’s largest association of professional educators, it is my hope that you, as Indiana’s chief school officer, will quickly apply for the necessary waivers for schools that will unburden them from specific NCLB mandates that are stifling real school reform.

It is my understanding that states can apply by November 14 if their applications are prepared. Indiana’s schools need relief as quickly as possible from the undue burdens caused by this law and its regulations.

This proposal gives more flexibility to local needs and promotes more local efficiency, collaboration and strategic planning.


Nate Schnellenberger

For additional information on these changes to NCLB, visit:

ISTA: Working on Behalf of All Hoosier Educators

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Joe Marcum ISTA membership letter

On the mark comments about ISTA membership from Noblesville's Joe Marcum.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tips To Get You Through Relicensure

Teacher License renewal and certification are quite varied in Indiana, depending on the type of license that you have. The process for renewing a license can be quite confusing, so it’s important that you understand the requirements for renewing your teaching license in a timely manner.

Remember that the Indiana Department of Education is struggling to keep up with license renewals with the new LVIS system. IDOE will not meet with walk-in applicants without a scheduled appointment.

To assist teachers in this important process, ISTA Vice President
Teresa Meredith, has create a short Slideshare program to bring them up to date on license renewal in Indiana.

Tips To Get You Through Relicensure

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ISTA: Doing Good Work for Indiana Educators

September 14, 2011

ISTA -- the largest association of professional educators in our state -- wants to share some information with you about the important work that we do for all of our members. The bottom line remains, the more you are part of ISTA, the more we can work together to improve your salary, your career and your profession. As a coalition of Indiana educators and public school employees from all 92 counties, ISTA works every single day to support and improve public education.

The following are just a few of the many ways ISTA has and will continue to support and advocate for our members, our profession and our students:

ISTA UniServ and Organizing:

Following the close of the 2011 Legislative Session, ISTA has worked diligently with local Association leaders to help interpret the laws, determine their impact on our members, and assist in implementing the new legislation. In addition, we have been an active participant in conversations with the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB), the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), and local law firms regarding the implementation of new legislation. NEA and ISTA have stepped up to challenge several laws that are detrimental to public education and teachers and are currently processing suits against vouchers and the Regular Teacher Contract released by the IDOE. We anticipate filing several challenges in the next week to prevent school corporations throughout the state from withholding incremental raises that our members were to receive this school year.

In a monumental effort to pre-empt the Governor's attempt to restrict collective bargaining rights for teachers, the ISTA UniServ staff promptly settled approximately 200 contracts for the 2011-2012 school year and beyond, protecting those teachers from the immediate impact of new legislation. Public education and your profession are under attack from a very well-funded and organized opposition, and the ISTA is on duty 24/7 to defend you against this effort. There is no middle ground to hide in. Regardless of how "friendly and nice" your local administration may be, the effects of legislation will reach into each and every classroom in the state.

Professional educators throughout the state must work TOGETHER if they hope to have any chance to improve the current situation. We can do COLLECTIVELY far more than what any individual can do alone. We need YOU to join with your colleagues state-wide to help with this effort. Remember that today you may not need your colleagues and the ISTA, but tomorrow that may not be the case. We will to be there when you need us.

ISTA Legal Counsel:

ISTA's legal counsel is the ONLY attorney in Indiana who primarily practices teacher-related law. ISTA's legal counsel is a member of the National Organization of Lawyers for Education Associations that provides more than 200 lawyers who work for NEA affiliates who share legal opinions with one another and provide a resource for how legal issues are handled in other states.

During the last several years, ISTA's legal counsel has:

  • Handled more than 300 child abuse cases.
  • Handled more than 50 unfair labor practices.
  • Handled more than 100 teacher-related lawsuits.
  • Written more than 300 legal opinions on teacher-related legal issues
  • Handled numerous IDOE teacher license revocation hearings.
  • Participated in drafting education legislation.
  • Represented numerous teachers who have been sued by parents or students.

ISTA Government Relations:

As was the case in many other states throughout the country, the 2011 Indiana General Assembly was characterized by a wave of "reforms" touted as "being about the kids" but manifesting themselves in legislation solely impacting the adults who serve them—most notably, Indiana's teachers.

The following is a listing of significant legislative gains garnered by ISTA in the 2011 Legislative Session—even in the face of very challenging odds. Please know that this is an edited list—narrowing the focus to the most relevant issues affecting your daily lives.

SB 1: Teacher Evaluations; Teacher Salaries; Merit Pay

Carved out an "established teacher" definition that includes all teachers who serve under a teacher contract before July 1, 2012, ensuring that no existing teacher would be subject to the potentially fluctuating "probationary teacher/professional teacher" labeling . Established teachers will benefit by stricter due process protections relative to contract cancellations.

Ensured the enactment of a "grandfather clause" to protect salary levels of teachers at the July 1, 2012 levels and to prohibit decreasing salaries because of the new salary schedule laws.

Ensured that compensation for additional degrees or graduate credits earned before the effective date of the local salary schedule continue and added language permitting advanced degrees and graduate credit hours to count for up to one-third of new salary increases. Additionally, ISTA worked to add language in HEA 1001 to permit those who begin advanced degree courses before July 1, 2011 to receive full salary schedule credit for degrees completed by September 2, 2014.

Restored school board role in hiring and dismissal of staff. There was an effort to rest all of the teacher hiring and firing authority in the hands of principals.

SEA 575: Collective Bargaining

In the wake of our neighboring states (WI, OH, MI—also TN and ID) all losing collective bargaining rights, ISTA successfully retained collective bargaining for salary and wage-related issues.

Clear and formal discussion rights were expanded for a variety of school-based issues, including working hours, staff evaluations, hiring and other human resource decisions, curricular, textbook selection, teaching methods, student discipline, pupil/teacher ratios, class sizes and school safety issues.

There was an attempt to completely open up the authority of administrators to suspend teachers without pay—legally at will. ISTA successfully argued the removal of all of the suspension without pay amendments, guaranteeing that existing laws and protections in this regard continue.

SEA 1003: Vouchers

Would have allowed families of four that earn incomes of more than $100,000 to qualify for vouchers. Instead, that income eligibility was reduced to $62,000.

Successfully capped for 2 years the number of vouchers distributed: 7,500 and 15,000 total in the next 2 years.

Requires the private schools that take advantage of the public voucher money to adhere to many of the statutory requirements with which public schools must comply.

HEA 1001: Budget

From an initial flat-lined funding formula, ended up with a formula that has a 0.5 percent and 1.0 percent statewide average increase. This was especially important because the voucher and charter laws will siphon off dollars from this allotment.

ISTA: Working on Behalf of All Hoosier Educators

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Follow the Money: Indiana's Tony Bennett

Indiana's superintendent of public instruction, Tony Bennett, and his boss, governor Mitch Daniels, have received campaign money from corporate school reform businesses, including those who are set to take over the "so called failing schools" in Indianapolis and Gary.

Doug Martin, in Murdoch’s Wireless Gen. and Edison Learning Donated Money to Tony Bennett, lists the contributors to Bennett's (and Daniel's) campaign funds.
As the Indiana State Board of Education decides to hand over Indiana’s so-called “failing” schools to EdisonLearning, Charter Schools USA, and Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation today, it is important to note that both Edison and Wireless Generation have donated to Education Reform Idol Indiana supt. of public instruction Tony Bennett’s campaign chest. In fact, Wireless Gen. even lavished money on Mitch Daniels and Indiana Republicans, the month before Murdoch acquired the company.
The list of donors includes corporate reform companies like Edison and Charter Schools USA, as well as standardized test giant, McGraw-Hill, Education Services of America (who has a contract with East Allen County Schools), and various charter and school choice advocates.

Simply following the money will help to explain why Bennett and Daniels are so eager to give away Indiana's Public Schools.

See also, Follow the Money--Bennett and Campaign Money at the Indiana Citizens for Public Education blog.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Indiana's New "grades" for Schools

Thanks to FWCS Board President Mark GiaQuinta for sharing this:

For those of you who follow the news with respect to the “grades” assigned to schools and districts, the explanation of the grading may be a bit confusing. The Journal Gazette has done a superb job in its attempts to clarify the issue. Here it is in a nutshell:

1. PL 221 is the State statute that governs school performance. The state has decided to assign letter grades (A – F) to schools and districts based upon improvement shown in the standardized testing administered by the state (ISTEP).

2. The Federal Government through the DOE is also in the school evaluation business as the result of funding that comes from D.C. Their system is much more complex and is centered around improvement among subgroups of students. For example, if a school or district has minority students, it is not good enough to make progress as a school if one of the subgroups is lagging behind. The school or district is required to make progress in every subgroup it has and should it miss in even one of those, the entire school is deemed to have not made Adequate Yearly Progress. So, for example, if a school has all 37 boxes to check off (the maximum is 37 – most have far fewer but FWCS had all 37 up to this year when our native American population went down below the threshold) and misses in one, the entire school is deemed to have failed under the federal accountability system. Obviously, this makes the task of meeting the federal bar much more difficult in diverse districts and schools than in those with all white, middle class kids. (one of the 37 boxes is reserved for low income students).

3. The Federal Government requires the states to incorporate its system into the state performance system in order to qualify for federal funding. The State of Indiana does it by “capping” the letter grade Indiana will give to a school or district at the “C” level if that school or district fails to make AYP for two consecutive years under the federal system. So using the same example from above, if a school that might otherwise qualify for an “A” under the state system missed one of cells or boxes it has to check off to make federal AYP, the highest grade it can receive from the State is a “C”. Of course, if your district or school is non-diverse, your state grade is your grade since there is little chance of missing AYP as you essentially have only two categories – boys and girls.

This year the suburban schools are howling because many of them received C grades due to not making AYP two consecutive years. To make AYP a district has to show improvement year after year with its subgroups. As each year goes by, that improvement becomes more and more difficult to achieve. In other words, sooner or later, the school runs into the challenges a district like ours ran into years ago. When that happens, those districts begin to recognize the difficulty of making AYP to maintain an A score. So you can probably guess what is going to happen – that’s right. The schools with clout are getting waivers from having to meet AYP so they can once again receive their A score. They now recognize what FWCS saw years ago, the rankings are often times demonstrating the challenges faced by the teachers in a school or district, not their performance.

Funny isn’t it? For years FWCS had A schools receiving C grades due to the inability to check off all the boxes under AYP. Last year, we would have had 35 of the 53 schools ranked A but for the fact that only 9 of those 35 schools made two years of AYP. This year we have 16 A rated schools but 35 would have made an A again but for having missed a box under AYP ( and we have lots more boxes to check!). The good news is that FWCS made AYP as a district for the second straight year and was awarded an A as a district. Since the uproar from the suburban schools around the state is getting through to the State, it is likely that the 19 schools in FWCS deprived of the A ranking as the result of missing AYP will receive that score next year along with several more.

Hope this helps to understand the rating process. The Board, Administration, teachers, students and parents will not stop working until all 53 schools are rated “A”. Most importantly, this is good for the students, but also good for the taxpayers, good for real estate values, good for economic development, good for the soul of the community!

Monday, August 29, 2011

TEACHER Creativity Grants of $8,000

Greetings from Lilly Endowment……

Once again – for the 25th year – the Endowment is pleased to announce that the Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program will honor and recognize Indiana teachers, principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors and librarians/media specialists.

The Endowment will offer up to 120 fellowships at $8,000 each for these educators to embark on summertime periods of personal renewal. More than 2,300 Indiana educators have participated in this competitive program and returned with tales of adventure, personal discovery, new scholarship and a renewed sense of purpose. For a full program description, go to lillyendowment.org or teachercreativity.org.

We would appreciate it very much if you could find room in your publication(s) or on your website to place one of these newsletter articles or the ad. If you are unable to use the ad, please feel free to use the information in your newsletter.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

State Takeover for 4 IPS schools

Subject: State Takeover

Superintendent Bennett has announced today that he is recommending the take over of 4 IPS schools and the creation of Lead Partners for two others. Emma Donnan Middle School, Manual,and Howe H.S. will be managed by Charter Schools USA. Arlington Community H.S. will be managed by Education Power. Both Washington Community H.S. and Broad Ripple H.S. will be given a Lead Partner. Bennett's recommendation will be heard and acted upon by the State Board of Education on Monday the 29th. If accepted by the Board, the take over organization's will have one year to observe and plan and then take the schools for the 2012-13 school year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

ISTA on the JOB

August 20, 2011
Challenge to Indiana's New School
Voucher Program to Move Forward

INDIANAPOLIS - Despite a ruling from a Marion County Superior Court Judge earlier this week denying a request for a Preliminary Injunction of Indiana's new school voucher bill, plaintiffs in the case, supported by the Indiana State Teachers Association and the National Education Association, have reaffirmed their determination to continue to litigate the constitutionality of the Choice Scholarship Program.
ISTA strongly believes in the merits of the plaintiffs' claims and hopes to get a final decision on those merits as quickly as possible.
"This week's ruling was only the very beginning of the litigation in this case," said Teresa Meredith, a Shelbyville teacher and a plaintiff in the case. "It's important to Indiana and its public schools that we continue to pursue this challenge, and we will pursue it before the trial court and higher levels of the court system."
Although the new voucher program is being phased in, and only 2,800 vouchers have been awarded to date, it's clear that the judge didn't address the fact that 97 percent of the schools participating in the program are religious. As a consequence, for all but a handful of parents, the only real option under this voucher program is the option of using a voucher to attend a religious school.
It's clear that Indiana's new school voucher program is in violation of three separate provisions of the Indiana Constitution: the prohibition against the compelled support by taxpayers of any religious ministry, the prohibition against the use of state treasury funds for the benefit of any religious institution and the provision requiring the state to provide a general and uniform system of common schools

Friday, August 12, 2011

Each year on Labor Day FWEA has a booth at Headwaters Park in conjunction with the "We Are One" FREE organized labor day picnic. The picnic starts at 11 am and goes until 4 pm Monday, September 5. This year FWEA will be passing out over 400 books, free cat n hat hats, pencils, book markers etc. The FWEA Executive Board is setting up and tearing down the booth but we need FWEA/FWCS teachers to help pass out the materials throughout the day. If you could volunteer an hour or two of your time on that day please drop down. Bring your family their is plenty to do while you work the booth. There is free chili, hot dogs, ethnic foods, ice cream, pop, beer, milk along with face painting, bingo, balloon artists and kiddie rides. This could also count on your new evaluation as community service in engaging the community with FWCS and FWEA while promoting reading. If you have any children's books you would like to donate bring them along or you can drop them off at the FWEA office prior to the picnic. Thanks in advance for your help.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Judge to Rule on Vouchers Next Week

A Marion County judge is set to rule next week on whether Indiana's new school voucher program passes constitutional muster.
At issue in the request for a temporary injunction before Judge Michael Keele is whether vouchers undermine the Indiana Constitution's mandate the state provide a tuition-free system of common schools open to all and violate the constitutional ban on state support of religious institutions.
Attorney John West, representing a group of Hoosiers challenging the voucher law, said during oral arguments Thursday there's no question the voucher program is unconstitutional on both counts.
"When the constitution tells you that you're to provide for the education of Indiana children through a general uniform system of common schools, it's implicit in that that it can't be done in another way, such as sending them all to private schools with vouchers," West said.
West also emphasized the Indiana Constitution says no person shall be compelled to support any place of worship or ministry and "no money shall be drawn from the treasury for the benefit or any religious or theological institution."
Defending the law, Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher argued the constitution only prohibits a direct tax to support a church and said the General Assembly is free to spend general tax dollars however it wishes. He also questioned whether church-run schools are religious institutions.
As for a uniform system of common schools, Fisher said so long as the state continues to support public schools there's nothing stopping lawmakers from assisting students who want to attend private schools.
"This sort-of enabling of parents and children to seek private school education is part of the tradition of what we've done in this state for a very long time," Fisher said, noting that more than 30,000 Indiana students enrolled outside their home district or in a charter school last year.
Under the Choice Scholarship Program enacted earlier this year, families meeting certain income requirements can receive a voucher from the state worth, in most cases, up to $4,500, paid directly to state-approved private schools for student tuition.

Excerpts from Indiana Constitution

The interpretation of these three sections of the Indiana Constitution were at the center of oral arguments Thursday concerning the constitutionality of the new school voucher law.
Article 1, Section 4: No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.
Article 1, Section 6: No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.
Article 8, Section 1: Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Teacher's Contract Lawsuit Filed Today

IDOE’s Teacher Contract Forms Not Contracts At All

INDIANAPOLIS –Dr. Tony Bennett and the Indiana Department of Education late last week issued the new teacher contract forms for the 2011-2012 school year. Upon reviewing the documents, particularly the regular teacher’s contract, the Indiana State Teachers Association believes that certain proposed terms violate both Indiana law and existing collectively-bargained contracts.

ISTA filed a lawsuit today requesting injunctive relief to prevent these documents from being forced upon Indiana’s dedicated and hard working public school teachers. ISTA also plans to request that these teacher contracts be modified to comply with Indiana law.

One major violation of the law found in the regular teacher’s contract form released by IDOE is a provision that allows school corporations to shorten or lengthen a teacher’s work day or the number of days a teacher works each year at will at any time during the school year.

Indiana’s new law clearly states that the individual teacher’s contract must contain “the number of hours per day the teacher is expected to work, as discussed pursuant to IC 20-29-6-7 (which is the teacher collective bargaining law). SEA 575-2011

The new DOE “contract” as stated below and in pertinent part, is in direct violation of that Indiana law:

“In exchange for the Teacher’s services described below, the Corporation and the Teacher agree that:

3. The Teacher’s expected work day shall consist of a minimum of _________hours daily, exclusive of any extracurricular or co-curricular assignments.

4. The number of days and hours may be modified by the Corporation during and after the term of the Contract.” (emphasis added)

“Once again, the Department (of Education) is proceeding under their theory of “proceed until apprehended,” said ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger. “The General Assembly enacted a series of laws this year that, frankly, have a multitude of ambiguities, gaps, and internal conflicts that ISTA is trying to now work through as the new school year approaches. However, the issues of a teacher’s expected hours, the discussion rights attributable to those hours, the bargainability of salary and wage-related benefits, and the content of the teacher contract itself as it relates to the number of hours (and not “minimum” hours) were not unclear and ISTA expects that the IDOE should be made to comply with the laws it promoted.”

ISTA is appalled by the contents of these contracts and especially incensed that they were issued just as teachers begin returning to school for the start of the 2011-2012 school year with little or no information from the Department of Education about the content or their consequences.
“Again, without collaboration, IDOE has taken it upon itself to “re-legislate” public education policy to suit its own agenda after the General Assembly adjourned,” concluded Schnellenberger.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FWCS Makes AYP for Two Years Straight !

Fort Wayne Community Schools has made Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left
Behind guidelines for the second consecutive year, taking the district out of correction action for
the first time in six years. Academic gains made over the last two years also earned FWCS Exemplary
status under the Indiana's accountability law, Public Law 221. Exemplary is the highest status
awarded and can only be achieved by making AYP.

"While we have never allowed labels to define who we are and what we do, we are proud of the
work being done in each of our buildings to reach these milestones," Superintendent Dr. Wendy
Robinson said. "The reforms we started several years ago, including adding full-day kindergarten
in all schools, making sure our teachers are well-trained and tailoring instruction for each
student's needs, are truly making a difference in academic achievement. These results show that
we are following our moral purpose: Educating all children to high standards."

Preliminary results, based on data from the 2010-11 school year and results from the spring 2011
ISTEP+ exams, show that FWCS met either the identified targets or safe harbor for the district as a
whole as well as for individual subgroups. The preliminary results also show that 22 schools made
AYP with others being examined to determine if appeals will be made.

Because FWCS made AYP in 2010 and 2011 and posted significant gains on the spring 2011 ISTEP+ exams,
it reached Exemplary status in the state's rankings.

"Our staff members, students, parents, the Board of School Trustees and the community all played
a role in getting us to this point," Dr. Robinson said. "We will continue to push on,
working just as hard as we have in recent years to ensure that all of our students are

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FWCS Teachers Do It Again with Latest ISTEP Results !!

FWCS Teachers Do It Again with Latest ISTEP Results !
July 12, 2011

FWCS Posts gains, outpaces state in ISTEP growth

Fort Wayne Community Schools posted gains and outpaced the state in terms of growth in nearly every
category and grade level on the 2011 ISTEP+. FWCS saw gains in all four subjects (language arts,
math, science and social studies). Growth at each level ranged from 2 to 7 percentage points. The
only exception for these gains occurred in eighth-grade language arts where passing rates dropped by
just 1 percentage point.

"We know this was a challenging year for our students, staff and parents," Superintendent
Dr. Wendy Robinson said. "But the hard work and dedication shown by everyone is paying off. This
is evident in the scores that we are releasing today. We are not where we want to be yet, but this
continues the positive trend we have seen in the past few years. We will continue to live our Moral
Purpose of Educating all Students to High Standards by being precise in our work, personalizing the
education of each student, while providing a professional learning environment for adults focused on
continuous improvement."

Students passing both the math and language arts portion of the ISTEP+ increased at 32 of the 42
schools tested and stayed even at three. In the district's eight LEAD schools that took ISTEP+
exams, six saw an increase in the percent of students passing both of the major portions of the exam

"We believe strategies we implemented, including making sure our teachers had on-going
professional development, placing coaches and interventionists in each of our buildings, and using
data to drive decisions, have been key to the success we're seeing. With the deliberate infusion
of the Balanced Scorecard and School Improvement Plan process, we are able to focus on continuous
improvement." Dr. Robinson said. "We will continue those strategies as well as lessons we
have learned through our LEAD Schools process, including making sure principals spends more time in
classrooms and are supporting teachers."

Friday, July 8, 2011


(Click on the picture for a larger version)

Friday, July 1, 2011

ISTA Files Lawsuit Against Voucher Law

From the ISTA Blog

INDIANAPOLIS – Today, a lawsuit was filed in Marion County Superior Court requesting a preliminary injunction against the implementation of Indiana’s recently enacted school voucher law.

The voucher law violates provisions of the Indiana Constitution that safeguard Indiana taxpayers by ensuring that they are not compelled, through the taxes they pay, to support religious institutions, ministries and places of worship.

It also prohibits the State from diverting public education funds from the “uniform system of Common Schools” that are “equally open to all,” and instead uses this public money to send some children to private schools that are free to exercise student admissions preferences based on religion and other factors.

Signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels on May 5, the new law could cut funds to public schools by up to $65.8 million to finance voucher entitlements for private, religious and for-profit schools, a move that is clearly an unconstitutional use of public, taxpayer funds.

“There is no question that this law violates the provisions of the Indiana Constitution that protect taxpayer dollars from being funneled to private, religious and for-profit organizations,” said Teresa Meredith, a teacher in the Shelbyville Central Schools and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “The CSP also violates laws that seek to safeguard Hoosier students. This voucher program will provide public funds to private schools that can give individual preference to students based on test scores, disabilities, wealth and personal faith. Such preferences should not be publicly funded.”

If allowed to stand, this program will drain additional resources away from schools that are already suffering from deep budget cuts. “This law is also bad educational policy. How can lawmakers justify draining additional millions in resources from local public schools—on top of the $300 million in cuts made last year?” added Meredith. “The implementation of this law will most certainly result in larger class sizes, more teacher layoffs and fewer instructional programs for Hoosier public school students.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Contract Handouts

Click the links below for copies of the handouts from the June 27 Ratification meeting.

Handouts from the June 27 Ratification Meeting:

Ratification Meeting Powerpoint Presentation

Insurance Plan Structure

Ratification Summary


FWCS School Board Votes to Approve the FWEA/FWCS Contract 5-0

FWCS School Board voted to approve the 2011-2013 FWEA/FWCS teachers contract by 5-0 vote. Thanks to the FWEA Bargaining Team for the over 100 hours they dedicated to getting this contract. Also, thanks to ISTA UniServ Assistants, April and Danielle for their dedication and support we couldn't have done it without them. And last but not least, a HUGE thanks to our 1-L UniServ Director Steve Brace. His bargaining experience and presentations to teachers helped ensure that FWCS teachers would have a voice at the table despite the current changes in education legislation.

FWEA Teachers Ratify New Contract

Monday, June 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM 99.8% of the FWEA members voted to ratify the new contract for the 2011-2013 school years. Over 650 teachers were present. Details of the contract will be released after the FWCS School Board if the Board votes to approve the contract.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Contract Ratification Meeting Monday, June 27

A meeting will be held Monday at 1:00 P.M. to share with all FWCS teachers the tentative contract agreement that the FWEA Bargaining Team and FWCS has agreed upon. After a presentation of the tentative agreement teachers will have an opportunity for questions and answers. After the Q & A is finished teachers that are FWEA members will be given ballots to vote for or against the new contract. Please tell your fellow teachers about this important meeting.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

House Enrolled Act 1260 Slidecast

FWEA & FWCS Reach a Tentative Agreement

FWEA and FWCS reached a tentative contract agreement following a 12 1/2 hour marathon bargaining session Wednesday, June 22 at 10:30 P.M.
A ratification meeting is scheduled for 1:00 P.M. Monday, June 27, 2011 at Anthis Career Center Auditorium.
This meeting is open to all FWCS teachers. Please bring a photo ID to sign in. Only FWEA members who sign in will be given a ballot to vote.
Please tell your co-workers and teacher friends in FWCS about this important meeting.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ISTA Supports the SOS March

ISTA encourages members to attend the SOS March and related events -- every child deserves a great public school!

Check out the SOS Web Site. Click the logo below.

Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action

Friday, June 10, 2011

The True Colors Of EAG

From: Steve Gunn [mailto:sgunn@edactiongroup.org]
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2011 10:47 AM
To: A FWCS HS Teacher Name withheld
Subject: RE: EAG Response to a FWCS Teacher

I don’t need to be an “expert.” I am a taxpayer. In case you haven’t noticed, we fund the schools and we will run them any way we choose, whether you and your self-serving union friends like it or not.
The vast majority of Indiana voters are obviously ready for reform , or they wouldn’t have voted the way they did. The nation is obviously ready for reform, or laws wouldn’t be changing as quickly as they are.
By the way, what makes you an “expert?” Your low-grade bachelor’s degree? I have one of them, also.
Your temper tantrum is getting louder. That means the people did the right thing by finally telling you and your kind “No More!”
No more laying off young teachers and cancelling student programs while selfish old teachers get to keep their perks and benefits. No more union-owned insurance companies ripping off schools (Indiana) or unfairly monopolizing the school insurance market (Michigan and Wisconsin). No more local union presidents demanding that child molesting teachers be given letters of recommendation in exchange for their resignations (Illinois). No more union presidents getting full-time off with full pay and benefits do to nothing but plot against the school district and taxpayers. No more tenure commissions ordering the reinstatement of mentally ill teachers due to legal technicalities (Genesee County, Michigan). No more unions fighting to keep poor kids trapped in shitty, dangerous city schools because union jobs and union dues would be lost. No more step raises, longevity bonuses, overage pay, reimbursement for unused sick days or free insurance while school districts are operating with budget deficits.
None of the above is propaganda. It’s all fact-based and documented. Schools are for children, not selfish union activists who staff them. The people (not some Nazi-like totalitarian regime) have made that final determination at the ballot box, whether you like it or not.
It’s troubling that a radical freak like you is allowed to speak in front of impressionable children. You should be shown the door. Perhaps in the new, reformed environment, you will be.

Proposed Contract Changes

Below are information handouts from June 9, 2011 Meeting. Click on the links below to view or download the handouts and/or powerpoint presentation.

FWEA Silent Protest at Board Meeting Canceled

THERE WILL NOT BE A SILENT PROTEST AT MONDAY’S FWCS BOARD MEETING. Students and teachers will be recognized at this meeting and FWEA does not want to intrude or create conflict.

We appreciate those of you that were actively gathering teachers to be at the meeting on Monday, however, it is not the appropriate time or place.

Mediator Appointed for IMPASSE with FWCS/FWEA

The IEERB Indiana Education Employees Relations Board has assigned Carolyn Roper as the mediator between FWCS and FWEA. The first meeting will be on June 20, 2011 at 10:00. Additional meetings, if necessary are scheduled for June 22, June 27, and June 28.
Please follow the progress of the mediation and updates on this blog. The Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB) was established in order to promote harmonious and cooperative relationships between public school teachers and the school corporations they serve, thereby improving the educational process for Hoosier children.

To fulfill this mission, the legislature designated IEERB as the administrator of Indiana Code 20-29. IEERB's primary goal is to assist our constituents expeditiously and effectively in exploring innovative ways of improving the changing labor relationship.

IEERB's major functions are outlined in Indiana Code 20-29-3 and include conciliation and mediation, fact finding, research, unit determination and representation, and unfair labor practice processing.

To complete these functions, the agency is organized into the Administrative Operations Division, the Legal Division, the Conciliation Services Division, and the Research Division.

Monday, June 6, 2011

CONTRACT NEWS-Thursday, June 9,2011 Northrop Auditorium 4:15 pm

Monday, June 6, 2011
Dear FWCS Teachers,
On May 26, 2011 FWEA held a mass meeting for FWEA Members to provide an update on the current
bargaining status between FWCS and FWEA at the Anthis Career Center. After the presentation, FWEA
members voted on three (3) options: 1) Accept the FWCS proposal, 2) Declare Impasse, 3) Bargain in
With over 600 teachers present, 86% voted for an impasse, 14% voted to bargain in August, and less than
1% voted to accept the FWCS proposal. Because of Dr. Robinson’s recent published statements, FWEA
believes it is necessary to share with you again the detailed parts of the contract that FWCS wishes to gut.
This is not about money. This is not about Steve and Al as stated by FWCS Leadership and Dr. Robinson.
This is about your ability to do your job under contract protections that are still allowed to be in place under
Indiana Law for the next two years. FWCS teachers have shared with FWEA that they feel disbelief,
insulted, discouraged, ignored, manipulated, betrayed, disappointed, abandoned, angry, unappreciated,
and demoralized. Student success is our # 1 goal. What progress has FWEA blocked in improving student

“We are not trying to change teacher working conditions.”- Dr. Wendy Robinson
“We should not get hysterical over things that are not real.”- Dr. Wendy Robinson
“Disagreements are with the union leadership not with teachers as a whole.”- Dr. Wendy
“I am not in nor would I start a conflict with teachers.”- Dr. Wendy Robinson
“Keeping these in effect for another two years would block progress on some strategies
for improving student achievement.”- Dr. Wendy Robinson

Remember, FWCS does NOT have to remove any of this
language now and we can jointly work together the next two
years collaborating on what the new language will be. All we
are asking FWCS is to allow us to keep parts of our contract
that FWCS teachers have said are important in dealing with
their working conditions, their professional respect and dignity
in dealing with the students they are educating.
See and hear for yourself what will be lost of your rights. If you
did not attend the first meeting on May 26, you need to be at
our next meeting to hear the TRUTH of what will happen to
your working conditions. Handouts will be available along with
Q & A following the presentation.

Al Jacquay II, FWEA President Steve Brace, 1L UniServ Director

FWEA/FWCS Bargaining Update
Northrop High School
Thursday, June 9, 2011
4:15 PM

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FWEA Bargaining UPdate Meeting

FWEA will host a mass FWEA member meeting Thursday, May 26 at 4:15 pm at the Anthis Career Center Auditorium. Please bring a photo ID and sign in. Updates on the Indiana's new education legislation and bargaining information will be shared.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tony Bennett's Doctoral Dissertation- Article by Doug Martin

By: Doug Martin Wednesday May 11, 2011 6:49 pm

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett sees teachers and their unions as worse than Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) snaking throughout the locker rooms and hallways of Indiana’s public school buildings. Yet, after setting out on his pilgrimage to prove in his doctoral dissertation that teachers’ unions were negatively influencing Indiana education, the former principal and basketball coach stumbled across a rude awakening. His research suggested the direct opposite.

In The Effects of Just Cause Contract Language on Teacher Dismissals in Indiana Between 1999-2004, Bennett (2005) discovered that school corporations in the Hoosier state “have not encountered measurable resistance by teachers’ unions against their recommendations to dismiss teachers” (p. iii). Additionally, Bennett wrote: “Just cause contract language has not presented insurmountable hurdles for school corporations as they work to improve teachers’ performance and behavior” (p. iii). Neither did he find administrators claiming they were in any way handcuffed from holding teachers to high standards (iii-iv).

Given that many doctoral candidates statistically analyze survey data, one can give Bennett the benefit of the doubt for not doing enough preliminary work before embarking to disprove his own thesis. Yet true scholars change their arguments to fit the data, elaborate on those arguments, add more sources to back up those arguments, and put that knowledge into practice in the real world. If anything, you’d think that after confirming his ideas wrong, coach Bennett would be out in full-force tailgating for the teachers’ unions every step of the way. Sadly, this will never happen.

Truthfully, Bennett has staunchly supported school privatization for years as a way to one day financially cash-in.* With the plutocrats now applauding his every rant and rave, the counterfeit Bobby Knight of State School Boards might very well become a millionaire as soon as he exits the superintendent’s office and fully joins the charter school cartel. Or they may just laugh him off, since I don’t think Tony Bennett is bright enough to write believable school-reform propaganda. But, then again, neither are many of the Ph.D.s/Ed.D.s who are spitting out and spinning the research funded by the school privatizers. Although he’ll never be a straight-shooter, Tony Bennett could still become a dribbling hero after all.


* Among those who donated to Bennett’s campaign for Head School Chief were Christel DeHaan, co-founder of Resort Condominiums International (RCI) who runs her own charter schools and is a member of Mitch Daniels’ Educational Roundtable; Hoosiers for Economic Growth, a pro-school choice front group which receives money from the Walton Family and Amway wife Betsy DeVos; Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.Com and leader of Milton Friedman’s Foundation for Educational Choice which was behind the “Why Not Indiana?” ads; internet school company, K-12, INC.; Apangea Learning, an online tutoring group whose CEO used to lead Channel One Communications (a news program which runs with ads in the Indiana public schools); Jason Bryant, who manages Imagine Schools’ charters in Fort Wayne; McGraw-Hill, publishers of Indiana’s textbooks, ISTEP tests, and long-standing friends with the Bush Family; Todd Rokita, now U.S. Representative for Indiana and co-member with Bennett of Purdue’s Indiana Council for Economic Education’s Director’s Circle; Jeff Abbott, member of Bennett’s educational transition team and the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, the local branch of the right-wing State Policy Network; Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, who helped found the Charles A. Tindley charter school; Rollin Dick, of the charter operator GEO Foundation and former CFO for Conseco; Anne Shane, former Teach for America Indiana board chair, now of the Mind Trust; David Shane (Anne’s husband) from TechPoint, a former Daniels’ Policy Advisor for Education and Employment and now member of the Indiana State Board of Education; Neil Pickett, member of the Indiana State Board of Eduction and CEO of Clarian Health; Chris Faulkner, right-wing political consultant who employees Indiana State Board of Education member Jo Blacketor.

For more insight into the state board and dissertations, see the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette’s coverage of plagiarism allegations against another Indiana State Board of Education member, Gwen Adell, and Karen Francisco’s call to Mitch Daniels to suspend Adell immediately.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Can You Make a Teachers Job More Difficult ?

Could You Make My Job More Difficult?
"I work in a small school." It's what I tell myself every time I find myself stealing staples from office staplers or drawing Venn diagrams on twenty papers before class because all of the copiers are broken. It's like, "This is why I moved to New York," which is what I say every time I talk education with a bunch of progressive educators, get tickets to see Diane Ravitch speak, visit authors' apartments for book clubs, or watch people live their lives in the Manhattan skyline at two in the morning. But one is a positive thing, and the other isn't.

In an effort to focus on the positive, I explained last week why I love working at my school. As much as it's a great opportunity for me, it's also an INCREDIBLE hassle. I think if people were more aware of the absurdities teachers deal with on an everyday basis, they might be less inclined to label schools 'failing,' or blame teachers for society's shortcomings.

In December, I wrote about a few of the things that make my job difficult. There are so many more, though. It seems like incredible amounts of meaningful work are often sabotaged (intentionally and unintentionally) at every level of education. Moreover, teachers are regularly put in precarious legal situations that would make any sane person reconsider their job on a daily basis. The result is that I complete so many tasks that are a waste of my time because of poor organizational management and political ineptitude. Here are a few examples from my daily experiences.

1. Getting paid is a job in itself.
For the first time in my career, I have to clock in and out of school for 'per session' pay - i.e. money I'm being paid for taking on additional work at school beyond my regular teaching duties. At the end of the pay period, I have to take my pay stub, fill out a form, get my admin to sign off, and hand it to the secretary. What should be a simple task often turns into a cat-and-mouse game. The admin is often not in the office when I need a signature, and the secretary regularly leaves school at 3:15pm, which is the minute I get done teaching my last period. Also, I often have to make copies of the time card, which would be no problem if our copiers weren't regularly broken or being used by someone else. This process often takes at least twenty minutes of my day.

2. Going to the bathroom is a hassle.

Student bathrooms are locked to prevent gang activity and smoking. When students want to go to the bathroom, they first have to get a key from the main office. The key is (surprise, surprise) often stolen. It's not rare that students leave my room for twenty minutes to go to the bathroom only to come back and tell me they went to three different people in two different offices, and nobody had a key. Students are told by office staff that teachers have the key; teachers can open the bathroom for them. That'd be fine if it wasn't an enormous liability for me to leave the rest of the class unattended during the school day. I could lend them my keys, but I bet they'd be stolen pretty quickly, too.

My basement bathroom
Then there's the matter of the faculty bathroom. The only easily accessible bathrooms are on the first and second floor, but they're student bathrooms. It is, of course, another liability for teachers to use them. Teachers are instructed to use the teacher bathroom on the other side of the building in the basement. This turns out to be quite the Double Dare challenge during the three-minute break we have to change classes (during which time we also have to move materials and cart textbooks from room to room, sometimes on different floors, which requires waiting for the elevator). Most teachers risk the liability.

3. Keeping classrooms clean and kids supervised is overwhelming.

Really? Pancake on the floor?
Teachers travel from room to room at my school. In a rush to make it from one class to another, teachers forget to do a lot of things - e.g. take worksheets with them, make sure kids clean the inevitable mess they make on a daily basis, or lock the door. As a result, classrooms often look awful by the end of the day. I usually spend thirty minutes cleaning this up before I can ever start any work after school.

My class after four teachers
It's a liability to leave students in classrooms by themselves. Anything they steal or break our administration has told us can be held against us, no matter what time of day it occurs. That sucks because there are non-teachers who use our classrooms. If I lock my door to keep kids out, I will inevitably be called away from a meeting later in the day to let the Bronx Arts people in, and because those people aren't on staff, they don't care so much about locking the door when they leave, especially since they don't have a key. Teachers are also liable for leaving windows open. Kids might get electronics and weapons through them they couldn't through the metal detectors.

4. Our building is falling apart.

The ceiling in our principal's office has been leaking water for weeks. Plastic was used to cover the leak up, but the office also doesn't get heat like the rest of the building. Last week, a portion of the ceiling fell on our principal while writing an email.

In the classroom, teaching can be a hassle when the building pipes make it sound like you're living in a popcorn bag. I've seen teachers yelling at students, not because students were being disruptive, but because the pipe noises required it.

And then there's the heat. On the first and second floors, it's often outrageously hot. Some kids open the windows to the freezing air outside, and other kids yell at them for it. Conflict ensues. Teaching gets harder.

5. The kids' diets are abysmal.

I often wonder if teaching the kids about the Industrial Revolution is worth my time at all when their brains are made out of Pringles. The kids do not understand, at all, the importance of healthy eating. They're not even aware they're eating poorly. A number of students have argued with me over the quality of fast food. "Mister - fast food makes you strong! It's good for you!" I sigh and try to explain to them.... It is, alas, of no use.

And whoever is responsible for the lunch the students receive in the cafeteria on the SIXTH FLOOR should be shot. Many of my students who are already going hungry at home avoid eating lunch at school because it's so bad. I keep bananas, almonds, and raisins in class to feed my kids when they can't work because they're so hungry. This, of course, takes time away from learning.

6. Technology makes my life more difficult.

Our school has some technology. We have a laptop cart and five projectors (for twenty-five teachers), but when my AP asked me yesterday why nobody was making use of the technology, I rolled my eyes and went into a fifteen-minute monologue about how technology makes my life more difficult. If I want to check the laptop cart out, I have to get it in the morning and push it to the room I'm using that day. I have to worry about kids stealing laptops and me having the pay the price. I have to somehow make sure the laptops are being used appropriately and that I get them all back by the end of the period. I have to somehow ensure a decent lesson despite the kids' desire to do anything but work once you put a computer in front of them. Finally, I have to figure out how to cart it from class to class for the rest of the day (or at least until I have a planning period) even if I don't want to use it with other classes. The same goes for the projectors, which are pretty hard to use when you don't have any white wall space in your room.

Then there's the matter of the teacher computers. As I mentioned before, the only computers teachers can use are located in a tiny teacher room on the second floor (there are usually five or six working computers for twenty-five teachers). The door doesn't lock and it's a hassle to keep students out when teachers aren't using it. The computers are loaded with viruses. A colleague of mine recently watched his work disappear from his jump drive after catching a virus from one of them.

This is to let you know that the following is my conclusion.

The saddest thing is that I've still only mentioned about a third of all the absurdities administrators, teachers, parents, and students have to deal with regularly at my school that I know about. I believe there are probably many more that I'm ignorant of and probably participate in regularly, probably quite blissfully.

To all the people working in policy whose jobs seem to entail making my life more difficult, I'm here to tell you that you're doing a fabulous job. Underfunding inner-city schools, feeding other people's kids food your dog might not eat, and writing asinine mandates really keeps me challenged.

And to all the education pundits who've never spent a day teaching in a school like mine and like to argue that spending more money on education shouldn't be part of the answer, you can go fuck yourselves.
Posted by The Reflective Educator Labels: NYC Public Schools, policy, Small Schools, Teacher Stress, The School Day

Monday, May 2, 2011

Legislative Update from President Schnellenberger

May 2,

Dear ISTA Members,

Last Friday, April 29, the long session of the 2011 General Assembly concluded. During this session, several education bills were passed that will directly affect you as an educator.

I want you to know that ISTA is already working to evaluate the new legislation line by line to find out exactly what its effect will be on you, on our public schools and on the more than one million students our public schools serve. ISTA is currently developing strategies which will allow it to advocate successfully for you as implementation of these new laws begin.

Over the next few weeks ISTA will be in contact with you to share what the new landscape of public education means to you, your colleagues, your school and your community and will provide local leaders with the additional training and support they will need to successfully advocate at the local level.

During this session ISTA was able to improve some of the proposed legislation to make it somewhat more palatable. However, because of the current political makeup of the legislature, ISTA was not able to affect as much positive change as I would have liked.

The success that ISTA did experience during this legislative session was the direct result of the efforts of thousands of ISTA members like you. Your phone calls, emails, attendance at rallies, hand-written letters and face-to-face meetings with legislators often made the critical difference when legislators cast their votes on bills directly or indirectly affecting public education and school employees.

I offer my sincere thanks to all of the ISTA family for standing firm against anti-public education forces. Again, by standing together and working together we can achieve more than any of us can alone. As Winston Churchill once said, “If we are together nothing is impossible, if we are divided all will fail.”

I know, and I want you to know as well, that while the work regarding this particular legislative session is over –ISTA’s work representing you in the changing landscape of public education, in our state and indeed in our country, is really just beginning. In fact, because of the legislation which was passed, there never may have been a time that the work ISTA does, and will do, was needed more than at this critical time in public education.

Finally, I want you to know that ISTA will be leading the way in providing the support, training and resources you and your locals need as we move forward through these changing times.


Nate Schnellenberger, ISTA President

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ISTA President's Speech at April Representative Assembly April 2011

Thank you, Teresa.
What a powerful message.
Isn’t it amazing that on some level, history always has a way of repeating itself?
Indiana and many other states across our country are currently in the midst of some very powerful times as workers’ rights are being assailed by anti-union governors and state legislators.
Basic rights we have taken for granted are under attack from Alaska to Florida, from Texas to Wisconsin and just about every where in between.
Clearly what is occurring in our country is a national agenda aimed to diminish worker rights, to weaken unions and to give total control of the work environment to management.
The current attacks on the working class are the civil rights issue of our time.
Here in Indiana our governor and some legislators are advancing that agenda by supporting legislation that would drastically weaken many of the basic rights we, as educators, hold as core values.
Their legislation will limit collective bargaining, negatively alter teacher evaluation and compensation systems, eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools, and divert financial resources already budgeted to public schools to private institutions.
Colleagues make no mistake about it; these are not “education reforms.”
We all know that this education agenda has almost nothing to do with “reform” but has everything to do with a political agenda designed to weaken our association.
We know that if education reform were the objective then we would be seeing proposals to:
Decrease – not increase class sizes,
Increase – not decrease class offerings,
And to increase – not decrease funding for remediation programs.
So instead of focusing on real education reform, those things that actually help our children in public schools, this agenda is focused on diverting resources away from public schools.
Hoosier common sense should tell us that their real objective is to defund or “fiscally starve” our public schools so that it becomes more and more difficult for public schools to be successful.
Let’s be clear; the ultimate goal of these proposals is to weaken Indiana’s public education system and to weaken our association so that in the future our detractors would have free reign to do what they want - without facing any questioning.
But I know I’m preaching to the choir here.
You have heard this before and you understand it.
So let me shift direction and take a few minutes to answer questions some of you have sent me.
I have heard these first four questions or ones similar to them from several members.
First question:
Have we been working with other unions, like IFT and the AFL-CIO?
Yes we have held joint rallies and joined forces legislatively with both IFT and the AFL-CIO. We also meet on a regular basis with the AFL-CIO labor council.
Have we tried to work with Republicans as well as Democrats during this session?
Yes, even before the session started -right after the election we began to meet with leaders and others from both parties to discuss education issues. Those meeting have continued throughout this session and we hope to continue them even after this session is completed.
This question is from Rick Marshall North Knox Co-President.
How will members retain their current level of Governance representation considering consolidation of Governance UniServ Districts?
Rick, even though in the future service regions may change there will be no need to alter current governance districts.
Therefore what you point out will not occur.
Crystal Flath from Southwest Sullivan Education Association asks.
Has ISTA discussed lowering our dues?
This is a great question because I don’t think that everyone knows how our dues amount is determined.
Our dues are determined by a formula contained in our bylaws.
Each year dues are determined at 1.4% of the Average Beginning Teachers Salary of the previous year as reported to Indiana Education Employment Board.
Because this formula is dictated according to bylaw it can only be changed by amending the current bylaw which can only be done by delegates at the annual Representative Assembly.
Here is a question from Sara Litwicki, a member in Crown Point.
What do you see in the future for ISTA if/when the Republican House and Senate pass the legislation that is currently pending.
Actually I think Sara’s question is getting to the same point as one I received from Dan Potter, the vice-president of our East Allen teachers local.
So I’ll try to answer both at the same time.
Dan says, Nate, I have fielded questions about the future of ISTA.
These questions relate to whether people are going to retain their membership next year in light of impending collective bargaining legislation.
How will ISTA work to insure their relevancy to members?
These are not only two excellent questions, but they are questions we must all be able to answer.
In reference to Collective Bargaining and how will changes in that law affect how we operate in the future.
First, there is still a Collective Bargaining Law. Granted that it has been restricted but there are still things we can and must bargain.

We will still need to represent members legally and at the bargaining table for salary and benefits.

Secondly, ISTA was advocating for educators and public education long before there was collective bargaining.

Remember ISTA was formed in 1854 and the collective bargaining law was not passed until 1973.

Third, there are a number of states that do not currently have a collective bargaining law and they do a great job advocating for the rights of educators and promoting public education—and educators continue to join.

Virginia, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee are successful ones that come to mind.

Fourth, without all of the previous protections and provisions of collectively bargained contracts our members will need their association even more than ever.

But let me emphatically say that ISTA is much bigger than just collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining is one part of what we do for our members and the need for our association to continue to advocate for and to work for our members in all areas will most certainly continue.

As for what I see as future work for ISTA?

That question reminds me of a quote from John F Kennedy, “When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters – one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

I believe we have a great opportunity to enhance our power through some different channels and we will need our members help at the grassroots level to do it.

We will still need to be politically active during election season, both locally and statewide.

We will need to engage in collective action and carry out our 18-month program designed to elect pro-public education and pro-public educator candidates. That takes collective action and resources.

And we must be serious about finding Democrat and Republican candidates who are public education friendly.

Then we must support them again at the grass roots level in primary and in the general election.

We can only do this if our members stay committed and work together for the good of all.

We must advocate for public education just as we have in the past but we must be more focused in doing so.

Folks, think about it, what would it be like without ISTA?

What would it have been like during this legislative session?
(talk about changes we made)

Without ISTA who is going to stand up for educators?

Now, please think about this.

How do those who want to destroy our organization and therefore have complete control over us as educators and over public education achieve their agenda?

How do they win?

There is only one way - and that is if “we” give them what they want.

If we and our members become self centered and forget that unions are about collective power and say nope I’m not joining. Then they win.

If our members forget that all of us together can accomplish more than any one or small group of us can on our own. Then they win.

If they are, in fact, successful in dividing us, and separating our members from their own interests, then they win.

I will tell you that our detractors are counting on you to give up on this fight and turn your back on your union.

I believe that our fabric is stronger than that and that we will not be fooled that easily.

Friends, we can make one of two choices.

We can decide to give up and say there is no hope.

That will only assure that there will be no hope.

Or we can decide to stay together and work together and fight together, like those leaders who came together to form this association in 1854.

Through the passion and resolve of our members our organization has risen to meet challenges in the past and if we have the will, it shall do so again.

As Winston Churchill once said, “If we are together nothing is impossible, if we are divided all will fail.”

One thing I have learned during the last two years is that trying times make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew.

Folks I know this, trying times are not a time for fear, or for panic, or for giving up –either individually or as an association.

Trying times are a reason to reach inside ourselves and to summon the courage to do something that our detractors think we cannot do.

The choice is clear.
We can either let others determine our future for us, which they are most certainly anxious to do, or we can determine it for ourselves.
I know which choice you want to make.
In these powerful days we need to again be the authors of our own story, the captains of our own ship, and the architects of our own future.
In these powerful days we need to seize the opportunity to make our association stronger, not to give in to those who would destroy her.
In these powerful days we are the stewards of the future and the responsibility is ours to keep the advocacy alive for our generation and for all those who will follow.
Let me end with this thought.
In this time of turmoil, let’s remember where we started from in 1854, and why.
Thank you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

FWCS FWEA Begin Bargaining Talks

Talks between FWCS administrators and FWEA bargaining teams are on-going. To date, we have had two sessions at Grile, and internal meetings have taken place within each group as needed. No agreements have been reached; however, discussions are still occurring. It is to be hoped that we can reach accord before July 1st, and that is our goal. When there is news to be shared, teachers will be contacted first.

Rumors abound about what will happen because of the new legislation at the state level. Good communication and mutual respect between
FWCS and FWEA are at the forefront of our talks, and we strive to maintain the excellent relationship we have shared in the past.
Your FWEA Bargaining Team

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Officers Elected for 2011-2013 FWEA Executive Board
Al Jacquay II -President
Matt Mertes - 1st VP
Terrie Taulbee- 2nd VP
Pat Pruitt - 3rd VP
Kim Hunter - Secretary
John Eastes - Treasurer
Julie Hyndman - Negotiations Liaison
Jennifer McDunnough - Elementary Rep
Carissa Richardson - Middle School Rep
Renee Albright - High School Rep
Marlena Mulligan- Special Education Rep

Carolyn Yates - Parliamentarian (appointed position)

Judith Abram-Odigboh - ISTA Minority Affairs State Committee - 2011-2013
Donna Craig - ISTA Governance Committee - 2011-2013
Carolyn Yates - ISTA Board of Directors Minority at Large - 2011-2014

Congratulations to all elected FWEA and ISTA officers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

7 Solid Reasons to Dislike Public Education Reform

Seven Reasons I Really Dislike Public Education Reform

February 1, 2011

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Dr. Jim Taylor

I am not a fan of the Obama administration’s public education initiatives, including Race to the Top. The programs are, in my view, mislabeled, misdirected, and misguided. Here are my seven reasons to really dislike public education reform:

1 Public education reform is dishonest (though not maliciously so). The reality is that public education is doing just fine in many parts of the country. What reform is really about is educating our disadvantaged youth, who reside mostly in inner cities and the rural South, and closing the achievement gap that exists between the haves and have-nots. This means that a lot of money and unnecessary regulations are being directed to school districts, generally affluent and suburban, that simply don’t need it.

2 More of the same. We’ve devoted decades and billions of dollars to doing more or less the same thing. We must do things dramatically differently rather than continuing to make iterative changes that don’t depart far from the current public-education groupthink.

3 Teaching to the test is the focus. The problem is that teaching to the test doesn’t have much to do with actual education. With the emphasis on reading and math skills aimed at passing the tests, school curricula are narrowed, depriving students of valuable exposure to the arts, physical and social sciences, and humanities. Also, the emphasis on testing sucks the joy out of teaching for teachers and learning for students.

4 Cheating is encouraged. Even the most nobly driven professions, such as teaching, will do what they have to do to survive. And survival in public education means getting the funding dangled like a carrot by our federal government. States are gaming the system by watering down standards. Schools are engaging in attendance and grade fraud. Teachers are giving answers to students on their exams. And students are cheating to get better grades.

5 Teachers are seen as the problem. Yes, there are some bad teachers, but certainly not enough to blame our public education failures on them. The teachers are the people who fight the good fight every day against enormous odds for low pay and even less respect.

6 Local control of curricula. The conventional wisdom is that states and local school boards know what’s best for educating our children. This belief may have been true a half century ago, when people tended to live and work where they were raised. But times have changed. Our mobile society and a global economy have obliterated district, county, and state lines that once had meaning. And local control means curricula that are supported by decades of inertia, groups invested in the status quo (e.g., teachers’ unions, school boards, textbook publishers, testing companies). A national curriculum would mean more consistent education, higher standards, less gaming of the system, and children who are better prepared for the flat world in which they will live.

7 The root cause is missed. Current efforts, such as Race to the Top, assume that the problem is failing schools; if you fix the schools, you fix the students. But failing schools are the symptom, not the problem. The real problem is failing students, who are simply unprepared to succeed when they begin school. Poor children start far behind kids from middle- and upper-income families because they lack the attitudes and basic learning skills necessary for academic success. Any effort to improve these areas once they arrive at school is just a game of catch-up in which the vast majority of these students never catch up. The solution then is to change the environment in which disadvantaged children are raised before they get to school: better child care and preschool, parent education, books in poor homes, a living wage so parents don’t have to work two or more jobs, and safe neighborhoods.

Jim Taylor, Ph.D. in psychology, is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco. He blogs on education and technology for psychologytoday.com, huffingtonpost.com, sfgate.com, seattlepi.com, and other Web sites around the country, as well as on http://drjimtaylor.com/ blog/archives/education.

Stop Labeling Teachers, Label the Lawmakers !

Stop labeling teachers, label the lawmakers
By John Kuhn
Apr 14, 2011, 08:39

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Provided by John Kuhn as printed in the Minerals Wells Index

Dear Editor,

The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

Teachers are surrounded by armchair quarterbacks who won’t lift a finger to help, only to point. Congressmen, come down out of those bleachers and strive with us against the pernicious ravages of poverty. We need more from you than blame. America’s education problem is actually a poverty problem.

If labels fix schools, let us use labels to fix our congresses! Let lawmakers show the courage of a teacher! Hold hands with us and let us march together into the teeth of this blame machine you have built. Let us hold this congressman up against that congressman and compare them just as we compare our schools. Congressmen, do not fear this accountability you have given us. Like us, you will learn to love it.

Or maybe lawmakers do such a wonderful job that we don’t need to hold them accountable?

Did you know that over the next five years, Texas lawmakers will send half a billion dollars to London, to line the pockets of Pearson’s stakeholders. That’s 15,000 teacher salaries, sacrificed at the altar of standardized testing. $500,000,000 for a test! I’m sure it’s a nice test, but it’s just a test. I’ve never seen a test change a kid’s life or dry a kid’s tear. Tests don’t show up at family funerals or junior high basketball games. They don’t chip in to buy a poor girl a prom dress. Only teachers do those things.

If times are desperate enough to slash local schools’ operating funds, then surely they are desperate enough to slash Pearson’s profits. Lawmakers, get your priorities straight. Put a moratorium on testing until we can afford it. Teachers are our treasure – let’s not lose the house just so we can keep our subscription to Pearson’s Test-of-the-Month Club. We have heard Texas senators often talk about the teacher-to-non-teacher ratio in our schools. Lawmakers, they are ALL non-teachers at Pearson. Don’t spend half a billion dollars that we don’t have on some test that is made in England.

Parents are so fed up with standardized testing that hundreds are now refusing to let their children test. They do not want their children run through this terrible punch press. They do not want standardized children. They want exceptional children!

Let me tell you Texas’s other dirty secret – some schools get three times the funding of other schools. Some schools get $12,000 per student, while others get $4,000. Did you know that every single child in Austin is worth $1,000 more than every single child in Fort Worth? Do you agree with that valuation? Congress does. They spend billions to fund this imbalance.

Now the architects of this inequity point at the salaries and staff sizes at the schools they have enriched to justify cuts at schools that have never been given enough. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, of Plano, says, essentially, yes, but we’re cutting the poor schools by less. Senator, you don’t take bread away from people in a soup line! Not even one crumb. And you should not take funds away from schools that you have already underfunded for years. It may be politically right to bring home the bacon, but ain’t right right.

Legislators, take the energy you spend shifting blame and apply it toward fixing the funding mechanisms. We elected you to solve the state’s problems, not merely to blame them on local government. After all, you have mandated local decision-making for years. Your FIRST rating system tells school boards that their district’s administrative cost ratio can be no higher than 0.2 percent. And over 95 percent of school districts in Texas are in compliance with the standard you have set. At my school, our administrative cost ratio is 0.06 percent – so could you please stop blaming me?

If 95 percent of schools are compliant with the administrative cost ratio indicator in the state’s financial rating system for schools, then why are state officials saying we have too much administration? We have the amount of administration they told us to have! Either they gave us bad guidance and we all followed it, or they gave us good guidance and just need someone other than themselves to blame for these cuts.

Is this the best we can do in Texas? I wish they would worry about students half as much as they worry about getting re-elected.

These same senators have a catchy new slogan: “Protect the Classroom.” I ask you, senators: who are we protecting the classroom from? You, that’s who. You are swinging the ax; don’t blame us for bleeding wrong.

They know that their cuts are so drastic that school boards will have no choice but to let teachers go, and I can prove it: while they give press conferences telling superintendents not to fire teachers, at the same time they pass laws making it easier for ... you guessed it ...administrators to fire teachers. Which is it, senators?

If we don’t truly need to cut teachers, then don’t pass the laws that reduce their employment protections. And if we truly do need to cut teachers, then go ahead and pass those laws but quit saying teacher cuts are the superintendents’ fault. Here’s the deal: I can accept cuts, but I cannot do anything but forcefully reject deceit.

Politicians, save your buck-passing for another day. We need leadership. Get to work, congressmen. Do your jobs, and find the revenue to fund my child’s education.


John Kuhn, father of three, Perrin