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!