Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Prefer Professional Educators

Jo Blacketor
Indiana Department of Education Board of Trustees
Second Congressional District Representative

November 20, 2012

Dear Jo,

Around four years ago, you and I had some nice back and forth on the South Bend Forum concerning education issues.  The topic at hand was the SBCSC Board of Trustees race – in which I was a candidate.  Facing fourteen opponents for two seats (including the ex-Mayor), I did stop campaigning aggressively towards the end.  But my interest in public education issues never waned.  As a matter of fact, in the past year I have devoted many tens of tens of hours reviewing policies, strategies, analyses, and studies in the realm of pre-K to grade 12 education – what works and what doesn’t.  There’s plenty to sift through, and I devote some time every day to it.

It is widely believed that your Board will be considering REPA2 at your December 5, 2012 meeting.  This is not known for certain, since I gather the agenda is made available only shortly prior to the meeting.

The proposal, as I read it, seems to pretty much remove the imperative for teacher training and skill confirmation.  A college graduate who passes a licensing test – such as the kind to sell auto insurance – can teach.  No training in teaching, no mentoring, or student teaching would be required.

This is nonsensical on many levels.  Let’s face it, a High School graduate has enough math to (in theory) teach Seventh Grade math.  If we don’t care if people actually possess the skill to pass their knowledge on to others, why insist on college?  Seems like overkill.

And what effect will this have on state university Education programs?  Do we believe qualified teaching graduates should be strictly an export item?  Talk about a brain drain.

I have trained working dogs, mentored kids, taught Sunday School, trained adults for low level management, and am a parent.  I’ve taken all these roles seriously, and now in my mid-fifties, feel reasonably competent.  But K-12 teachers have a much tougher job.

I had the privilege a few weeks ago to spend an hour with my daughter’s Fourth Grade class at Hay Primary Center.  I came to tell them about how elections work, how the elected federal government is organized, the intricacies of the Electoral College, etc.  It was a lively session – the kids had really great questions.  It was obvious they were in the room of someone (Mrs. Nace) who kept the excitement of learning going for them.  I was very good for that hour, but pretty drained when it ended.  Then she took over - someone trained to, and having the experience to, teach every day, all day.

My daughter has had five excellent teachers in her five years in public education.  Three have retired – and it’s hard to fault them.  After working for many, many years and doing really great work, the State has made them feel as though they are some sort of villain.  They’ve personally covered the cost of class supplies the state should have paid for.  Parent Teacher Organizations have tried to help them fill some other gaps. All this can’t be easy to take. 

By ostracizing these professionals, the result is that other children will be denied the advantages of learning from these truly excellent educators.  That’s a loss to our community.  Yet the proposed state policy claims that any random college graduate (competent enough to pass a standardized test) is an improvement.  Well, as my southern friends might put it: That dog won’t hunt.

And it’s pretty offensive when the outgoing Governor, and the Governor Elect, claim that the stunning election loss by an extraordinarily hyper funded Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, doesn’t indicate dissatisfaction with state education policy.  Mr. Pence narrowly defeated an opponent who pretty much ran on his moustache – and received fewer votes than our newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz.  The election was entirely about citizen dissatisfaction with state education policy.  To claim otherwise is to look reality in the face and deny it.

I realize you serve at the pleasure of the Governor.  But you represent a district who voted for Glenda and the Moustache.  I hope you will keep us in mind at your meeting.  Thank you for all your public service.

Don Wheeler
South Bend

Monday, November 19, 2012

State School Board To Meet - Likely To Ignore Election Results

The Indiana School Board is scheduled to meet on December 5.  Tony Bennett will still be (albeit lame duck) Superintendent.

It is widely believed the Board will consider cheapening the requirement for state teaching certification.  Here's an analysis of the proposal .

The Second Congressional District is represented by Jo Blacketor, a former South Bend Community School Corporation Board Trustee.  I would urge everyone to look at the proposal and send her your thoughts.  Her e-mail is joblacketor1@gmail.com .

I'll writing in more dept about this soon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On the Glenda Ritz victory: Fantastic, but....

I posted this on Diane Ravitch's blog earlier today:

I am very pleased with Glenda Ritz’s victory. There was much energy expended here in the South Bend area to highlight this race. Educators (of all stripes) in particular were highly engaged.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Mike Pence – a front man for ALEC and Engulf & Devour (Koch Industries) is the Governor-Elect. His party controls the state Assembly. As a teacher I worked beside yesterday said to me, “Mitch Daniels kept Tony Bennett on something of a leash. Mike Pence would take the leash off”.

So we’ll have a Governor who will make things very difficult for the new Superintendent of Public Instruction. And a legislature capable of starving her department of funds.

The bottom line is that while we citizens of Indiana dodged a serious bullet, we’ll need to be extraordinarily vigilent and engaged to promote policies which will truly benefit our youngest citizens. Fellow Hoosiers, I hope you’ll join me in dedicating your efforts to that.

Don Wheeler
South Bend, IN

What do you think it symbolizes?