Friday, November 2, 2012

Not a typical blog entry.

There seems to be a pretty evident theme in my blogging.  But I'm feeling the urge to take a turn today and write on a different subject.  Being 100% out of my comfort zone, this comes deep from my heart and in the end has everything to do with my kids....so I guess you could say, I'll still be tagging Emma and Hope in this one.

Please don't stop reading just because I say the word election.  "Election." 
I couldn't be more tired of political shout outs any more than anyone else.  Admittedly, I never have been an active voter.  Voting in presidential elections, with usually a straight ticket, has been my pathetic record.  I am saddened and embarrassed.  This year, I am learning an informed vote can make a difference.  So putting all political parties aside....lets talk about people.

Dr. Tony Bennett is our current IN Superintendent of Schools.  He is up for re-election.  His opponent is Glenda Ritz.  I have caught wind of upset people in regards to the current served term of Dr. Bennett.  Having a child in the public schools and another on her way, this stopped me for a second to question what is really going on.  No better way to find out than to go directly to the source.

I resourced a wide variety of teachers - retired, soon to retire, young, experienced, elementary and secondary, from northern/southern/and eastern districts of the state.  Coming out of the teaching career before my kids were born, I understand there are teachers out there "for the summers", but I also know of teachers that are A+ and always put kids first.  (The kind that go above and beyond, after hours, spending their own money on classroom supplies, and do anything to get a kid to smile.)  These are the ones I highly respect and collected information from.  If you don't read the rest of the post, please talk to the respected teachers in your district and learn first hand the conditions of our classrooms. 

When asked about Dr. Bennett 9 out of 10 replied with one word - arrogant.  Can't argue with that, when I get totally separate emails from people that don't even know each other.  Red flag.  BIG red flag.

To continue, Dr. Bennett is testing our kids to death.  While testing and monitoring student growth, I feel is necessary for child improvement, there must be a line drawn.  Dr. Bennett has been testing, and will continue to test, our kids so much that many teachers say it is all they can do but just "teach to the test."  This is leaving VERY little room in the classroom for other teaching that is crucial to prepare students for the next level.  It leaves virtually no room for creativity in the classroom.  It is taking ALL our teachers time.  The paper trail is miles long.  Teachers are unable to do their job well due to the time commitment being forced upon them with testing.

These test are referred to as the Common Core Testing. 
Go in a classroom of 30 kids....find one thing that they all have in common and I'll erase this blog right now.  I think one of my favorite quotes from a high school FACS teacher is "I have a elephant, snake, and dolphin in my class.  Today's test is  - Go Climb A Tree."  How is that fair?

These test scores are being used to determine teacher accountability (and yes I do believe in some kind of teacher accountability).  But using these test scores to say whether or not our teachers are competent or  incompetent is absurd.  
Susie's mom is in the hospital with cancer, while Billy's family doesn't have electricity for a warm place to sleep, don't forget Jane that ate a candy bar for breakfast, and oh ya, Zak who could care less about school and never brings his pencil or books.  They all take the test.  Low scores.  So according to Dr. Bennett their teacher is incompetent.  I just might barf for a second.

Seriously, do we get to blame the dentist when our kid has a cavity?

If student test scores will be a determining factors in school ratings and teacher performance (I hate to imagine) is cheating far from around the corner?  That sure isn't a subject I'd like my child to learn.

Not long after Dr. Bennett was in office he was quoted, "the IPS (Indianapolis Public School) have low graduation rates because of incompetent teachers.  Unlike the schools in Carmel and Fishers where the teachers are better."  This makes me sick.  Switch the teachers for one year....then see if the shoe still fits buddy.

Teacher moral is way down.  Good teachers are retiring early and other are looking to move on.  I can't stand to hear that.  No one, in any job, does a good performance when they feel unsupported and degraded.  This is definitely not how I want my daughter's teacher to feel when she greets her classroom in the morning.

Just yesterday, I received a News Brief from my daughter's school sharing information regarding some of this new scoring.  Her school received an A.  It further went to share this information:
Union ISTEP English/Language Arts passage rate for grade three = 98.8%
Union ISTEP English/Language Arts passage rate for grade four = 96.1%
Union ISTEP Math passage rate for grade three = 97.5%
Union ISTEP Math passage rate for grade four = 96.1%
Union average attendance* rate for 2011-2012 school year = 97.3%
Union average attendance* rate for current school year-to-date = 97.98%
Union I-Read* (retention mandate test) passage rate for grade three = 95.3%
*These data are not included in the state’s A-F calculations. Further, performance data reflective of Union grades K-2 students’ successes are not included in the state’s A-F calculations. We heartily celebrate all of these successes as essential building blocks to student achievement and overall growth. State officials have not yet indicated the fate of the Four Star School recognition program.


Thanks Dr. Bennett for clearly stating that my first grader means nothing to you or how you grade her school.  It's nice to know you see her efforts as worthless.  [angry parent in room]

I mentioned we would talk people, and so far I seem to have only mentioned one.  So bring out the opponent Glenda Ritz.  Unlike Bennett, she IS encouraging more local power in the schools and the move to take less stress off of testing.  Bravo.  Bravo.  I can already hear a sigh of relief from my nervous test-taking daughter and her creative juices.

Is this a plea to try to get you to vote for someone just so my daughter doesn't have to sit through hours of testing everyday at school?  Nope.
It is a plea for you to understand you have the right to vote.  And you do not have to vote a straight ticket.
It is a plea for you to ask questions, talk to your kid's teachers and your grandkid's teachers, find out what is going on, find out the conditions of the classroom and make an informed vote for Indiana State Superintendent.  Make a difference.

Before my shaking knees fall off this soapbox, let me end with a fact found out today.  My children attend Zionsville Community Schools.  The ZCS high school graduation rate is 97.4% and is the 2nd highest in the state for large public high schools.  That's pretty impressive news.  I could sit back with these statistics and say "my daughter loves school....she does very well....what's to worry...we've got it made."
Nope, that would put me right back into my old voting ways....and that didn't seem to turn out so good four years ago, now did it?

A big thank you to the teachers, school officials, and administrators that continue to hold heads high and make things work.  Your efforts are not overlooked.  You are important.  You do make a difference.  I am forever grateful.
Thank you to involved parents.  Involvement from the mom/dad that volunteers every second, to the mom/dad that simply reads a book to their child every night.  Your efforts are never overlooked from those in the front of the classroom.

Shew.  If you made it through and read it all - kudos.  I hope you aren't as tired as I am! ;)

33 comments:

  1. When did we became a culture so immersed in testing and data? It breaks me.

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    1. yes me too. And I am very said to say Indiana public schools are in shambles because of it. Praying for a good turn out on voter day....our teachers and kids deserve it!

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    2. This is my 31st year as a teacher. I have NEVER had a day when I could say that I wasn't glad to be in my classroom. My students are the reason for this. They uplift me, they challenge me, they inspire me. They come to me for advise, to help them with personal issues, or simply to talk. I reject no one. Since school has begun this fall, however, I have felt a pall permeating my school. All of the edicts coming down from the state is the source. It is so pervasive that I know of one phenomenal high school English teacher (who happens to be my wife) has decided that she will not return next year. It breaks my heart - not for the loss of income, but for the fact that there will be so many students who will be denied her expertise, her passion and her compassion.

      I have been a registered Republican for 30+ years. I will not be voting for Mr. Bennett - not just for the reasons that you have listed. Research his history prior to taking office and you will se how incapable he was as an educator. That ices it for me.

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    3. Passion and compassion - two words that describe the best teachers out there. So sorry to hear of your wife decision to not return. It crushes my spirit to know the lack of respect IN teachers are getting from "the man in charge".

      Your students are blessed to have you and your wife in their day. Thank you so much for doing what you do.

      (and yes, I have some VERY trust-worthy sources in parents that had children go through the school Bennett came from. Interesting to say the least!)

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  2. Oh my. 507 hits as of Sunday evening. I am completely humbled beyond words.

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  3. I have my teaching licences (yes I have two of them) and I can't agree more with your comment "Good teachers are retiring early and other are looking to move on. I can't stand to hear that" I taught HS for one year and after that one year I don't ever want to teach again! I hope Ritz can do something to make me want to teach again!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comments, I hope you can use those teacher licenses again too!!

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  4. How do you think I feel, taking my girls out of Indiana public schools and putting them into Wisconsin public schools? I have been following both Wisconsin's teachers stuggles (I've got friends who are teachers here) and Indiana teachers struggles closely. It breaks my heart. And I agree that EVERYONE needs to GET OUT AND VOTE tomorrow! My father, a wise man, who almost died getting out of his communist country to become an American once told me "If you don't vote, you're not doing everything your country requires of you. YOU owe your country that vote, it's your right and priviledge. And if you don't vote, you don't get to complain" This man instilled so much patriatism into me, I've never to this day, missed a vote; and then I married into a family of vetran's who fought for our freedom, that there has never been a question.

    I hope Ritz can make a change, and I hope Wisconsin is watching. (I know they are, I just wish we could have done more for ourselves)

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    1. You are right, it is so heart breaking. Thanks for your comments. And many more thanks to your family of veterans - I am so pumped this year to exercise my freedom to vote and I owe it them!!!

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  5. Thank you for bringing this under-the-radar issue to the forefront. As a parent of children in Pike Township schools and a substitute teacher in the same district, I echo the sentiments of the blogger. I am in a position of hearing from all sides. And, when UT comes down to it, NO ONE is happy with the current trend.
    What happened to teaching or children how to problem solve real life situations, not just solve problems they encounter on the I-STEP? And, learning how to reason and think and doing that by teachers who should be able to teach the best way they know how.whether that's outside the box or traditional means. Least we forget that teaching is the noblest profession there is.do we want teachers who's job depends on some random scores of diverse students.
    I sure don't. So let's make sure or children aretaught but the best. Glenda Ritz is clearly the lead educator/superintendent for Indiana. She will ensure our students learn in the best possible circumstances without our teachers fearing for their jobs without provocation. VOTE GLENDA RITZ!!

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    1. No need to thank me....it's the teachers (and substitute teachers too) that we applaud! :)

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  6. Thank you for your words...as a public school teacher they give me hope that maybe we've gotten enough folks out there to listen and we'll get Glenda Ritz elected. Praying for a miracle tomorrow.

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    1. Thank you. Your job is amazing and deserves nothing less than the up-most respect. Keep it up and best wishes.

      .....and yes, I believe in miracles.

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  7. Thank you for your support. I teach special education-already a lowly appreciated job. Regardless, I love my job and my students. My parents appreciate what I and my school do for their son/daughter. However, its easy for people to think that their son's/daughter's teacher is great but those others....
    It is nice to read words of appreciation. Its uplifting to know that there are still people who value real education and truly put students first.

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    1. I actually taught HS art for six years before becoming a stay at home mom for the past seven. My room was across from the special needs students. Loved all those kids. Amazing people teach in that area....not anyone can do that job. Keep up the good work. Hoping for positive things to come!

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    2. Jill, my 30-year career has been as an art teacher (11 years at the elementary level, 19 at the H.S. level). It's the greatest job in the world! Watching children discover what they are capable of, and seeing that sense of pride in accomplishment, is the narcotic that I am addicted to. My dear friend is a special needs teacher and I teach her students. They are some of the sweetest children you'd ever want to know. They teach me more than I teach them - namely "live for today. Enjoy the now." They are guileless and see the good in everyone. I too often forget...

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  8. Thank you for this blog...I was sent here by both colleagues and non-teaching family members. As an elementary teacher with an administrator's license as well, I thank you for your support of public education.

    I have taught in IPS and also HSE and you struck a chord with me when you quoted Dr. Bennett on the incompetence of IPS teachers. I very seriously doubt that HSE would have hired me had I been incompetent at IPS.

    Just one more point for your readers on the rules of school grades - If a child is absent for ANY reason during the ISTEP testing window and does not complete the test, that child fails ISTEP and the school gets marked down on their grade. In IPS, I have personally experienced a child missing the test due to the death of a parent and the State, under Dr. Bennett invalidated that student's test, which resulted in a "fail." Not only was the child labeled a failure, our school's rating knocked too for something that was not the fault of anyone involved. This craziness has got to stop.

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    1. I am humbled beyond words on the travel of this blog entry.

      There isn't a shadow of doubt in my mind that IPS teachers are just as much of the cream of the crop as any others. You all deserve respect and I am so sad to hear things of what has been happening. Keep up the good work and thank you for making a difference in our students!

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  9. I've been a public school teacher in Indiana for 17 years in three different districts. In the past four years, I have felt demeaned, belittled, and demoralized by our state's policies concerning education. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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    1. Don't give up. You are making a difference each and everyday!

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  10. I am a teacher in Northwest Indiana and I want to thank you for this blog. It gives me hope that parents are becoming ïn the know about this man and his negative impact on our schools. Ritz doesn't have the funding Bennett has-- she has no testing companies donating to her campaign the way Bennett does. Testing companies support him because he will use their tests to demoralize our children and our teachers. Again, thank you for getting her name out there.

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    1. Just being a mom and standing up for my daughters. Thank YOU for for being a teacher!

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  11. Thank you so much for your post! It is so reassuring to know that all of our efforts as teachers are noticed. I am praying that enough of us can get the word out for Ritz! I will be watching tomorrow for sure. Thank you again. :)
    Cruz'n in First

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  12. I appreciate your support as well. Beautiful blog. I was awarded the 2012 Carmel Clay Teacher of the Year and I was at a banquet with Dr. Tony Bennett. It was very hard to watch him stand up there and announce each of the Indiana Finalist and Semi-finalists. He thanked us for our time and effort and dedication to the profession then awarded the semi-finalist with an easy grader, bag of red grading pens and a black recycled bag that contained propaganda about his A-F rating system. Interesting gift, huh? My husband got a kick out of following my van out of the JW Marriott parking lot with a huge Glenda Ritz bumper sticker on the back. I hope that everyone gets out and votes for Glenda tomorrow. She can make a difference for the staff, students, and many families in the state of Indiana. She truly cares about us all. SIncerely, Kelly Meyer

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    1. Oh dear...what a gift! From what I have heard that seems to fit his style.
      It is amazing the extra hours teachers put and in return get "a bag of red grading pens". wow.

      Congrats on your award - keep up the good work!

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  13. Thanks for writing this. You've said something very important here and I appreciate it very much. I hope you don't mind that I shared this on my FB site for teachers but I felt what you wrote needed to be read as widely as possible. You have my gratitude.

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    1. Not sure what to say. I have been humbled beyond words. I had no idea writing a few lines of honest, heart-felt words would mean so much.

      When the post had hit over 300 views, I nearly fell of my chair. Nervous more than anything because I do not like political talk, nor talking bad about a person...two things of which this did! I was afraid there would be so much anger from Republican and Bennett supports bashing me out. I just don't like to create waves anywhere with anything!

      However, when a close family member of mine admittedly stated he knew nothing of either candidate, yet bashed teachers when I asked him to vote for Glenda...I got worried. Especially that when I asked him this after a conversation we had about HIS TWO KIDS and their issues in school.

      My heart broke. He had made an ignorant statement about teachers in general, completely out of political party bitterness. And to have kids take the effect of it breaks me.

      So....I wrote this only for one reason. For him to be introduced to the candidates he knew nothing about. Scared, I literally sat for two hours debating weather or not to hit the publish button.

      I don't know if my family member read it or it not. But my stats show that OVER 9,200 people have. Trying hard to follow all the shares and comments, I have only seen TWO negative comments.

      Many teachers have thanked me. Many have shared their struggles. Many have brought me to tears as I read comments like, "you have given me hope that there are still a few people out there that still care."

      I am humbled. I am not the one to be thanked. Our teachers are more deserving of any thanks we could possible give them. Our kids and students NEED these teachers in their lives.

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  14. Jill - your words here and more importantly, your thoughts and efforts in constructing them have helped bring a glorious result that ALL Indiana educators can celebrate tonight, tomorrow, and in the days to come. Indiana's children have a brighter future starting tomorrow morning! Thank you for your efforts!

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  15. Thank you for writing this. As a teacher recently turned stay-at-home mom, I can't even begin to express how much this means to me. I am so, so proud of Ritz and all of us - teachers, parents, impassioned citizens - who were willing to stand up to Bennett and his ridiculous agenda.

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