State Board of Education member visiting schools

State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry is doing a good thing by traveling around Indiana and meeting with teachers, administrators and school board members. Is he hearing what people say?

Friday he visited Bloomington High School North, from which he graduated in 1988. He met with administrators and a school board member, and talked with social studies teachers. Later, we spoke by phone about three big education issues facing the state.

Teacher evaluations

Hendry said much of the discussion at North involved state-mandated evaluations that require all teachers to be rated highly effective, effective, needs improvement or ineffective. He said the trick will be to craft evaluations that are accurate but don’t discourage teachers from collaborating.

“I don’t think I heard anyone say we don’t believe we should be accountable,” he said. “They want evaluations to be fair and to measure the right things. To me that makes sense.”

The 2011 law that required the evaluations says teachers rated needs improvement or ineffective can’t get a raise. With successive low ratings, they can be fired.

“It’s not only to identify teachers who need help,” Hendry said. “Just as important, it’s to identify teachers who are really doing an outstanding job.”

When the first statewide evaluations were released last month, nearly all rated teachers were found to be effective or highly effective. Lawmakers and state board members said that can’t be right.

“We should not have a bell curve,” Hendry said, adding there should be no predetermined number of ineffective teachers. “But we should find a way to effectively measure teacher performance that’s fair.”

No Child Left Behind Waiver

The U.S. Department of Education said this month that Indiana was falling short of meeting requirements of its waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. The feds gave Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz 60 days to address the problems.

“It is really a huge issue, and one of great importance to the state of Indiana,” Hendry said. “I’m very worried about it. I think it’s not a slam dunk” that Indiana’s waiver will be extended.

State board members suggested Ritz was to blame for not meeting expectations regarding teacher evaluations, turnaround of low-performing schools and other matters. Hendry said there needs to be more of “a sense of urgency” in the state’s response.

But Indiana also has waiver problems not entirely of Ritz’s making. The legislature repealed Indiana’s adoption of the Common Core standards, forcing the state to show its new, hastily adopted standards are up to snuff. Also, the waiver calls for 2014-15 tests that align with “college and career ready” standards. But state law says Indiana will give the ISTEP tests, which don’t meet requirements.

Teacher licensing

Hendry was part of the majority when the state board voted 6-5 this month to include a “career specialist” permit in proposed teacher licensing rules. The permit would let college graduates with three years of work experience and no education training get a secondary teaching license.

“What we’re hearing is, there are people who want to enter the teaching profession,” Hendry said. “It’s really about opening it up a little bit, not a lot, and giving people some opportunity.”

A coalition that includes the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, the Indiana Urban Schools Association, the Indiana PTA and university teacher-prep programs opposes the permit, arguing it will put unqualified teachers in the classroom.

Deregulating teacher licensing also runs counter to how it’s done in countries that do well in international test-score comparisons. Finland, for example, requires teachers to earn a master’s degree, and its teacher-prep programs are rigorous and standardized.

Hendry said creating the new permit doesn’t force schools to hire teachers without education degrees. “The outcry has been overstated,” he said. “The sky is not falling.”

Maybe not, but “will not cause the sky to fall” doesn’t seem like the strongest argument for pushing through a policy with near-unanimous opposition from educators and public-school advocates. I welcome reader suggestions on what’s behind this idea.

The teacher licensing rules could go to the state board for final approval next month.

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11 thoughts on “State Board of Education member visiting schools

  1. The primary reason to decertify teachers, is to create an abundant of applicants for jobs…this allows the state to pay them less…can you say “Follow the Money”!

    • Thanks, Paul. I actually pressed Mr. Hendry about this. It seems that’s what classic economic theory would predict — a larger supply of teachers, with the same demand, would produce a lower “price” on salaries. But he didn’t agree.

      • What was his response to this? Just because someone is good in math or science does not mean they can “break it down.” I teach Spanish and an a grammar nerd in English. I love to read but would be an awful English teacher. I can tutor math (and am really good at it) but am not good at the first “initial” presentation. I stink at science but I test really well at it (test taking is a skill which I have). When I try to conceptually understand it it looks like Arabic and Greek mixed together and written backwards.

        Student teaching helps people to understand what all goes into the day to day teaching…presenting material, breaking it down, handling paperwork, handling the fluctuating personalities of teens, etc etc. I, as a parent, do NOT want someone without any of that experience teaching my children. Our own brushes have already been horrendous requiring my Lilly finalist child to retake her physics in college next year.

  2. These proposals are directly out of the ALEC play book & Mr. Hendry is carrying their water. It’s ideology. ALEC wants public schooling to be a thing of the past. Decertify teachers with junk science evaluation schemes to start things, let people teach who don’t have education degrees, get rid of due process for teachers, give parents a voucher for whatever school they choose. It’s about destroying public education. It’s never been about helping poor kids. That was all a smoke screen. Mr. Hendry, a product of public schools, should reexamine his position.

  3. Hendry’s comment, “What we’re hearing is that people want to enter the teaching profession…It’s about opening it up a little bit…” is so degrading to my profession. What if I wanted to be a fireman? Can I grab a hose and put on the turnout gear and run in and fight a fire without prior experience except for the books I’ve read about fires? Playing professional baseball sounds appealing. Can I contact a MLB team after playing three years in college and give it a try? I love dogs! I’ve had one for 14 years. I have a lot of experience taking care of her. I think I would like to “try” out a career as a vet. Obviously NONE of the above makes sense. Nor does allowing a book smart (or not so much considering you just need a B average) person to TEACH a group of 30 -35 secondary students-some of which don’t want to be there along with some who are overachievers. Unless you have experience delivering material in a variety of ways, you have NO IDEA how today’s youth learns. I wanted to teach, so I went through college following the required courses learning my trade. I even went back and got my Master’s in education. I have had 25 years of experience IN A CLASSROOM, and I’m always looking for ways to improve my delivery to help my students to learn. Nobody can “pass a test” and be an effective teacher in this day and age let alone highly effective. I am appalled at this statement just as I am appalled at what our legislators are doing to public education today. By the way, I was highly effective last year. The funny thing is, I haven’t seen ONE DIME of any incentive money. Hmmm…could my legislators possibly be lieing to me and the public? Surely not, because they are only doing what is “best” for our children today by ensuring that we have the best teachers in the classroom.

    • Is there not also a shortage of Medical Doctors..let’s open up that field a bit too!! I’ve watched a lot of medical shows in my time…I’ve been to a doctor almost every year of my life and even had two surgeries…how difficult could it be…take two aspirin and call me in the morning!

  4. That’s just it. The money to pay those teachers that make the grade, so to speak, is not there! That’s why Bob Behning was so upset with teachers being rated highly. This was never part of their plan.

  5. Stating that teacher evaluations exist to recognize outstanding teachers is such a sad joke.

    My good friend who teaches at Carmel was rated highly effective. We figured out she now makes an additional $2.65 a day for earning this honor. Hardly enough to buy some Starbucks.

    Losing the NCLB waiver was Indiana’s punishment for dropping Common Core. Arne does not get mad; he gets even.

    Deep in their heart of hearts, legislators believe that most teachers went into teaching since they couldn’t cut the mustard academically (and don’t forget summer break).

    They harbor a fantasy that highly trained chemical engineers at Lilly secretly are chomping at the bit to teach middle school science for $42,000 and no hope of a substantial raise. This is one area where Republicans willfully suspend their diehard belief in free market incentives.

    Like the Governor said, teaching is not a job, it’s a “calling”. You don’t get into to teaching to make money, right? Is that what you call a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    Hendry is probably a good guy, but he’s an apologist for ideology masked as education policy.

    • Also, look at the title that has been given to it of an “adjunct” teacher license. They seem to think that there is simply a quantitative rather than a qualitative difference between high school and college (for one, college is not compulsory while K-12 is, parents do not get the final say in everything at that level, and if a college program is not meeting their needs the students are free to pursue a different program). There was push away from pedagogy and into content in 4 year college curriculum requirements during Tony Bennett’s reign as well don’t forget. The idea is that most teachers don’t get enough content knowledge and now the idea goes with they don’t get enough real world work experience, but instead of making aspiring teachers from industry go through a short program, or better yet, having the much larger amount of current teachers make connections and instruct them on what is occurring in industry, they want to put in the opportunity for those with no teaching experience to come in and teach. This wouldn’t effect many teachers anyways as the previous comment said about “chemical engineers at Lilly secretly are chomping at the bit”; very few professionals, especially scientists, would put up with the disorganization and cognitive dissonance going on in education right now for any significant period of time, and most if not all superintendents understand the importance of proper pedagogy, but when faced between that and the prospect of a class being taught by a long-term sub (which is especially occurring in high need areas like math and science), they may be forced to pick that.

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