Teacher strikes ‘changed the narrative’

The teacher strikes that started in West Virginia in 2018 and leapfrogged to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona succeeded beyond what organizers could have imagined, journalist Eric Blanc said Thursday.

Eric Blanc

Eric Blanc

The strikes, largely led by women, were “overwhelmingly successful” in winning better pay for teachers and more funding for schools, he said. They also transformed teachers in conservative states from public servants resigned to low pay to activists who were excited about their power to effect social change.

“These were people who had never been political before,” he said. “They were skeptics who became militants. That sense of power is not something that’s easy to take away.”

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Court rejects charter schools’ funding claims

The Indiana Court of Appeals has dealt a setback to charter schools that sued to get more money from the state. The decision, written by Judge John Baker, overturned a Marion County trial court decision that the schools were entitled to additional funding.

CourtroomAnd this could be a big deal. If the charter schools had prevailed, it could have opened the door to complaints by other charters, costing Indiana tens of millions of dollars.

Indiana Connections Academy, a virtual charter school, sued the state in 2016. Two other schools, Andrew J. Brown Charter School in Indianapolis and Aspire Charter Academy in Gary, joined the lawsuit.

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Proficiency gaps deserve a look

IUPUI faculty member and Indianapolis Recorder columnist Marshawn Wolley makes a provocative statement in a recent piece on Indiana’s 2019 ILEARN results:

“It just doesn’t seem to matter when Black students fail state standardized tests.”

He’s got a point. Everyone has been up in arms about the steep drop in proficiency rates that resulted when Indiana shifted from its former ISTEP test to the new ILEARN assessment. But very little attention has been paid to the gap in proficiency between black and white students.

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The stakes are the problem

Indiana’s ILEARN scores have been made public, and the freakout is underway. I guess we should be grateful. A decade ago, business leaders and newspaper editorial writers might have pointed to the scores as evidence that schools were broken. Now the consensus seems to be that the test is broken.

Here’s another possibility. Maybe the problem isn’t with the test. Maybe the problem is what we do with it. Maybe it’s the high stakes, not the testing, that we should reject.

Results for the new ILEARN assessment were released today during a meeting of the State Board of Education. As expected, the rate at which students were found to be proficient was considerably lower than the passing rate on ISTEP, Indiana’s previous test.

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What it takes: integration, funding, preschool

Research shows what it takes to make our public schools work, labor economist Rucker C. Johnson writes in his recent book “Children of the Dream.” It takes racial and socioeconomic integration. Funding that is abundant and equitably distributed. And a focus on high-quality preschool.

Children of the Dream book coverBut just one of these strategies won’t get the job done – it takes all of them working in concert. “The synergy of policies working together plays an enormous role in their success,” Johnson writes.

Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works” is an unusual book, written for a general audience but packed with original and eye-opening research findings. It conveys a hopeful message: We can make education work and we don’t need to look for alternatives to public schools.

Johnson is a highly regarded economist who holds the title Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote the book with journalist Alexander Nazaryan.

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