Monday, November 2, 2009

A Slap in the Face

Two different news organizations have used the term, "slap in the face." The message is being heard, REPA is indeed a slap in the face. The battle is not over, it has only begun.

The following article is from the Evansville Courier and Press, the link to the original article is at the end.

INDIANAPOLIS — Calling state schools chief Tony Bennett’s plan to revise teacher licensing requirements a slap in the face, Indiana’s public education establishment is fighting back hard.

An overflow crowd of nearly 300 teachers, college education professors and more packed into the Indiana State Library on Monday, each awaiting a turn to testify – and in most cases, lambast – a proposed rule change that would have those who are training to become teachers focus more on content and less on methods.

The criticism was direct, and it was aimed at Bennett and Gov. Mitch Daniels, the two Republicans who teachers said have packed their supporters onto the Indiana Professional Standards Board, the licensing panel considering the changes.

Deb Lecklider, the associate dean of education at Butler University, told the panel of Indiana Department of Education staffers running the meeting that the board should slow down and listen “before you vote the way you were selected to vote.”

“The more I study his efforts, the more it becomes apparent that he is making a mockery of the teaching profession,” said Rick Muir, the president of the Indiana Federation of Teachers. “Would anyone let a teacher fly an airplane with a crash course in aviation? Would anyone in this room let your teacher extract a cavity or perform a root canal with an expedited degree in dentistry?”

Muir asked why only three hearings were being held on the issue and why they were during the school day, prohibiting many teachers from participating.

“Since you all already have written the legislation, I don’t know why you’re holding open forums,” said Michelle Ann Smith, a woman whose brief comments drew 30 seconds of applause, after which board members asked the audience to stop clapping. “It’s pretty clear you all have already made your decision.”

Cam Savage, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, said about 100 people total had testified at two hearings last week. Another 1,000, he said, have commented online.

“I’m going to tell you what I tell kids who run in the hallways: Slow down,” said Matt Moll, a teacher from Franklin, south of Indianapolis.

Katie Vollmert, a 20-year-old junior elementary education major at Butler University, said problems in education should not be solved by adding more focus on content, but by emphasizing student engagement.

“Consider that the teacher who meant so much to you did not have a lasting impression simply because of her knowledge of math and sentence structure, but because of the passion and the coherent understanding of learners,” she said.

“Because the critical and thoughtful eye that teachers wear is not built up by their knowledge of content, but because of their knowledge of children, and how to make learning personal, and engaging.”

Bennett’s plan would require those who seek to teach high school and middle school to major in the topic they wish to teach and minor in education. He has asserted that the change would lead to more teachers who are experts in their subject areas.

“Let me be as direct as I can be: It’s not true,” said Gerardo M. Gonzalez, dean of the Indiana University School of Education. “Math education majors are sitting side-by-side with math majors, taking the same classes under the same math department faculty. The only difference is that our majors must take more of these classes than their peers in the math major.”

Business leaders dotted the hearing with occasional support for Bennett’s proposals.

Charles Dunlap, the executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, which runs the “We the People” program for Indiana high school social studies students, said content knowledge is particularly important in civic education.

“I personally am very supportive of increasing the content knowledge in this area,” he said.

Charlie Schleigel, a licensed teacher and administrator and the president of the Challenge Foundation Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis, supported Bennett’s proposals.

He said he has found that college education majors often receive A grades in education courses and C grades in other courses. He said the proposals would make the expectations of teachers more rigorous.

It remains to be seen how the hearings will affect Bennett, who has shown since taking office in January that he is not afraid to upset the establishment when he considers it necessary.

His office signaled Monday that it is not willing to take dictation from college education departments whose objections, Savage said, stem at in large part from the fact that they would be dealt a financial blow if the revisions are approved.

Otherwise, Savage said, those education departments would have more faith in the hiring decision-making abilities of the principals who they train.

What’s next is a Nov. 18 meeting of the Indiana Professional Standards Board. There, board members will discuss the public testimony and consider revisions. It’s not clear when the board will vote.

Bennett’s proposals will also need the approval of the Indiana General Assembly. They could run into resistance in the Democratic-controlled House.

State Rep. Sheila Klinker, a Lafayette Democrat who sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and attended Monday’s public hearing, said she thinks giving school administrators more flexibility is a reasonable idea. But she also emphasized the need for collaboration between the state Education Department and Indiana’s teachers and education colleges.

Link to Original Article


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