Thursday, August 26, 2010

Corruption in Indiana Education "reform"

Let's not even talk for now about the foolishness of sending money to Teach for America (see Newteacher for new research)....this is just plain ol' nepotism and political corruption.  Here's to hoping the voters wake up.

Indiana's super connections

By Karen Francisco
The Journal Gazette

Plenty of education observers have pointed out State Superintendent Tony Bennett's enthusiastic and unquestioning support for charter schools and his wife's job as a school improvement consultant for the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association. Tina Bennett, a former school principal in Clark County, landed the job after her husband was elected to the state's top school post.

But there's now another interesting connection between the Indiana Department of Education and the superintendent's wife. Tina Bennett supervises the Teach for America program at Marian University, which just landed a $500,000 contract from the DOE to run a program to train principals for turnaround schools.  A DOE spokeswoman told the Indianapolis Star that Tina Bennett had no involvement in developing the program at the university, which has an enrollment of about 1,800 full- and part-time students.

Last month, the DOE announced the award of $15.5 million in School Improvement Grants to four of the state's lowest-achieving schools. Two of the four were charter schools and members of the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association.

Indiana's lax conflict of interest laws require only that state officials declare the name (or names, in this case) of a spouse's employer, which Tony Bennett dutifully did on his 2009 financial disclosure statement. Voters, however, should note that -- within a three-week period -- the Department of Education has awarded $3.85 million in grants and contracts to entities with close ties to the superintendent's wife.



  1. Teach for America is a fraud. It is the poster child for what is wrong with education reform.

    1. Wendy Kopp developed the program as an undergraduate thesis in college. Her theory states that the highest-achieving college graduates make better teachers compared with the current teaching pool of students who score in the bottom rungs of standardized testing and overall grade points. Ya think? Where I graduated, thesis advisors demanded topics that are cutting-edge questions that evaluate evidence and test a hypothesis. What is the unknown part of this proposition? Smarter people DO make better teachers. Smarter students make better candidates for every occupation. They're smart. Period.

    2. The TFA training program is a farce. The summer training is the "Dancing With the Stars" of the teaching world. Why would anyone think that summer training does the same as quality (notice I said quality) curriculum and methodology program? Another idiotic supposition by Kopp. Simple-minded and short on true understanding of the teaching environment and classroom requirements. This mentality is the same as everyone who thinks they can "fix" the education system because, after all, they went through the system. Using that logic, we all could be OB-GYNs, since we all were born. We can all take the steering wheel of buses without any practice since we've ridden on a bus. We all can be dancers since we've seen Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance on film. You have the's a fallacy. Unfortunately, this fallacy is costing our school systems valuable dollars on this program. TFA volunteers exit the program after two years, few stay longer. TFA folks use the resume experience to gain entry into higher-level corporate jobs. So much for the wasted money spent on their salaries and the farcical training program. Any classroom teacher can tell you that it takes at least three years to gain sea legs in a classroom, including classroom management and creation of curriculum materials. The TFA recruits do the stumbling part and then fail to deliver the any quality because they leave for business jobs.

    3. The only independent and comprehensive study of TFA shows that the claims made by the organization are absolutely false. The study shows that the volunteers achieve scores in math and science that equate with veteran teachers in one state. Only math and science. First, note that the study evaluation uses standardized testing (e.g. bubble filling and multiple guess). That's it. Can a child test better than a child in another teacher's class. Students who do well in college have mastered test taking, if not anything else. So what that they can teach kids is how to take a test. They also know what material will appear on an objective test and teach the students that material. That is not education. It also doesn't prepare kids for life. The second problem is the survey sample. If you're a principal with a group of well-behaved students and a group of challenging students, where are you going to put the problem students? In a class with a seasoned teacher or with a volunteer with several weeks of training? The volunteers are working with a higher-level student base than the seasoned teachers, thus voiding the entire basis of the study. The third problem with the study findings deals with the standards. The TFA volunteers were found "at least equal" with the present teachers. Well, that's swell. Equality with the group of teachers that are being indicted for lack of quality. Great. That means the TFA volunteers are the cream of the crap. Hardly a program that I want to waste my valuable tax dollars funding.

  2. Part II

    I tip my hat to the volunteers to commit to the program and I'm sorry that the efforts are rewarded with such a poor program.

    I've worked with TFA and other training programs. Administrators and politicians pump up these programs as panacea because they are misinformed about the true education problems and they are at a loss to develop effective legislation and programs.

    Education reform takes key steps that TFA fails to deliver. Experience and observation of effective programs show us the keys to success. We KNOW what works:
    1. Smaller class size
    2. QUALITY teacher education programs. There are perhaps two or three of these in the entire US.
    3. The best and the brightest as teachers. Kopp could have saved time and simply read studies and looked at the practical examples of the teaching core in Sweden and Germany.
    4. Educating and working with students as learning communities.
    5. Practical assessment that doesn't emphasize mindless assessment such as days of filling in the bubbles. The national education law "No Child Left Behind" focused on testing because special interests lobbying the US Congress wanted to sell their testing products. It's nonsense. Ask to look at one of the tests. Drill and kill.

  3. This is what happens when business people think they can be educators. They don't even know how many ways they have it wrong. In this case, no points for effort. Kopp couldn't find a job when she finished college so this is what she spun from nonsense. The feds did this before with WWII and Korean War vets. It wasn't successful. Silly government officials, the same ones who after all these years are clueless about their broken system, grabbed on to this red herring as a solution. Can we say, "New Math"? How about gongs and clickers? Let's all review Cornell Notes, Time on Task, Time Out, Phonemic Awareness, Career Education, Whole Language, Color Mood Design, Back to Basics, Learning Centers.....You get the idea. Let's stop with the jargon and focus on hiring intelligent teachers, providing them quality training to teach small classes. That's the only way we'll succeed. Funding TFA and the ilk will simply mean failure.

  4. Say, I have an idea! Actually, I don't. I'm just going to belittle both the policies and the people behind them that are attempting to constructively improve the public education climate in our country. Then, at the end of my bombastic tirade, I will offer my brilliant idea: "hiring intelligent teachers, providing them quality training." Boy, that sure was a great alternative. On second thought, concrete details and the effort required to actually bring about my project of change are overrated so I'll just stick with attacking all the politicians instead (especially those evil Republicans!).