Winter 2019/2020 School Year
Since 2013, I have been actively engaged in pushing back on the legislative mandates that are hurting West Lafayette Community Schools’ students, teachers, and staff. Through various fundraising sources to pay for these initiatives, including the education documentary Rise Above the Mark, I have tried to engage other school district officials, community members, and education associations to standup for public education. Back in 2014, I predicted a rising revolt against standardized testing, defunding public schools and the array of legislative mandates aimed at privatizing public schools. (https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2014/06/25/indiana-superintendent-hoping-film-wil-launch-an-education-movement/)
So here we are in 2019 with many Indiana school districts closing on November 19, 2019 for a “Red4ED” day at the Statehouse. It’s been five years since I predicted such an event. However, it’s been worth the wait. I now believe that there is a chance to swing the proverbial pendulum back to that of returning trust and responsibility to the professionals who work in public education. That said, I believe it will take more than 8,000 teachers at the Statehouse. It’s going to take parents, community members, business leaders and Hoosier voters to say to legislators “enough is enough”. So, what can public education supporters do to lift up public school teachers, staff members and all Indiana public schools?
First, I do not want to see our teachers adversely impacted by a new standardized testing system (ILEARN) that they have no control over. Our students and teachers are more than a test score. Also, our teachers and staff employ research-based strategies to help improve learning. Standardized testing is just the opposite: there is no valid research to suggest that it will improve student learning. Parents and community members should contact their legislator to demand the following:
- Prevent the current ILEARN scores from adversely impacting Indiana public school teachers;
- Pause the accountability requirements of grading school districts based, in part, on the current ILEARN scores;
- Give teachers and administrators an adequate amount of time to review the new ILEARN assessment so they can make the appropriate adjustments in curriculum and instruction; and
- Quit changing public education metrics and requirements every few years.
If legislators believe public schools need a school letter grade to feed the political machine they call public school accountability, so be it. However, they should unlock standardized test scores from teacher evaluations. Our teachers and staff work hard in the classroom. There is teaching and learning going on daily which ILEARN can never measure. Evaluating teachers and school districts with one standardized test score is not a measure of proficiency. Professional educators use multiple student achievement data sources to influence instruction and improve their students’ academic achievement. We must get away from using one academic datum point – ILEARN scores – to measure the effectiveness of teachers and school districts.
Second, legislators should invest more into public education and less into vouchers, charters, standardized testing, and a host of other mandates that are harming public school students, teachers and staff members. Parents and community members should contact their legislators to demand the following:
- Quit spending over $100 million on standardized testing. Standardized testing will not improve the education of students. Standardized test scores should not regulate student, teacher and school corporation effectiveness. As with any school year, past, present or future, there is very little educational value to ISTEP+ scores or in comparing these scores between school corporations. A statistically sound approach for measuring student achievement and holding school corporations accountable for student learning is that of measuring student academic growth over time, which standardizing testing does not do. Reallocate this resource to teacher salaries.
- Quit spending over $10 million on IREAD-3 testing. Teachers do not need this test to determine whether or not a student is reading at a third-grade level. The best, most efficient way to find out if a third-grade student is reading at a third-grade level is by asking a third-grade teacher. Reallocate this resource to teacher salaries.
- Quit spending over $70 million on student vouchers for students who have never attended a public school. School choice is a valid argument and if a school is failing then students should have a choice, which in my opinion should be a public school choice. However, over 60% of students who are using taxpayer dollars to attend a private/religious school have never attended a public school. Many of these students can attend a high-performing public school. Reallocate this resource to teacher salaries.
Spending goes both ways. If legislators want school districts to spend differently, then they too should be willing to spend differently. The aforementioned ideas are only three ideas in which they can do so. I am hopeful they will listen to their own advice. Above all, I hope they find the will and the courage to return local governance to public schools, begin respecting teachers as professionals, and provide ample compensation to all public school employees.
In discussions with West Lafayette School teachers and administration teams, we believe that our school district should remain open on Nov. 19. We agree that our students are our number one priority and therefore we will keep our doors open for them on November 19. Therefore, with support of the administration and the School Board, our teachers and staff are organizing a solidarity “walk-in” on Nov. 19. At specific times in front of each school building, teachers, staff members, administration and School Board members will gather together before school starts to show our solidarity for those who are in Indianapolis on November 19. Everyone can be involved with this. So please consider wearing something red on November 19 and join the staff members who will be gathering in front of each school to walk in together as a sign of solidarity.
There is a small group of West Lafayette School teachers we are working with who will be attending the November 19, 2019 “Red4Ed” rally at the Statehouse. I hope thousands of parents and community members will join the thousands of teachers who will be there. I believe legislators will be more apt to act if they see thousands of parents at the Statehouse. While children are in school, parents should go down to the Statehouse and rally for public school teachers and staff. I know our teachers, staff, administrators and School Board members cannot do this alone.
Thank you for standing with our teachers and staff members.
Dr. Rocky Killion
Superintendent of Schools
Robert Kelly Performing Arts Center
James Guy Education Wing
Richard Wachs Aquatic Center
Additional Superintendent Articles
- Replacing ISTEP+: Let's Get It Right This Time
- ISTEP Results Do Not Define Indiana's Children or It's Schools
- Brace for Lower ISTEP Scores
- Accountability Without Standardization
- Education by Humiliation
- Public Education Reform
- The Roadmap to a World-Class Education
- Busting Four Myths to Indiana's School Choice Legislation
- Education Reform: Perception vs. Reality
- Right Path for Public Education