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Web letter: Ask legislators to show school changes work

State legislators have passed a multitude of new laws radically changing education in Indiana.

Under these laws, teachers, schools, and corporations are feeling pressure to show inordinate amounts of student data; evidence of effectiveness; and compliance that these new rules are adhered to with fidelity.

Though most educators find these new laws hinder child-centered education, teachers failing to do so are found ineffective and fired. Schools unable to meet expectations are labeled as failing and community schools risk being taken over by for-profit companies.

To preserve a pillar of democracy, Hoosiers should now ask their representatives, “Show us your data, evidence, and compliance that these laws are in the public interest; show us from what rational, scientific basis your laws for education are determined.”

In response, education reform lawmakers in Indiana may attempt to dazzle the public with Orwellian terms. However, they can produce little to no data or evidence for their claims.

A recent example of this can be found in the letter of state Sen. Jim Banks, “How are we doing teaching our teachers”? (June 25), in Banks declared Indiana teacher education programs as “concerning” and that 90 percent fail to provide adequate training. Banks cites the National Council of Teacher Quality as his source for the new House bill Senate Enrolled Act 409 which requires higher standards and more data collection.

Hoosiers should demand from Banks, “Show us the data and evidence of the NCTQ claims.” There is none. No peer review. No research. No studies that can be replicated by independent reviewers. Behind an imposing name, the NCTQ is simply a lobbying group for market-driven reform representing corporate interests. The advisory board and board of directors for the NCTQ consist of agents for McGraw-Hill, Pearson International, Teach for America, and others who may benefit from Senate Enrolled Act 409.

Banks is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. One watchdog group describes ALEC this way: “Behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Legislators then introduce these proposals in statehouses across the land as their own ideas and important public policy innovations – without disclosing that corporations crafted the bills.”

Hoosiers should also demand from Banks, “Show us how following the advice of the NCTQ is in the public, not corporate, interest.” In the words of Indiana public school advocate Vic Smith of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, “The legislative push to dismantle public education is clearly based on beliefs and ideology and not on performance data.”

Hoosiers began asking these questions of Tony Bennett, and receiving no answers, voted him out of office. Still, child-centered education in Indiana continues to suffocate at the hands of state lawmakers working with market-based reformers. If public education is to once again thrive in Indiana, Hoosiers must begin asking their lawmakers these same questions and voting those out who provide no answers.