Monday, March 29, 2010

Tully's Sunday Article On IPS-Bennett Meeting A Real Gem

Yesterday's Indianapolis Star had a front page, in depth, article about a meeting between Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, IPS Superintendent, Eugene White, and 'more than a dozen [of White's] staff members'. This is part of Matt Tully's Manual Project where he has written on various aspects of getting an education at IPS' Manual High School.

[edited March 30, 2010, to add link to IndyStar post of article : click here]

I cannot locate this outstanding piece on the IndyStar website and I fear it has fallen victim to the Star's new practice of omitting some of the favorite columnists from its web version, in an attempt to increase at least their Sunday paper copy buyership. I am told the Star posts the Sunday articles that are print-only some time midweek. I'll post a link as soon as I can.

With that rant over, let me say - maybe the dollar store still has a couple of copies or maybe you can get a copy from a friend or neighbor who still has it, or if you are going to the public library perhaps you can read their copy. It is extremely well written - Tully having massive talents in that arena. It is so good and so important that I would have willingly typed up chunks of it here, had I not learned at the recent Citizen Journalism Boot Camp put on by the Indiana Coalition for Open Government that doing so is a legal no-no.

So here is the inferior gist of Tully's article.

Bennett met with White and others from IPS to discuss whether 8 IPS schools, including Manual, would be taken over by the State Department of Education (DOE) beginning next school year. These schools are Arlington Community High School (grades 7-12), Emmerich Manual High School, Northwest High School, Thomas Carr Howe Community High School (grades 7-12), George Washington Community School (grades 7-12), Broad Ripple High School for the Performing Arts (grades 7-12), Emma Donnan Middle School (grades 7-8), and Willard J. Gambold Middle School (grades 7-8). According to the Indiana DOE website (click here for all school in Marion County with links to their performance) all have been on probationary accreditation.

Tully quotes Bennett as saying

"I want you to be able to have every discussion you have going forward with a framework," he said, staring at White. "And that framework is this: Who do we want to run these schools? I know who I want to run these schools. That's the guy sitting at the other end of the table."

Bennett then turns the conversation to what IPS is will to do differently that will improve education in these 8 schools. Tully says that the State DOE has the legal authority to make sweeping changes, including tossing out teacher union rules, due to a 1999 change in State law. They can also increase the length of the school day and the school year. But, IPS can make those changes on their own, if they can get buy-in from the teachers union.

Again just the gist of Tully's article - roughly 40-60% of teachers in these schools are ineffective, by White's own estimate. The union President, Ann Wilkins, objected to the notion that they protect bad teachers, rather saying that they support the 'process'. Tully notes that even if the State DOE takes over the failing schools, any teachers let go from those schools would be relocated to other schools in the district. That certainly is a valid conundrum.

Tully doesn't put it this way, but I believe it is all about finding some way to improve education in Indiana - improve education in all schools and improve education for all students in Indiana.

We are quite possibly on the threshold of dramatic changes in the way Indiana deals with failing schools, and Tully gave us a rare glimpse of that threshold.

Again, I highly recommend finding a copy of this article. I understand the Star will post this story within a couple of days - I'll keep checking and add a link as soon as I locate the post. This is a gem that should be read widely in Central Indiana, if not the entire state.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting story, hopefully we can vote out the rotten apples on the Decatur School board before things get even worse.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading the entire Tully series following events at Manual High School. Very inspirational. I especially enjoyed the article that focused on the arts at Manual resulting in a packed house for the winter concert.

Anonymous said...

hmmm I would like to see the state take over 8 schools like that and try to get teachers, pay them what those teachers get paid, but oh, wait, they will start to get paid less and with less benefits since there will be no teachers union. It would an interesting experiment. Do they think there is an army of teachers out there chomping at the bit to teach in the inner city for less money than they can make in the burbs with no rights that the teacher's union provides? I say bring it on - it's too bad for the kids that will suffer but maybe it will make this governor get rid of the assynine notion and get him to work WITH the teachers' union and not against it. The teacher's union is made up of teachers - they are good people - they are not the enemy - they want what's best for kids at a level you shouldn't judge unless you've worn thier shoes. Gee I thought I would never write on this board. Crap like that just makes me mad. I hope I don't throw up during the "State of the Schools" speech next Tues or what ever he's calling it.