Should All Indiana Schools Have the Same Start Date?

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When I attended school as a child in Indianapolis, the Indiana State Fair would take place and shortly afterwards, I would return to school.  Today, in Indiana, many students are returning to school before the state fair takes place - returning as early as the end of July.  Some lawmakers do not believe this should be the case and they would like to mandate the start of school for all Indiana schools.  If you have lived in Indiana for some time, you know this debate is not new.

Students in Indiana are required to attend school for at least 180 days.  Many Indiana schools have moved to a balanced calendar.  Those students still attend school at least 180 days, but they have longer breaks throughout the year which means a shorter summer.  Republican State Senator Jack Sandlin wants all Indiana schools to begin the last week of August.  When this issue was last considered, it failed to pass; 25 lawmakers voted for it and 25 voted against.  

Because some schools begin before the fair begins, Indiana code had to be updated to allow students who participate in fair competitions to be excused from school.  Previously, some of these students received unexcused absences.  In the article, “Later start?  School superintendents grimace at Senate Bill 88,” published earlier this year, the last time this issue was raised, Wadesville Sen. Jim Tomes told the Evansville Courier and Press, “My constituents are concerned about the impact of summer jobs, specifically those at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari.” 

Whether it is the state fair, having more family time in the summer, having students available for summer jobs, I wonder if a state mandate is the answer.  I also wonder why the lawmakers are suggesting the last week of August be the date?  Why not go with previous tradition and choose the day after Labor day?  Better yet, let’s put a few dates into a hat and draw out a day.  

Don’t get me wrong, varying school calendars has had a direct impact on my life.  My sons attend school in the MSD of Washington Township (MSDWT) and I work for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).  Although both districts use a balanced calendar, they distribute the days differently.  For example, MSDWT has one week off for fall break, the week of Thanksgiving, and for spring break, but IPS has two weeks off for fall break and spring break and three days off for Thanksgiving break.  This means my sons’ last day of school is before Memorial Day, but my last day is two weeks later.  I have to find someone to watch them while I work which is an inconvenience.  I don’t like the differences in our schedules, but I could also choose to work elsewhere, if my July start date and June end date is something I can no longer bear.

When asked about the potential legislation, Indianapolis parent Bianca Thomas stated, “It sounds good at first, but when you think about the number of days students have to attend school, this means some schools won’t end until the end of June.”

Jamie Campbell, Highland, Indiana parent shared, “As long as schools meet the 180 days mandate, they should have the flexibility to decide their own school schedule.  The school start date should be left to local government.”

Chaunda Sumara Fabio, special education teacher at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis, had a few concerns, “I came from New York where we went back to school the Tuesday after Labor Day, so when I moved to Indianapolis, I was a little shocked.  One concern I have is the inconsistency across the state.  It makes it hard when you work in one township and you live in another part of the city, but you know educators across the border and you want to attend professional development with them, but your charter school, your township or  your district returns a month earlier.  Also, educators are continually expected to do more and more and one of the benefits of being an educator is having my summers off.   Here lately, even the time allocated for me to renew and reset my mind is getting shorter and shorter and I don’t think it’s right.”

Indiana is a state where there are lots of choices and families can choose the school that best fits their needs which includes considering the calendar.  This choice would be lost if this legislation is passed.  I would be surprised if it passes in Indiana, since it has failed previously. Then again, it is Indiana, so you never know.  


 

Indianapolis Educators Have a Conversation About Race

Panelists talk race and policy in Indianapolis 

Panelists talk race and policy in Indianapolis 

By Andrew Pillow

“How are education and racism intertwined in Indy?”

That was the central question educators tackled at The Hatch last night. Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), hosted a community conversation about race and education last night. The event started with a session of networking and conversation, then shifted to the panelists tackling tough issues from segregation to poverty.

The panel was made up of local Indianapolis educators. Harshman Middle School teacher, Idalmi Acosta, Former NAACP Education Chair, Carole Craig, IPS School Board President, Mary Ann Sullivan, and Indy/Ed’s very own, David McGuire who also serves as the MIT Coordinator of Tindley Schools.

LEE’s Director of Regional Impact, Alexis Thomas, says that these conversations are important because it helps get the community perspective on current issues.

“It’s looking at a deep level of racism in the community and hearing from the community about it” Thomas said.

This conversation is the first in series of community conversations and events hosted by LEE. Each month the conversation will “delve into a different topic, and have guest panelists from the community…”

All of the events will take place at The Hatch.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Being Aware and Making a Difference is not a Trend; It's a Lifestyle

Although I know the hatred spewed in Charlottesville, VA is deplorable and wrong, I carried on with business as usual.  I spoke to an older Black gentlemen about what took place and he said, “It’s mostly racist white folks clashing with supposedly non-racist white folks.”  Even them being unmasked at their rally wasn’t shocking because hatred and systematic racism has always been visible to me.  If it took this event for you to realize we have a problem in this country, it’s about time, but don’t pat yourself on the back too soon.  When the media surrounding this event declines and the next topic starts trending, will you still be concerned?  Will you still be willing to fight the good fight?

This is why I was not up in alarm and panicking over this situation.  There were many articles written about how to respond, how to cope, how to talk to children about this event, and how schools and educators should address it, but this is not a one time conversation.  Before the Charlottesville's event on Saturday, August 12th, I was already having these critical conversations in the classroom and with family and friends.  As my former students will tell you, I used to place a sign on my door which read, “Bring your textbooks to class.”  We rarely used them, so I had to remind them to bring them on the day when I wanted to use them.  As a Black child, I wished I had more teachers that looked like me, but I also wanted my teachers to get away from the textbook and create a curriculum that related to me and what was happening in the world.  Now, as an educator, I try to give what I did not receive. 

Fighting for injustice and making our children, our neighbors, and our family aware this hatred is wrong has to become a way of life, not a one time response when these events pop up.  These individuals who participated in this rally have co-workers, family members and friends.  Has anyone tried to show them a different path?  Which schools failed to educate them properly?  These events will continue to occur and become more frequent if fighting injustice and educating others does not become a way of being.

July 2015, the Confederate flag on South Carolina’s statehouse was removed.  This removal took place after nine people were killed at the historic Black church in Charleston.  This didn’t sit well with me.  At the time, Khari B., Artist-in-Residence for Haraka Writers, one of Purdue University Black Cultural Center’s performing arts ensembles that I was part of when I attended Purdue was writing #Haikus4Justice.  Inspired by his ability to zoom into the many issues we are facing in 17 syllables, I decided to pen one about the flag removal on July 10, 2015.

removing the cloth

but the hatred is ingrained

racism soars on

It took nine people losing their lives for the flag to come down a couple years ago.  Today, while some people are knocking over Confederate statues (let us knock down some statues to protest racism, and see what happens), I don’t get excited.  When I saw the spit flying from people’s mouths onto the fallen statue, all I could do was shake my head.  Removing symbols is the easy work.  It might make you feel good, but what did it really change?  The real work is daily and it’s hard.  Once people’s hearts and mindsets are changed, statues won’t have to be taken down during the night or by force and a debate about whether it should happen won’t exist.   

In school, I listened to the song, “We Shall Overcome” while learning about the civil rights movement.  Part of the song says:

We shall overcome, We shall overcome

We shall overcome someday

Deep in my heart I do believe

We shall overcome someday

Not only can we overcome, but we can also eliminate hatred and racism in our society.  Just like our forefathers who fought for freedom were committed to fighting as a way of life, it must become our way of life or history won’t change and we won’t leave a better future for the next generation.

 

 


 

Weekend Links (8/19/2017)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Study: Small School Districts Impede Academic Achievement

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By Andrew Pillow

You often hear people talk about the benefits of smaller schools and districts. The narrative goes like this: Smaller districts and schools have less students and therefore the staff and teachers are more likely to treat students like a person instead of a number.

Well according to a new study out of Ball State University, smaller school districts lag behind in academic achievement relative to their large counterparts:

“Students attending small school corporations (enrollment of < 2,000 students) face resource constraints that impede secondary school performance, as measured by standardized test scores and pass rates. These constraints are likely to restrict post-secondary educational opportunities and outcomes.”

According to the study the main reason for the struggle of small districts is the lack of resources.

The study was commissioned by the Indiana Chamber. The Indiana Chamber has adopted the position that smaller districts should consolidate and pull resources to provide a better education for its students.

Anytime you talk about consolidating or closing schools people get defensive. But according to Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar, this study is all about insuring that Indiana is more efficient with the way they spend on education:

"It's about reducing per pupil administrative costs to put more money into classrooms, increasing pay for deserving teachers, making more STEM classes available and, most importantly, helping ensure the best possible student outcomes," he said.

This type of study is especially relevant for Indiana because almost half of the state’s school corporations have less than 2000 students.  

Read the full study here.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

IDOE Community Meetings

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On Monday, August 21, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick will hold the first of nine community meetings.  These meetings, held in various locations across the state, will update the public on various educational areas such as academics, assessment, school improvement, and state education goals.  Meetings are open to the public.  This is an opportunity for educational stakeholders: parents, teachers and community members to learn about Indiana’s educational progress.  Time will be allotted for questions and answers.  Click here to register for an upcoming meeting.  

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By Any Means Necessary: How Personalized Learning is Beneficial to Boys of Color

Imagine if school was centered and designed around the needs of all students? It is a fairly simple question that seems to have a very simple answer; the answer is personalized learning. 

What is personalized learning? The beauty is there is not a concrete definition. Personalized learning will look different in every school setting. The idea behind personalized learning is to allow students to control their learning. The students dictate where and how instruction is given. Schools cannot create or buy personalized learning. Instead schools invest to train their teachers on how to create personalized learning in the classroom. 

I reflect back to last school year when I was a principal of a middle school. While being a principal of rigorous academic school whose mission is to help students, regardless of their prior academic performance, to achievement academically at a high level, I quickly realized there is no one size fits all. You may have a curriculum, but it is important to provide avenues that allow students to take control. My school was an all-boys school and boys at that age do not have school on their minds. One of the most heartbreaking things I experienced as an educator was to see young men, specifically young men of color, feel defeated by school. 

What my boys did not understand is they were not defeated. They just hit a road bump on their journey in education; however, somewhere along the way, they saw road bumps as failures. They had not experienced success in school. This lack of not feeling successful led them to feel defeated. This happens a lot in schools especially in schools who serve boys of color because they are expected to learn the same way and at the same speed as other students. Even as adults, we know we don’t learn the same as other adults. We need it personalized it in a way we understand.  Why don’t we do the same for our students?

As a Black male educator, I believe boys of color need structure and rigorous instruction, but I also firmly believe, in order for these boys to be successful, schools must provide them with an education that is individualized and tailored to their needs and interests. Personalized learning in schools will allow schools to offer what many boys of color need in order to be successful and not feel defeated.   A personalized education approach is a “by any means necessary” learning approach. Teachers must adopt this and not allow boys of color to fall through the cracks. 

This year, I plan to push the personalized learning approach. Moving out of the principal role of an individual school to a role that supports six schools, I will support and train teachers on the importance of learning who their students are. I must create a space where teachers can empower these boys to tap into and find ways of learning what works best for them. I must give these boys of color the freedom to choose how they learn and what they learn because this will motivate them to feel accomplished and help them achieve more.

As an educator, scholar, and advocate, I must demand for boys of color to be engaged, supported, and part of the learning community. Schools must spur intellectual curiosity in them and have a curriculum that aligns to their interests. If it is not, then it is important for teachers to allow students to align the curriculum to their own interests. I will not give up on this and will continue to push this movement of personalized learning in schools for boys of color, by any means necessary.


 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Indianapolis Needs Renaissance Kids

                                                                                      Diamond Malone and Sylvia Denice

                                                                                      Diamond Malone and Sylvia Denice

Diamond Malone and Sylvia Denice, fourth grade Crooked Creek Elementary School teachers in MSD of Washington Township, believed children need more experiences than schools can provide.  Instead of relaxing or traveling during spring break last school year, these ladies worked diligently to create Renaissance Kids, Inc.  Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with these talented educators to learn more about their organization.

Shawnta Barnes - What drove you to create Renaissance Kids, Inc.?  How did you get started?

Diamond Malone - During my first year of teaching, I believed I should have done more for my kids.  I built strong relationships, but I wanted to do more to develop the whole child.  I thought about what I could do to fill in those gaps, but I knew I couldn’t do it by myself.  About a year later, I was working on my master’s and I had to complete a presentation for one of my classes.  During my presentation, I shared my vision for programming I wanted to offer families.  People in my class thought I had a good idea.  It encouraged me and I knew I had to make it a reality.  Sylvia, a fellow 4th grade teacher at my school, believed in my vision and believed it was possible.  Last year, during our one week spring break, Sylvia and I completed all the paperwork necessary to become a 501c3 and our organization went public on May 1st.

SB - What does Renaissance Kids offer families?

DM - When you hear the phrase renaissance man, you think of a well-rounded, skilled and talented person.   Our goal is to help each kid reach his or her own potential and become well-rounded emotionally, socially, and academically.  We also plan to expose our Ren Kids to different cultures and have them participate in various experiences.

Our programming is broken into four categories:  SMART Start, Mind & Body, Exposure and Family Time.  SMART is an acronym for Scholars Manifesting Academic Refinement and Tenacity.  Through SMART Start, we plan to help students become intrinsically motivated to improve academically and to develop grit to perseverance when academics becomes challenging.  Our Mind & Body programming will address healthy eating, taking care of your body, and mental wellness.  Exposure gets our Ren Kids out into the community to participate in activities such as: art, sports, cooking, theater, yoga in addition to having guest speakers and cultural experiences.  Our last and critical component is Family Time.  We are not only providing a service to our Ren Kids, but also to their families.  Twice a month, we will have family activities such as game nights, movie nights, family dinners, and family counseling to share what their children have learned and to empower and equip parents with the tools to support their children.

SB - How can families get involved?  

Sylvia Denice - We are beginning this fall at our school Crooked Creek.  We are connected to our families here, we have interest, and know our families will be supportive as we begin this work.  We plan to start with our kindergartners.  We want to work with families as their children progress through school.  If those kindergartners have siblings in our building, they will also be included.  We believe our programing will work best when parents and all of their children are involved.  This year, we are working with students from our school with the hopes of expanding to children in the greater Indianapolis area.

SB - Are you faced with any obstacles?

SD - We would like to have a van to be able to transport our Ren Kids to our various activities.  We are also looking for board members, in particular a person who can advise on finances.

SB - Where can families sign-up?

SD - They can sign-up on our website https://www.renkidsindy.org/.

DM - Although we are not enrolling students from outside of Crooked Creek for our initial group of Ren Kids, we are accepting applications from families outside of our school.  This will help us know how many families are interested as we expand our program.  Parents are interviewed as part of our enrollment process.  Interviews will begin this September and our first group will begin meeting in October.

SB - Is there anything else you would like to share?

SD - We know parents want the best for their children.  Sometimes they don’t have the time or know how to support their children.  We hope Ren Kids fills that need and makes it feasible.  We hope to encourage parents and facilitate family activities that help parents support their children.

DM - We are looking for volunteers to assist us.  If you are interested, you can find our contact information on our website.

Crooked Creek’s principal Keana Parquet shared:

As Diamond and Sylvia’s principal, I am extremely proud of them for seeing the needs of the students they have worked with and creating a program that will provide necessary services for these students.  They are both loving and caring teachers who work so hard to meet the needs of every student whether they are easy or challenging.  I wish them the best of luck in this venture and am so excited to see it flourish.  I am glad to do whatever I can to support them and make their dreams a reality.  I can’t wait to see what these two will do for students around the Indianapolis area.  

The teaching profession requires hard work and dedication and for these two educators to step out and create and operate an organization while teaching is admirable especially since their mission is to not only to provide more services for the families they already serve, but to expand to the entire Indianapolis community.

 

 

An Open Letter to the Educators of Charlottesville

To my fellow educators in Charlottesville, VA, my heart is with you. We do not know why your city was chosen for this tragedy, but let's not harp on the negative.  Let's instead say your city was chosen to be a beacon of hope. The same way that Watts, Ferguson, and Detroit was chosen before you. The events in those cities, tragic as they were, opened our eyes. Now, it is your city’s turn. It is your city that has shone a light on the bigotry and the hatred we are trying to eliminate from our country. 

All weekend, we watched the horror of the events that claimed the life of a woman and two officers. Our hearts ache for their families, who will not have their loved ones anymore. My heart also aches for you, my fellow educators, and how you must now move forward in your schools and classrooms.  

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to experience such a tragedy in my city. I cannot imagine having individuals whose hearts are filled with hate use my city as a rally for their racist agenda. I cannot imagine having individuals chanting racist words marching with tiki torches on a college campus we as educators hope our students will attend one day. I cannot imagine what you are dealing with in your classrooms today in response to the horrific events of this past weekend, but I hope you are dealing with these events in your classrooms. I am sure your students are going to want to discuss what happened. You owe it to them to have the open dialogue. 

To my educators of Charlottesville, it is imperative you address these conversations head on. I say this because it was some school or some educator that failed to educate these white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Now, they have fallen off the path towards peace and hope and are sprinting down a cliff of hatred and violence. I’m not asking you to do something I’m not willing to do; I plan to address this with my students as well.

Our students must understand there is absolutely no place in our country for this type of hatred. Unfortunately, the individual in the White House would not acknowledge these individuals by name, but you must inform your students the cause of this pain and inform them the voices behind this hatred are white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists. Label these individuals and do not allow your students to be confused. This was nothing more than a terror attack on our country. This was not violence by many sides, but violence from one side. Also, let them know the city they call home does not condone this type of rhetoric or violence. 

We have these conversations with our students to ensure their minds do not become corrupted with this type of hatred. Schools can help eliminate this bigotry and hatred in the minds of many people. This can only happen when we have conversations about it. 

Remember, you can’t be who you don’t see. Our students do not see enough heroes. We need to show them more heroes. Show them the countless individuals who fight and fought for equal rights. Make sure your students do not forget the names of Heather D. Heyer, Lt. H Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates. Their names should be immortalized like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. These heroes lost their life due to the horrific events of the weekend. 

To my educators in Charlottesville, we all stand with you. We will do our part to educate our scholars that this is not America. I know your job is already hard and it just became a little harder. Luckily being a teacher makes you a superhero and teaching is your superpower. Use that superpower, like you do everyday, to educate your students and spread the message of peace and love. 

Sincerely a fellow educator, 

David 

 

1 Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

A New School Year - Tips for Students

It is important for students to take ownership of their education. Teachers, parents, and community members are here to support students and help them learn, but students also must be willing to do their part.  I graduated from high school in 2001; it’s been a while since I was in primary or secondary school.  I decided to ask my English students at Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School to brainstorm tips students should follow and provide an explanation of why their tips are important.  Below, I have complied their top five tips with the explanations they provided.   

Come to school well rested.

It is important to have a good night’s sleep, so you can come to school ready to learn.  There’s nothing worse than trying to remember what your teacher is saying or trying to get work done when you are sleepy.

Arrive to school on time and do not skip classes.

You should arrive to school and class on time because you could miss important information.  You should not be late unless it is an emergency.  It is important to attend school each day so you will have a good record for the future.  Colleges look at your records and poor attendance could count against you.  Coming to class shows your teachers you are committed.  They are more willing to help committed students.

Be respectful and safe.

Be respectful to yourself and others around you.  Respect the teacher because you have to remember, the teacher has the degree; you don’t. Being respectful also means keeping yourself and others safe.  Don’t be a coward.  Own up to what you have done wrong and then change your behavior.  It is hard for anyone to learn in a class where students are disrespectful and it is not safe.

Don’t procrastinate; do your homework.

If the teacher tells you an assignment is due tomorrow, you should complete it before then.  Never do your homework later - do it as soon as possible.  Otherwise, you might forget and then you will be rushing to complete it; you don’t need that kind of stress in your life.  When you do your work, always strive for an 80% or higher on all your assignments in every class.  If you need help, ask. Please, don’t skip an assignment because you were afraid to ask for help.

Avoid distractions and drama.

Stay off of your cell phone and don’t play with toys during class because you will not be able to concentrate and stay focused.  Keep to yourself so you will not be in a lot of drama.  Drama distracts you from your education and could cause you to make poor choices.

Teachers are here to help us succeed in life.  The least students can do is be respectful and ready to learn.