Indiana schools to exit Race to the Top competition

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Indiana will bow out of the federal Race to the Top competition after a highly public feud between public schools chief Tony Bennett and the state’s teachers' unions.

Bennett, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, said Thursday that the state will not submit an application for Phase 2 funding in the competition run by the U.S. Department of Education. The competition offers $4.35 billion to help states advance school reforms.

“Without support from the union that represents more than 90 percent of Indiana’s school districts, our application will not be competitively positioned,” Bennett said in a statement released by the Indiana Department of Education. “Instead, just as today’s students have no time to waste, IDOE will waste no time as we continue our efforts to implement Indiana’s Fast Forward plan without the federal funding.”

Bennett said his decision came after the president of the state’s largest teachers' union, the Indiana State Teachers Association, declined to meet with him in an April 27 meeting in his office. Bennett also had invited the news media to attend.

“ISTA is more than willing to meet with you and your staff in meaningful work sessions, but we will not participate in a media event arranged for the purpose of strong-arming ISTA into agreeing to an unequivocal sign-off regarding the Indiana Department of Education’s Race to the Top application demands,” ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger wrote in a letter released by Bennett.

Indiana applied in the first round of the Race to the Top competition but did not even make the finals of the competition, in large part because Bennett’s plan won support from only 62 percent of the local teachers unions.

Two weeks ago, Bennett demanded that  ISTA immediately support five key principles of Indiana’s Race to the Top application. Otherwise, he promised, Indiana would not apply again.

Schnellenberger responded last week by saying Bennett needed to start over on his Fast Forward plan.

Indiana could have won up to $250 million from the federal government, which is enticing to schools because Gov. Mitch Daniels has responded to falling state tax revenue by cutting state funding for public schools by $297 million.


  • Have you not heard of value-added dude?
    You write as if value-added analyses do not exist. We can control for the fact that some teaches teach disproportionately low-performing less affluent students, than other teachers, by setting up an evaluation and pay system that rewards teachers for HOW MUCH their students improve, not the absolute level they achieve at.

    Jeez man, take a stats class - then chime in with your kindergarten level analysis.
  • more Bennett BS
    First off, I am also an ISTA member, and there has not been any suggestion by the organization that we take any public stance on this issue. There are many members commenting on these boards because we are highly passionate about reforms to our state's educational systems which will generate greater student achievement while ensuring that GOOD teachers are protected from the loss of their careers for either financial or otherwise arbitrary reasons by the school districts which employ them.

    ISTA in no way can be blamed for the lack of an additional application for Race To The Top funding. Bennett's position that the plan will not move forward without union support is simply NOT VALID. Four of the top eleven RTTT applications which were submitted in the first round did not have the support of the unions in these states. The reality is that Bennett's plan placed 23rd of 40 because it was unfocused and did not provide methods of assessment which were clear enough for the RTTT evaluators. Perhaps if Tony Bennett had involved ISTA in the process of completing Indiana's application, the outcome might have been different. It is simply disingenous for Bennett to state that ISTA's "unequivocal" support would have moved Indiana's RTTT application up at least 21 places in the next round. It is also worthy of note that both of the winning states' applications PRESERVED current tenure rules, graduated pay scales, and collective bargaining f, which were curiously the most pressing issues in Bennett's demand of support from ISTA for his second application. He is clearly out of touch on many, many levels.

    In addition, his track record as an administrator at the local school district level is questionable enough to warrant serious discussion as to whether he is even qualified to hold his current position with IDOE. He spent all of two years actually teaching in a classroom before becoming an administrator, and he has not looked back since. He simply lacks perspective on what a qualified, dedicated, career-oriented teacher actually looks like, because he's never been one himself.

    Bennett is using his close association with Mitch Daniels and his skill in playing for the Indianapolis media to prepare for a future gubernatorial run. He has no long-term interest in resolving Indiana's educational climate, as he's hoping to move to the statehouse when Mitch makes his impending failed run at the Presidency.

    This is a very, very dark time for the public schools of the Hoosier state, and it has nothing to do with ISTA and this RTTT controversy- it is the use of our children and their education as political theater by two very short-sighted men who seek mostly to advance their own careers which will ultimately be so very damaging.
  • No Directive
    I am a teacher in a public school in Indiana and an ISTA member. There has been absolutely no directive to ISTA members to flood message boards.
  • No conspiracy,just raw anger
    Truth hurts. Parents are pissed. Don't care about politics. Tired of drama, public posturing, or finger pointing. Just want results.
  • I smell a rat
    It is so obvious that the teachers' union has issued a directive to flood message boards with negative comments about Tony Bennett. It's how they operate, and it's a deceitful liberal political tactis to make it appear as though they have overwhelming support for their position when it's not the case at all. The ISTA is a joke, and they lost all credibility when they squandered all the retirement money.
    • SO SAD
      once again this group is against performance incentives becuase the union protects the weakest employees and do not incentivise or reward good teachers. the argument about teachers fleeing to better schools holds no water as that is the case today. I guess we don't need the money to help our kids or schools system!!!
    • Response to Tom
      To Tom, you really think the motivation for the ISTA not supporting performance pay is to protect poor teachers??? Use some intelligence. It is not a fair or just system for evaluating a teacher. If you read the comments from those in the field, it would be obvious the reasons. The best process is having effective adminstrators evaluate the instruction methods, content, and class management of their teachers, provide them with support, and replace ineffective teachers. However, lets evaluate Dr. Bennett and the great governor on their performance:
      IN unemployment rate has increased from 5.3% in 2004-2009. Children living in poverty increased from 15.7%-17.9% 04-08, since 2004 16,330 students have been added to free and reduced lunch, since 04 the # of 12th graders NOT taking the SAT has grown 4%, and in just one year 07-08 Indiana's bankruptcy filiings grew by 20.8%. But as we know, based on their plan and your comments, that circumstances and factors beyond our control have little or no impoact on our overall effectiveness.
    • Bad Idea
      Any "Pay for Performance" system is simply a bad idea. Children in economically depressed (particularly, inner city) school systems undoubtedly are faced with circumstances beyond their control which undeniably affect their performance in school. Teachers in these school systems are, therefore, faced with challenges that teachers in private and more affluent schools are not. All such a system would accomplish is driving the best teachers to the jobs they consider the "easiest" way to maximize their income potential, doing a great injustice to the children who need their help the most.
    • Shame Shame Shame
      Bennett is a typical GOPer. You do it my way or no way and we are not participating. That is what the GOP did with the health care reform, their way or no way and we won't participate. Well we know who is absolutely to blame. What makes this guy think that he can dictate terms to a group he needs to cooperate with without ever consulting them until he is ready to anounce the plan. Shame on Bennett, Shame on the Governor for not making Bennett be responsible, Shame on the GOP for their political stand on issues of the day.
    • Back to School
      Kids are taught to get along in Kindergarden. Apparently Tony and the unions need to go back to school.

      Not submitting an improved Race to the Top application insures failure for our kids because adults are acting like infants. Parents expect results, not ultimatums, threats, and finger pointing.

      The media should ridicule both until they get an improved application submitted. Not trying is not acceptable when so much is at stake.

      This should not be allowed. Only the media can deliver the accountability needed to focus a public backlash large enough to get these people to do their jobs.
    • Tony's Plan Needs Improvement
      K-12 education is unique in that it makes its employees pay for their own education and requires even more employee paid training to keep their teaching licience, yet schools won't hire the most qualified and experienced teachers because they have to pay them more.

      Major reform is needed to achieve pay for performance beyond a test score based job evaluation.

      Just ask any state employee how fair Mitch's new state employee pay for performance system is working.
    • Who Ultimately Loses
      Well, another setback for the Indiana Educational System. But the ultimate losers are the school kids. And that is why in my neighborhood we have families that are moving out of public school system into private (or they have just moved out of state to better states that have great public school systems in place). How about some accountability for Mr. Bennett, Mr. Schnellenberger and members of the ISTA, even "our man Mitch"...
    • Performance not correctly measured by Bennett
      I believe the teachers and Union would support pay for performance if it was based on a good measure of performance. But, Bennett demands performance be based on school graduation rates and student testing. IPS students are not the same as Carmel students, not a fair comparison. (Also not fair to compare charter schools with public schools)

      The real question, how do you measure a teacher. And, as with all jobs, they get better with time, do you fire all first year teachers every year? Unions are needed to protect education from state bureaucrats. Think of teacher with the same skill as auto-license branch employees.

      Do you really believe Bennett has a clue about education?

    • pot and kettle
      Does anyone remember test scores and student achievement in the school district that Mr. Bennett used to oversee?
      Look it up and you'll find a poor-performing district. And now he lectures everyone else on how to do it right.
    • Race To The Bottom
      Tony Bennett and the unions should be ridiculed for not being able to work together and submit a nationally competitive plan to win extra federal education grants.

      The media should take both to task for not even applying for the Race to the Top Grant and improve upon the first application.

      You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

      Tony Bennett has failed us by not even trying.
    • Pay for quality?

      How do you propose to objectively (even if there's some subjective and it's meshed in with objective) and find a good way to determine who makes what?

      Test scores?

      My mom (3rd Grade) had what she described as an A+++ student (and said it wasn't as close as I was at that age). She knew what she was supposed to know, learning it on her own when she wanted to work ahead.

      When she (girl) opened the ISTEP packet, she cried, literally broke down and cried.

      Now, if she really knows the material, perhaps better than most adults (what are the illiteracy and innumeracy numbers for adults these days?), should it reflect upon my mom (or any other teacher in the situation) because of the tests?

      What if teachers promote to get them out of their way (and their peers in the same grade?) Parents move, enrolls kid in school at a higher grade level than they should, something brown & smelly hits the fan. (parents going postal with the principal who in reality are going to move up the food chain)

      Who is responsible and how should be determined [that it's the correct party]?
    • Against Pay for Perfornance!
      Tom- Why won't teachers agree to pay for performance? Have you ever considered that special education teacher who stays late after school, modifying lesson plans, filling out paperwork, meeting with parents, dealing with Child Protective Services, and so on? That is still an educator who would be evaluated based on test scores on a merit pay system. The students who those teachers are responsible for have disabilities, but they are still expected to take the same test that every other student their age takes. Those students rarely pass the standardized tests even with the accomodations they are given. Those test results would say that the special education teacher has poor job performance. Those test results can't reflect the impact that these teachers have on the students and the growth and progress those students do show. Although students can make progress through the year, they may not make enough gains to pass a standardized test. These results should not put a teacher's job in jeopardy. On the other hand, what about the teacher who has gifted students? Is that necessarily the best teacher in the building because those students produce the highest test results? Of course not! The ISTA does not support lazy teachers who aren't doing their job. They are protecting the process of teacher evalutions that could lead to justified terminations. Evaluating the performance of a teacher takes more than just glancing at some test results. The nature of teaching is to know that one is never finished learning. Whether a teacher has been in a classroom 2 years or 20 years, there is always something they work to improve for the benefit of the students.
    • Now you know...

      ... why my mom [1] is retiring at the end of the (current) semester. 38 years. The buyout was too good to pass up and she could leave on her terms. One of the things teachers were talking about is things might not be as good.
      She has enough hours to have 1+ Master's Degree(s) beyond the required one.

      In the recent years, a number of teachers, retired & active in her school system, would get together once or twice a week during the summer, and play bridge at the local Pizza Hut. Many of the retirees have regrets about leaving and knew they couldn't go back. (Until now) She wanted to make sure she didn't make the same mistake.

      You know what's really funny? When she talked to her principal about it, he had no clue what was going on. The superintendent's office sent all of the paperwork directly to the teachers and said nothing to the principals. As if the super et al had any clue to who the teachers were, their quality, etc. Just numbers on paper. I figure it's like a director or VP in a business stepping over anyone between them and the peons.

      Lots of industries no longer need unions.

      In the case of teachers ... I think it's rather obvious.

      It's been going on for years: how to get people who have (real-world) experience to teach and there's all sorts of scrambling to expedite it.

      With the crap we see going on now, would I do it? No chance.

      I'd rather cash in every paycheck and toss it into the lottery.

      Speaking of which - and it's OT - but what happens to lottery winners? We already know those who want it in installments for the next 20 years have made a mistake in math. What's going to happen if someone decides to say, "hey! They've already received so far - that's not a bad deal. They really aren't going to be hurt if we help the state's economy. (With everything you're seeing, tell me that's not an impossible scenario. One lump sum. After several years, how are they going to take that away?

      Oh. Wait. Don't some of the proceeds go to teachers (pension funds?) This does not bode well. If the state doesn't get what it wants elsewhere, they'll get it where they can take it. (As in not contribute as much is supposed to.)

      [1] My grandmother was a K/1 teacher for many years and retired a long time ago. I have a sister who teaches.
    • Thats Just how it is Eh?
      I am guessing "Get Real" is either a politician or a government employee with that type of lethargic thinking. Just saying "that's how it is" is not a path to greatness - its the path to mediocrity. The fact that a majority of people are willing to agree with you and move on without making an effort towards change is the reason it never changes. I am guilty as well in that I have not done enough or spoken out enough.
    • Any realists out there?
      Rick, IN is quite ineffective in getting Federal Largese anyway. We've apparently all agreed that this positioning is a good thing. Becky 2, how else could Uncle Sam be as effective in getting the states to do what it wants? Urbanguy, since when do you expect politicians to do anything but posture? Have you been congnizant? Becky 1,of course the game goes this way. Why did you think education would be different?
      • I Disagree
        Tell me Urban Guy - why won't teachers unions agree to pay for performance? could it be that they have to protect their members who don't perform? why are the graduation rates in our state so poor? And, also tell me why the teachers should deserve lifetime jobs and exhorbitant pensions - when no other industry could ever succeed by offering the same package to its employees? Its time for the ridiculous union policies to end. Time to make teachers perform or find a new profession.
        • And another thing!
          The heart of where we go wrong is the folks in Wash DC give out money like a kindergartner gives out candy - to their friends first, and then the closest person with their hand out. Everyone wants their little piece of the federal dollars and the lobbyists are right there with their hands out getting ridiculous sums of our tax money for special interest groups. I'm sick of special interest groups. They should do away with all of that political wrangling and pork projects and just say the end of it - all states benefit equally from the federal budget in equal proportion to their population. By allowing special groups to get money, the entire system has been corrupted to the point where none of it even makes sense anymore. Check out where the stimulus money was spent and you will see there is no rhyme or reason - just whoever was there with a hand out got some. In this case, whatever states have the best marketing proposal or "application" on paper gets the money? Come on! That has nothing to do with which states children need the money.
        • Collaboration Needed
          If Mr. Bennett wanted to be effective in applying for these funds he should have reached out to the ISTA colloratively instead of acting like a bully and catching headlines. Mr. Bennett has VERY thin credentials to be in his appointed post and he has let Indiana down but not playing the statesman and getting this done----but he has gotten a lot of media so useful to a person with political ambitions beyond his present post.
          • Take A Look
            Rick, do some research on the topic before you decide to go viral with your opinion. The Race to the Top was a program designed to give power to Bennett and Daniels on which schools they want to give money too. It's a program that benefits the administration more than the teachers and the kids. It wasn't going to help anybody but the schools that already have state funding and rich pockets.
          • Why is it done like this?
            Does anyone think that its wrong to make states compete for federal funds in the first place? Each state should get an equal allocation of the funds by student count. After all, our kids have nothing to do with this so-called competition - yet they are the ones who suffer if the "adults" can't get it figured out!! I don't understand where this country is headed when federal funds are being "auctioned" off like this. Each state should get an allocation based on student population - end of story!!!
          • more of the same
            we'll fall further behind and eventually tax payers in indiana will be asked to make up for the funds they could have received from the feds. who else doesn't believe we'll ever really see our property taxes capped?
            • Absolutely shameful
              This is a ridiculous turn of events. Everybody should involved should be ashamed and embarrassed. Just more of our hard earned money that will end up in another state, helping somebody elses kids.

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