Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: Indiana’s teachers have been miseducated

Abdul-Hakim ShabazzNow that thousands of Indiana teachers, educators and their supporters have rallied at the Statehouse over teacher pay, testing and professional development, it’s time to drop some facts.

No offense, guys and gals, but whomever you’ve been listening to has done you a disservice. You all have been misled, miseducated and misdirected on this issue.

I’ve already talked about teacher pay and the fact that 47% of the money schools spend on personnel ends up in the classroom. I’ve said that, over the past couple of decades, while the student and teacher populations have grown less than 10%, non-teaching staff has grown nearly 60%.

So let’s focus on professional development and testing.

When I heard Indiana teachers were not happy with a new professional licensing rule that requires they do 15 hours of an “externship,” I did raise my eyebrows just a bit. I am an attorney, and my wife is a physical therapist assistant, so we both have to complete professional continuing education hours to keep our licenses current. But I was a little taken aback by the new requirement for teachers—then I went and got the facts.

First of all, these are not additional hours. They are included in the 90 hours of certification a teacher must receive, and this requirement can be accomplished over five years (so, three hours a year). Second, teachers don’t have to go to a job site; a company can come to teachers at the school to tell them what they need to know.

Also, teachers can fulfill the externship obligation by participating in a professional development program hosted by the state, a local business, or a community partner that provides opportunities for schools and employers to partner in promoting career navigation. Or they can participate in a professional development program that outlines the current and future economic needs of the community, state, nation and globe and how these needs can be disseminated to students. The point of all this is to make sure teachers are in tune with the workforce needs of their community.

Most important, again, we are not talking about 15 additional hours of certification. They’re included in the 90 hours teachers must get already. And if you think about it, schools that used professional development day so teachers could protest at the Statehouse could have used that day instead to knock out six or seven hours of that externship professional development requirement.

There is one area for which I have a lot more sympathy for teachers. With all the problems Indiana has been having with its testing procedures, I don’t blame them for wanting to be held harmless as to the results—at least for now. (By the way, the governor and top legislative leaders have already said they plan to do just that.)

Now, demands that Indiana stop spending an estimated $100 million on testing and use that for teacher pay is probably one bite at the apple too many. Under federal rules, Indiana must conduct testing; the trick is to figure out how to meet federal regulations and not spend every class day preparing for an exam.

When teachers and their supporters used Organization Day to protest, I offered them a big round of applause for peacefully expressing what they perceive as their grievances with their government.

However, the next time they come to the capitol, it would be nice for them to do their homework so they’re not misled, misdirected and miseducated.•


Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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4 thoughts on “Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: Indiana’s teachers have been miseducated

  1. I think your missing the application of this particular piece of legislation. Let me give you a personal example. I renewed my license in 2016 with 193 hours of professional development. Of the 193 hours 0 hours were through an outside business or an externship. Under the current system I would have been denied because I didn’t meet this requirement and my application would be denied because I don’t have the outside business hours.

  2. Sorry about the redundant sentence at the end. The other factor that I want to quickly mention is that just because educators reach 90 hours of PD does not allow them to skip mandated professional development in their buildings to work on things like developing curriculum, differentiating, planning field trips, or contacting parents. We still have an obligation to participate in our building professional developments.

  3. Many teachers already work 2nd and 3rd jobs during the school year and in the summer to re-pay their college loans and make ends meet. The premise that they are unaware of opportunities for their students outside the classroom is bogus.

    All that teacher exposure to jobs elsewhere is likely why our teacher shortages are dangerously high. When teachers learn how much more money they can make elsewhere with fewer demands on their time and less stress, they leave teaching for those greener pastures. The externship requirement for all teachers should make the teacher shortages even worse.

  4. While it is true that non-teaching staff has grown nearly 60% in the past two decades, Mr. Shabazz fails to note (or even recognize) that federal and state demands on schools for non-teaching administrative requirements have increased exponentially in the same two-decade period of time. Non-teaching legislative requirements since 2000 including McKinney-Vento which requires schools to transport students considered homeless to and from school to their temporary residence a distance up to 50 miles in radius, increased demands for administration and reporting in testing and accountability (requiring thousands of hours per year), increased demands to identify and report students who are English Language Learners, changed identification criteria used to identify students as disabled has resulted in thousands of more students who may qualify for services under Section 504 and IDEA each increasing the administrative costs and demands on the school, increasingly complex technology-based assessments that require more non-teaching technical personnel and increasing workload of new teacher evaluation programs requiring additional non-teaching personnel to carry-out and support teacher evaluation all add significantly to the non-teaching expenses imposed on school districts. This short list names just a few of the hundreds of non-teaching additional demands placed on schools in the past 20 years. Mr. Shabazz, let’s look at the WHOLE picture when accusing others of miseducation and make sure that it is not you who has been miseducated.

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