An Open Letter to Indiana's Public School Teachers For Teacher Appreciation Day
Thank you. Despite all of the obstacles thrown in your professional path by corporate "school reformers" supported by many of our state's policymakers over the last few years, you continue to work magic in Indiana's public school classrooms in every community across our state.
Despite some legislators and other "education experts," who not surprisingly spend little or no time inside our public schools, lashing out at you after the release of the new teacher evaluation data, I know first-hand that you are passionate about our children and our profession. You are, indeed, highly effective.
One legislator, in particular, called that data "skewed."
I'd like to remind him and other naysayers that "effective" simply means "successful in producing a desired or intended result."
So, let me share with you some information provided by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education about results in our public schools:
- ATTENDANCE RATE - Hoosier public schools have successfully raised daily attendance in 17 of the past 23 years. The latest 2011-12 rate of 96.1% repeats the highest level ever reached in 2008-09.
- GRADUATION RATE - A new cohort method shows 88.4% graduated in four years or less in the Class of 2012, up from 85.7, 84.1%, 81.5%, 77.8%, 76.4%, and 76.1% in the last six graduating classes. The dropout rate was 6.1% for the Class of 2011, improving from 6.4%, 8.7%, 10.3%, 11.9% and 11.2% in five previous years of the new system which tracks every student.
- ACT COMPOSITE SCORES - Indiana's composite score on the ACT remained at 22.3 in 2011-12, the highest mark in state history. Indiana ACT scores have exceeded national averages in all 23 years of the study.
- NATIONAL ASSESSMENT (NAEP) SCORES - On National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) basic scores, Indiana outperformed the nation on all 41 NAEP assessments since 1990. On the NAEP proficient standard, Indiana outperformed the nation on 31 of 41 tests.
- ISTEP ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS SCORES - In 67 valid year-to-year comparisons over 14 years and 8 grades, 33 (49%) went up, 18 (27%) went down, and 16 (24%) were stable. More went up than down by a clear margin.
- ISTEP MATH SCORES - In 67 valid year-to-year comparisons, 42 (63%) went up, 14 (21%) remained stable, and 11 (16%) went down, showing a clear trend of improvement.
- PERCENT OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES GOING TO COLLEGE - The percent of graduates aspiring to college went up 20 of the 21 years to reach 77.0% in 2009-10, the highest level in state history. IDOE no longer has this percent on its website.
- STUDENTS EARNING ACADEMIC HONORS OR CORE 40 DIPLOMAS - For all 23 years of the study, more students every year earned either the 47-credit Academic Honors Diploma or the Core 40 diploma, reaching a record total of 81.9% in the Class of 2012.
This data clearly shows "desired and intended results" thanks to your hard work and dedication. So I celebrate with you these successes that are often untold, and congratulate you on once again for a job well done.
This week, our state and nation celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. I know that many of you often don't feel appreciated after surviving several years of "education reform-based teacher bashing."
I want to take this opportunity to speak for the busy voices who often forget to take time to thank you for your work - parents, community members and policymakers who do know the true value of public educators and public education in our local communities.
To all of you fellow educators who value opportunities for our children to be creative, to develop critical thinking skills, to demonstrate their knowledge beyond worksheets and standardized tests, we say thanks. We appreciate you and your work.
And we pledge to begin today with a renewed commitment to working on for a better public school system for you and your students - a system respects you and the children whose lives you affect every single day.
Kindergarten Teacher, Shelbyville Central Schools
President, Indiana State Teachers Association