In the Classroom

Teacher scholarship bill passes committee but could leave current students out

PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

Michael Stottlemyer, an aspiring teacher from Anderson, seems like the perfect candidate for a proposed scholarship Republican leaders hope will help encourage more people to consider teaching.

He got good grades, graduated in the top 20 percent of his high school class and spent time doing community service and other activities in high school.

There’s just one problem: He’s already in college.

Stottlemyer, a junior studying math at IUPUI, wants to be a teacher, and he’s paying for his education by himself, he told members of the House Education Committee today. But because a program outlined in bill by House Speaker Brian Bosma would only apply to students graduating this year or later, Stottlemyer said he won’t be able to qualify.

“I would do anything to have the scholarship for my last two years and not have to worry about applying for another student loan,” Stottlemyer said. “I have personally met all of the requirements for this potential scholarship fund except for the requirement that I graduate (from high school) before June of 2016.”

Bosma, R-Indianapolis, authored House Bill 1002 to attract top students from across the state to a career in teaching. With some Indiana schools having problems hiring teachers in subjects such as math, science and special education, the bill would give students scholarships of up to $7,500 a year for four years of public or private college tuition at a state college in exchange for teaching for five years in Indiana schools. The bill passed the House Education Committee today 13-0.

Committee members were sympathetic to current college students like Stottlemyer, but they might not be able to help. Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said the state won’t have the funding for the scholarship until lawmakers approve a new budget next year.

Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, who voted in favor of the bill, said he was concerned current students will be left out and that too many Indiana classrooms will have to wait too long for a qualified teacher.

“This is a four-year fix,” Smith said. “What if someone is already in school and wants to switch to teaching? … The need is now.”

Bosma said he’d look for a way to support current teaching students. He might be able to amend the bill, he said, so that some older students like Stottlemyer could qualify for a one- or two-year scholarship once the program gets funding.

“We will pursue the issue about the existing students,” Bosma said. “If it looks like that could work timing-wise, we will bring an amendment.”

The bill received widespread support today from lawmakers and representatives from the Indiana State Teachers Association, private school organizations and other education advocacy groups. But some education advocates, such as Ashley Gibson from the group Stand for Children, said it should go further to make sure it helps the districts that need it the most.

Bosma’s bill has no provision saying the new teachers would have to teach in districts that are actually struggling to fill jobs. Typically, schools in rural and high-poverty urban areas have the hardest time finding qualified teachers.

“Stand would definitely support some sort of district trigger for teacher candidate recruitment needs,” Gibson told lawmakers.

The Speaker said changing the bill to steer scholarship recipients to certain areas isn’t necessary because the state has other programs to recruit minority teachers and attract teachers to hard-to-fill jobs.

“We do have programs for those other issues,” Bosma said.

The bill originally came from talks between Bosma and Indiana State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry, who proposed a similar idea last year. Hendry today said he supported the bill.

The goal would be to have the program begin next year with 200 students at a cost of about $1.5 million, Bosma said. When the program eventually grows to 800 students, the cost would be about $6 million per year. For the first four years, the state would pay about $15.2 million to support the scholarships.

“This is certainly no silver bullet,” Bosma said. “this is one of many, I think, good ideas to attract our best and brightest.”

The committee will pick up with hearings on two other bills that are designed to address teacher hiring as well as a chance to amend and vote on House Bill 1395, the ISTEP exam rescore bill, on Monday.

One bill lawmakers will finish hearing at Monday’s meeting, House Bill 1004, sponsored by Behning, would allow qualified teachers with licenses from other states transfer those licenses to Indiana if they meet certain GPA and testing requirements. The bill would also allow districts to give extra pay, without union permission, to teachers who take a position the district considers hard to fill.

The other bill, House Bill 1005, authored by Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Mishawaka, would give extra pay to teachers who are rated effective and agree to mentor peers. The bill would also make it possible for teachers in their first two years of work who are rated “ineffective” or “improvement necessary” to still qualify for salary raises.

talking SHSAT

Love or hate the specialized high school test, New York City students take the exam this weekend

PHOTO: Christina Veiga/Chalkbeat
At a town hall this summer in Brooklyn's District 15, parents protested city plans to overhaul admissions to elite specialized high schools.

The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test has been both lauded as a fair measure for who gets accepted to the city’s most coveted high schools — and derided as the cause for starkly segregating them.

This weekend, the tense debate is likely to be far from the minds of thousands of students as they sit for the three-hour exam, which currently stands as the sole admissions criteria for vaunted schools such as Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech.

All the debate and all the policy stuff that’s been happening —  it’s just words and there really isn’t anything concrete that’s been put into place yet. So until it happens, they just continue on,” said Mahalia Watson, founder of the website Let’s Talk Schools, an online guide for parents navigating their school options.

Mayor Bill de Blasio this summer ignited a firestorm with a proposal to nix the SHSAT and instead offer admission to top middle school students across the city. Critics say the test is what segregates students, offering an advantage to families who can afford tutoring or simply are more aware of the importance of the exam. Only 10 percent of specialized high school students are black or Hispanic, compared to almost 70 percent of all students citywide.

For some, the uproar, coupled with a high profile lawsuit claiming Harvard University discriminates against Asian applicants, has only added to the pressure to get a seat at a specialized school. Asian students make up about 62 percent of enrollment at specialized high schools, and families from that community have lobbied hard to preserve the way students are admitted.

One Asian mother told Chalkbeat in an email that, while she believes in the need for programs that promote diversity, the SHSAT is “a color blind and unbiased” admissions measure. Her daughter has been studying with the help of test prep books, and now she wonders whether it will be enough.  

“In my opinion, options for a good competitive high school are very limited,” the mom wrote. “With all the recent news of the mayor trying to change the admission process to the specialized high schools and the Harvard lawsuit makes that more important for her to get acceptance.”

Last year, 28,000 students took the SHSAT, and only 5,000 were offered admission. Among this year’s crop of hopeful students is Robert Mercier’s son, an eighth grader with his sights set on High School of American Studies at Lehman College.

Mercier has encouraged his son to study for the test — even while hoping that the admissions system will eventually change. His son plays catcher on a baseball team and is an avid debater at school, activities that Mercier said are important for a well-rounded student and should be factored into admissions decisions.

“If you don’t do well on that one test but you’ve been a great student your whole career,” Mercier said, “I just don’t think that’s fair and I don’t think that’s necessarily a complete assessment of a student’s abilities or worth.”

Teacher's tale

Video: This Detroit teacher explains how she uses her classroom to ‘start a real loud revolution’

Silver Danielle Moore, a teacher at the Detroit Leadership Academy, tells her story at the Tale the Teacher storytelling event on October 6, 2018.

Silver Danielle Moore doesn’t just see teaching as way to pass along information to students. She views teaching as a way to bring about change.

“The work of us as educators is to start a real loud revolution,” Moore told the audience this month at a teacher storytelling event co-sponsored by Chalkbeat. “The revolution will not happen without resistance, and social justice classrooms are the instruments of that resistance.”

Moore, a teacher at the Detroit Leadership Academy charter school, was one of four Detroit educators who told their stories on stage at the Tale the Teacher event held at the Lyft Lounge at MusicTown Detroit on October 6.

The event, organized by Western International High School counselor Joy Mohammed, raised about $120 that Mohammed said she used to buy a laptop for a student who needed it to participate on the school’s yearbook staff.

Over the next few weeks, Chalkbeat will be posting videos of the stories told at the event.

Moore, a self-proclaimed “black hip-hop Jesus feminist” opened her story with a memory of leaving a teacher training session four years ago to travel to Ferguson, Missouri, to be part of Labor Day weekend protests after Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot by a police officer.

“There was so much grief but also so much fight in that place,” she recalled. “I will never forget the moment I stood at the place that Mike Brown was killed. I will never forget the look in his mother’s face.”

She recalled bringing that experience back to Detroit and to her classroom.

“Imagine, after that weekend, returning back to the classroom on September 2nd,” she said. “I fought that weekend for Mike Brown … but I also did it for the 66 kids I would have that school year and every child I have had since then.”

Watch Moore’s full story here:

Video by Colin Maloney

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