Future of Teaching

Indianapolis Public Schools names Teacher of the Year, a librarian dedicated to finding a story for every student

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Kathleen Rauth was named Indianapolis Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

Indianapolis Public Schools librarian Kathleen Rauth has a mission: Making sure that the students she works with can read books that reflect their lives and broaden their horizons.

Each day, she spends a few hours reading blogs and roving for titles online, said Rauth, who was named IPS Teacher of the Year at a surprise ceremony today in the gym of the Center for Inquiry at School 27, where she was joined by her family and hundreds of students.

Rauth is always looking for empowering stories that go beyond the traditional narrative of African American families in poverty or Hispanic families sneaking across the border. Those stories can be harder to find, she said, but they exist.

“If I’m going to ask children to value reading and value being engaged with me and inquiry,” she said, “then I have to value what they are bringing to the table.”

Recently, Rauth has been trying to build up the collection of books about children with same-sex parents, she said. A little girl ran up to tell Rauth that she had found a book with “two daddies,” she said.

“She said, ‘I have two daddies!’ and I said, ‘yeah, I know you do,’ ” Rauth said.

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Kathleen Rauth has taught for more than three decades.

Rauth began her career as a creative drama teacher and taught in the classroom before becoming a librarian nine years ago. She spent most of her 30-year career teaching in Chicago before coming to Indianapolis three years ago.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee presented Rauth with the Teacher of the Year award.

“I am the son of a retired media specialist,” Ferebee said. “I know personally what you do to advance literacy.”

As IPS teacher of the year, Rauth will represent educators across the district, sharing her approach to teaching with other educators. Rauth, who was one of 10 finalists for the award, will also have a chance to become Indiana Teacher of the Year in 2017.

Rauth splits her time between CFI at School 2 and at School 27 — making this the third year in a row that a teacher from CFI at School 2 won IPS teacher of the year.

For Rauth, the recognition was an unexpected honor.

“It’s crazy. I don’t feel like I do anything more than what a really good teacher does everywhere,” she said. “I’m speechless, which doesn’t happen that often.”

Struggling Detroit schools

The list of promises is long: Arts, music, robotics, gifted programs and more. Will Detroit schools be able to deliver?

PHOTO: Detroit Public Television
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti answers questions at a community meeting in Detroit.

Arts. Music. Robotics. Programs for gifted kids. New computers. New textbooks. Dual enrollment programs that let high school students take college classes. International Baccalaureate. Advanced Placement.

They’re all on the list of things that Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a group of community members assembled in a Brightmoor neighborhood church that he would introduce or expand as soon as next school year.

Vitti didn’t get into the specifics of how the main Detroit district would find the money or partnerships needed to deliver on all of those promises, but they’re part of the plan for the future, he said.

The comments came in a question and answer session last month with students, parents and community members following Vitti’s appearance on Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal/One Detroit Roadshow. The discussion was recorded at City Covenant Church. DPTV is one of Chalkbeat’s partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Vitti has been appearing at community events since taking over the Detroit schools last spring. He is scheduled next week to join officials from two of the city’s major charter school authorizers, Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, at a State of the Schools address on October 25.


Watch the full Q&A with Vitti below.

Another error

Missing student data means 900 Tennessee teachers could see their growth scores change


Tennessee’s testing problems continue. This time the issue is missing students.

Students’ test scores are used to evaluate teachers, and the failure of a data processing vendor to include scores for thousands of students may have skewed results for some teachers, officials said.

The scores, known as TVAAS, are based on how students improved under a teacher’s watch. The scores affect a teacher’s overall evaluation and in some districts, like Shelby County Schools, determine if a teacher gets a raise.

The error affects 1,700 teachers statewide, or about 9 percent of the 19,000 Tennessee teachers who receive scores. About 900 of those teachers had five or more students missing from their score, which could change their result.

The latest glitch follows a series of mishaps, including test scanning errors, which also affect teacher evaluations. A delay earlier this summer from the Tennessee Department of Education’s testing vendor, Questar, set off a chain of events that resulted in the missing student scores.

To calculate a teacher’s growth score, students and their test scores are assigned to a teacher. About 3 percent of the 1.5 million student-teacher assignments statewide had to be manually submitted in Excel files after Questar experienced software issues and fell behind on releasing raw scores to districts.

RANDA Solutions, a data processing vendor for the state, failed to input all of those Excel files, leading to the teachers’ scores being calculated without their full roster of students, said Sara Gast, a state spokeswoman. The error will not affect school or district TVAAS scores. (District-level TVAAS scores were released in September.)

Gast did not immediately confirm when the state will finalize those teachers’ scores with corrected student rosters. The state sent letters to districts last week informing them of the error and at least one Memphis teacher was told she had more than 80 of her 120 students missing from her score.

In the past, the process for matching students to the right teachers began at the end of the year, “which does not leave much room for adjustments in the case of unexpected delays,” Gast said in an email. The state had already planned to open the process earlier this year. Teachers can begin to verify their rosters next week, she said.