Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"The epicenter of the privatization movement is Indianapolis, where an organization called The Mind Trust has led the effort to destroy public education," Ravitch writes. (Photo: Neon Tommy/flickr/cc)

Indianapolis: What the Public Schools Learned from the Charter Schools

Indiana has been taken over by the forces of corporate school reform, under a succession of Republican governors devoted to school choice: Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, now Eric Holcomb. The public schools got a brief respite when educator Glenda Ritz was elected State Commissioner in 2012, but Pence spent four years attacking her Office and taking away its powers. Indiana has the gamut of privatization reforms: charter schools, vouchers, cybercharters.

The epicenter of the privatization movement is Indianapolis, where an organization called The Mind Trust has led the effort to destroy public education.

A teacher in Indiana recently left a comment about what she encountered when she returned to teaching in the public schools: lessons learned from charters.

She writes:

“I believe this “hypernormalization” can be traced back to the use of TFA [Teach For America] teachers in our public school system. I had to come out of retirement to go back to the classroom for economic reasons and found an Art teacher position in the Indianapolis Public Schools [IPS]. I joined a staff of over 50 teachers in a K-6 school with mostly young teachers (less than 10 years experience), TFA teachers, administrators with NO teaching experience and no teacher’s license, and a building with a high needs student population that was in complete chaos. The principal and assistant principal were only concerned only with “creating classroom culture,” or making sure that all the students walked in straight lines with a bubble in their mouth, hands clasped behind their backs. Data collection and testing was the driving force behind everything and it was of utmost importance to point out to any staff member their “numbers” to make sure the customers (parents) would be happy. With all of the emphasis on the outcome and none on actual learning, the building was reduced to violent fights and constant behavior disruption as evidence by the 12 staff members that were dedicated to behavior remediation. When I made comments or brought up ideas about changing the way behavior was addressed, or looking into more emphasis on learning and less on data collection I was regarded as a horrible relic from the past that had no idea how to teach in today’s public schools. I was force fed TFA propaganda, pummeled with articles about data from pro-TFA researchers, and forced to watch videos on the TFA Youtube channel to bring my thinking into the same place as the inexperienced teachers and administrators that demonstrated they knew nothing about how public schools work. As a teacher of over 30 years, with all kinds of recognition and accolades for excellence, I am regarded as an out of step relic who can’t possibly know what I am doing.

“TFA is like a virus that has infected the teaching profession and is slowly killing education. The sad part is that TFA’s philosophy is solidly grounded in the IPS school system, and I don’t see it changing with our GOP led state legislature imposing their micro management of IPS and other large urban school systems in Indiana; and I see the same thing happening in Florida, Ohio and many of the other super-reformy states.

“If any of us have any hope of stopping the normalization of what isn’t normal for learning, then we need to identify the sources such as TFA and end their participation in public education.”


© 2021 Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools."  Her previous books and articles about American education include: "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,"  "Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform," (Simon & Schuster, 2000); "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn" (Knopf, 2003); "The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know" (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Democrats Demand Amazon and Facebook End Efforts to 'Sideline' FTC Chair Lina Khan

"Your efforts only add to the perception that you are attempting to bully your regulators, disarm the FTC, and avoid accountability rather than to strengthen ethics standards."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Follows House Dems' Letter by Imploring Biden to Close Gitmo 'Once and for All'

"This letter, signed by four House committee chairs, should send a clear message to President Biden: He has the political support to swiftly close the detention center at Guantánamo."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Truly Disturbing': Facebook Blasted for Blocking NYU Researchers Examining Ad Model and Misinformation

"It is disgraceful that Facebook is attempting to squash legitimate research that is informing the public about disinformation on their platform."

Jessica Corbett ·


After Decades-Long Grassroots Push, Key Senate Panel Votes to Repeal Iraq War Authorization

Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of the U.S. House to vote against the AUMF in 2001, called the vote "a major victory in our fight to end forever wars."

Julia Conley ·


Mexico Files Historic Lawsuit Against US Gun Companies Fueling Cartel Carnage

The first-of-its-kind suit alleges U.S. weapons firms "design, market, distribute, and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico."

Brett Wilkins ·