National consultants Edward Roeber and Bill Auty assembled the brief last month, after Pence hired them to advise state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, the Indiana Department of Education, State Board of Education and members of the General Assembly.
The governor tasked the group with figuring out how to shorten the state’s annual standardized test after the IDOE notified schools that students would sit for an average of 12 hours to complete the test – significantly longer than last year.
“I commend these nationally-recognized assessment experts for their efforts to thoroughly and efficiently review and make recommendations to shorten the 2015 test,” Pence said in a statement. “Indiana’s students, teachers and families deserved no less.”
Pence also says the report provides insights to be considered regarding next year’s test.
“Based on the results of 2015 tests, IDOE should investigate the feasibility of shortening the ISTEP+ tests in 2016 and beyond,” the report reads.
Remember, the current test marks step one in a transition for Indiana – after pulling out of Common Core State Standards and the associated national testing consortium, language in Indiana’s No Child Left Behind waiver required the state to provide a state test matching state standards.
Indiana is still in the planning stages of creating a test for spring 2016. Some of the fixes on this year’s assessment included pilot testing questions for next year, as well as saving others for use on fall practice materials.
House Republicans delayed a vote last week on the “Student Success Act,” legislation to rewrite No Child Left Behind, dimming hopes this could be the year the cornerstone education law gets a facelift, according to POLITICO. The bill does not appear on the House calendar for this week.
Complicating the issue? Disputes over funding the Department of Homeland Security.
Indiana’s State Board of Education approved initial rule language for a new A-F school accountability system during their January meeting. This week, they traveled the state to gauge public reaction to the proposal.
Beginning Wednesday, held hearings in Evansville, Marion and Indianapolis. Board Director of Accountability Cynthia Roach says the panel generally heard the same concerns at each meeting.
“We’ve been hearing a lot about the [ratio] of performance and growth,” Roach says. “We’ve also been hearing a lot about being equitable for your lowest-performing students, that they receive equitable points when they’re showing high growth.”
We’ve already told you a bit about how the system would change if this proposal gets approved – but let’s pick out the items Roach is talking about:
- The equation used to calculate a school’s grade uses the following variables: performance, growth, and multiple measures (i.e. graduation rate, college- and career-readiness).
- Each variable is assigned a letter grade (A, B, C, D or F) on a scale similar to what you would see on any test a student takes in school: 90-100 points is an A, 80-89 point is a B, and so on.
- To determine a school’s total score, the scores for each of the three variables gets weighted (based on data about enrollment) and then added together.
- As suggested by the name, growth is determined using data from both the current year and the previous year.
- A school’s total growth number is the sum of students’ English/Language Arts scores and math scores.
- The score for each subject is the sum of the average marks of two subgroups: the highest performing students and lowest performing students. In other words, one-half is the average ISTEP+ mark of all the kids performing in the top 75 percent of the school, and the other half is the average ISTEP+ mark of all the kids performing in the bottom 25 percent of the school.
The Indiana General Assembly passed the halfway mark of its 2015 session Wednesday.
“I’m very encouraged at the level of collaboration that’s taking place in broad and bipartisan fashion on priorities of this administration, chief among them is in the area of education,” Pence says.
On the other side of the aisle, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, says his party has differences in approach with respect to education.
“When the right arguments are made, some of your hardcore conservatives will join forces with us in a pragmatic way to make sure that our classrooms are protected,” Pelath says. “We have reminded the House majority and the Senate majority and the governor that just because they might have 71 percent of the seats, doesn’t mean that 71 percent of the people agree with them.”
Let’s break down how these leading lawmakers think about what their parties have accomplished so far, and what they hope to do as the session continues.
Legislation before the General Assembly this session sought to make kindergarten mandatory for Hoosier children by lowering the compulsory school age from seven to five.
It’s an issue that has lawmakers and educators split, even as the state focuses on funding early education initiatives.
‘Kindergarten Is The New First Grade’
These are the some of the more than 60 skills five-year-olds are expected to learn now in Indiana’s public kindergartens:
- Count to 100 by ones,
- Solve real-world problems that involve addition and subtraction, and
- Understand how a nonfiction book is organized.
They’re the same skills that could cause a student to struggle during first grade if they haven’t been exposed to them earlier.
“I am hoping they are going to be able to read and write and do their math and be able to count and recognize numbers,” says Karen Berman, a 24-year kindergarten teacher at Greenbrier Elementary in Washington Township. “We are doing a lot with number sense and it’s unbelievable.”
Students in Berman’s class use interactive technology, shout out fractions during group number games and learn how the government works.
Kindergarten, Berman says, is the new first grade.
“I think you have to mandate kindergarten,” Berman says. “What difference does it make if you put them in pre-k and they don’t go any further? And then go to first grade – they are still going to be behind. Yes, you have to have the pre-k, there is no question about it, but you have to mandate kindergarten.”
The road to this year’s ISTEP+ test has been bumpy. Recurring problems with technology and last-minute legislative changes to trim the length of the test have only added to the frustrations many Hoosier parents feel about the stressful effects of standardized testing.
Many parents are deciding to “opt out,” or withdraw their child from this year’s pool of test-takers.
But that decision could have serious repercussions for teachers, schools and even the state.
When Children Worry, Parents Act
Caswell Woodruff was a third grader at Bloomfield Elementary School last year when he began relaying ISTEP+ horror stories to his mother, Resa.
“He would tell me some of the things the teachers would say about ‘you have to pass this,’” Woodruff says. “He would just tell me some of the kids were worried and concerned and just the stresses of the environment in the classroom because of the testing.”
Worried for her son, Woodruff began researching, finding any information she could about Indiana’s standardized tests – and what she found scared her, too.
“The more research we did on the subject, the more we wanted to opt our child out of the test,” Woodruff says. “They’re not a reliable and accurate assessment of our child’s developmental growth.”
The number of students enrolled in Indiana’s voucher program increased by 47 percent this year, with fewer students having previously attended public school.
This comes from the Department of Education’s Choice Scholarship Program Annual Report released Monday.
The report shows a rapid increase in the number of students and schools participating in the choice scholarship program. Take a look at the number of students receiving scholarships starting with the 2011-12 school year, the first year Indiana offered them:
2011-12: 3,911 students
2012-13: 9,139 students
2013-14: 19,809 students
2014-15: 29,148 students
The eligibility requirements to receive a scholarship expanded each year, which could contribute to the increase in numbers. When the program started in 2011, students could meet one of two criteria to qualify. Now, there are seven: Continue Reading
Updated 8:30 p.m.
Governor Pence tonight signed into law the bill that shortens the length of this spring’s ISTEP+.
This comes after the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives passed the bill Monday allowing the Department of Education to take certain measures to shorten this year’s ISTEP+ test.
After outrage from parents and educators that this year’s assessment would take students a total of twelve hours, the General Assembly took the reigns to trim the length of the test. Both chambers passed a joint resolution last week promising to get the bill passed, so the IDOE could start enacting measures suggested by outside consultants to cut three hours and five minutes from the test.
By passing Senate Bill 62, the legislature gives the IDOE permission to eliminate the Social Studies portion of the ISTEP+ exam for fifth and seventh graders this year (subtracting about an hour). The bill also enables the IDOE to reuse pilot questions on next year’s test, rather than releasing them to the public – another time-saving measure.
With the approved changes, the new test will take around eight hours, which is on par with other states’ assessments.
IDOE spokesperson Daniel Altman says his organization is working with schools to administer the updated test.
“We’re doing quite a bit of communication with schools just letting them know the sort of nuts and bolts of how it is this ISTEP+ administration will work, letting them know which sessions they have to administer, which ones they don’t, so we can make this run as smoothly as possible,” Altman says.
Schools are allowed to begin administering the ISTEP+ as early as Wednesday.
Indiana is the first state selected to participate in a study with national research company Gallup to survey recent college graduates from universities around the state and gauge the effectiveness of their degree.
State Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers announced the partnership during her State of Higher Education Address Monday.
The survey is based on the Gallup-Purdue Index, which surveyed 30,000 students nationwide about satisfaction with their college degree after graduation. The Index released its first report in 2014, showing that students who had a mentor or felt their university was engaged in their learning were more engaged in their job.
Lubbers says she hopes this tool will help higher education institutions and employers learn what young people need to be prepared for the current workforce.
“It’s a matter of getting people to understand that the world in which they grew up in is not the world in which people are now growing up in,” Lubbers says. “It’s really a matter of getting people to understand what the world of work looks like. There are no jobs in advanced manufacturing for people with an eighth grade [diploma], or very few with a high school diploma. It’s an education process to change a culture.” Continue Reading