Around this time last year, we gazed into the StateImpact crystal ball and told you which education stories you should keep an eye on in 2013.
And controversial teacher licensure rules known as REPA II didn’t end up going anywhere after all.
Next week we’ll look ahead at the education stories to watch next year. But first, let’s take a look back at the seven stories we told you to watch as 2012 drew to a close and tell you how they made headlines — if at all — in the past year.
Glenda Ritz — We knew the biggest question in 2013 would be how well Indiana’s newly-elected Democratic state superintendent could work with Republican leaders. But the big story didn’t start until after the session. Ongoing tensions between Ritz and the appointed members of the State Board of Education erupted after Gov. Mike Pence announced the creation of a new education agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation. Many of Ritz’s supporters saw Pence’s move as a power grab. After months of tense meetings that included a lawsuit and a walkout, it seems as though Ritz and the other board members have called a truce: The last State Board meeting of the year ended amicably with an agreement on new operating procedures.
Common Core — This time last year Indiana was on track to adopt the nationally-crafted academic standards and take new state tests in 2015. But backlash that began quietly in 2012 has been growing as bipartisan support for the standards has faltered. The Common Core no longer plays well with Republicans who fear the new standards will inject federal control in Indiana schools and lower the quality of instruction. Lawmakers agreed to suspend rollout of Common Core in the spring pending further review, leaving teachers unsure which standards to teach, as the pause legislation also requires the state to administer the ISTEP+ for another year. It’s typically up to the State Board to set standards for Indiana schools, though it’s likely if education officials try to keep the Common Core, state lawmakers will again try to exit the initiative.
- No Child Left Behind — We predicted Ritz, no fan of the current A-F accountability system, would try to overhaul Indiana’s school letter grade scheme. But it was actually the Indiana General Assembly that threw the two-year-old model out — education officials are rewriting it now. That’s not what policy watchers say could compromise Indiana’s federal accountability waiver, though. If Indiana exits the Common Core initiative, the state will need to have other college- and career-ready standards in place or risk losing its NCLB waiver.
Teacher evaluations — The 2012-13 school year was the first for state-mandated teacher evaluations in most school corporations. But computer glitches and controversy about the state’s accountability system delayed ISTEP+ scores until September and school letter grades until December, meaning some teachers are just now getting their ratings from last school year.
- REPA II — Last year it seemed Ritz would have no choice but to implement a controversial package of teacher licensure rules the State Board passed just before she took office. But REPA II got shoved to the back burner after education officials missed a key deadline and let the rule-making window close. In the months since, testing, standards and board operating procedures have been the focus of State Board meetings, not teacher licensure, though the rules (now REPA III) will be up for public comment at the beginning of 2014.
School vouchers — Participation in Indiana’s expansive Choice Scholarship program again doubled in the program’s third year as more than 20,000 students sought vouchers to attend Indiana private schools. This year was the first the state didn’t put a cap on applications, and state lawmakers broadened eligibility guidelines to eliminate the requirement that students spend a year in public school first for some families. They also opened up the program to more students from schools that received an F in the state’s accountability system. Yet it’s worth noting non-public schools haven’t fared as well as public schools under the model state officials have used to calculate A-F grades for the past two years — fewer private schools are earning A’s than they once did.
Mitch Daniels — The former governor made headlines in July when emails surfaced showing his dislike of radical historian Howard Zinn. But Daniels says he was talking about K-12 classrooms, not Purdue University, where he is now president. “Look who I was communicating with,” says Daniels. “I didn’t talk to anybody at the Commission for Higher Education or anywhere else. I simply was inquiring about the K-12 system and asking whether this false, misleading version of American history had found its way into Indiana classrooms.”
Tony Bennett — The former Indiana schools chief only occupied Florida’s top education post for eight months before stepping down amid controversy back home. After the AP published emails showing Bennett directed his staff to change the letter grade of a prominent donor’s charter school, we identified a total of 165 schools who benefited from the tweaks. An independent review later concluded the changes Bennett made were in fact plausible. He faces a separate ethics complaint alleging his 2012 re-election campaign used state resources. Bennett is currently working for ACT.