In a state where education policy can change dramatically from one election to the next, 2014 saw some of the biggest education changes since former governor Mitch Daniels’ widespread reforms started in 2011.
As we head into the 2015 session, when legislators will vote on a new education budget and a spring testing session without the updated version of the ISTEP+ written, we want to review the biggest education moves this year.
Abandoning The Common Core
Only a few years after adopting the Common Core state standards, Governor Pence signed legislation in late March removing Indiana from the national standards. The decision started a slew of other changes, including the writing of new academic standards. The re-write only took a month, and the standards are similar in format to the Common Core, displeasing critics of the nationally crafted standards.
This shift meant some changes for teachers in their daily life in the classroom, but the biggest consequence of this decision is the creation of a new standardized test. Because of requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind law, a state’s assessment much test students on that state’s standards – and when Indiana wrote its own, there was no aligned test.
Since the summer, the State Board of Education and the Department of Education have worked with test vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill to write a new version of the ISTEP+ that will only be used this spring. That test will be very different for students, with fewer multiple choice and more open-ended questions, and it will resemble whatever new assessment the state will adopt for future years.
Pence’s Pre-K Pilot Passed
The 2014 General Assembly passed legislation approving a preschool pilot program – heavily advocated for by Governor Pence – after rejecting a similar program in 2013. Work on the program, On My Way Pre-K, began immediately, including choosing the five counties to participate and opening up applications for providers and parents.
So far, the program is popular. 1,800 families applyied for the January launch of the program taking place in only four of the counties.
Indiana’s NCLB Waiver Put At Risk
In May, the U.S. Department of Education put Indiana’s No Child Left Behind waiver on conditional status, citing problems with college- and career-ready standards, teacher and principal evaluations, interventions at low performing schools and community input.
Over the summer, the Indiana Department of Education worked to prove the state fit the guidelines of the waiver.
The USED announced in August that Indiana would keep its waiver, meaning the state didn’t have to worry about its current flexibility with federal education dollars and more rigorous requirements for assessment passing rates.
Pence Dissolves His Own Education Agency
After state superintendent Glenda Ritz beat incumbent Tony Bennett in the 2012 election and took over as head of the IDOE, tensions between Ritz (a Democrat) and Pence (a Republican) began almost immediately.
One of the biggest points of conflict was Pence’s decision to create a new education agency for the state, called the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI). Ritz said she didn’t know the governor was going to create this agency until he told the press, and often said it mirrored the IDOE too closely.
The organization was a way for Pence to appoint people to influence education policy, since Ritz hired her own employees for the IDOE. CECI was an umbrella organization for the State Board of Education, as well as other state education committees. This caused rifts at SBOE meetings as the two sides disagreed on many things, and everyone on the state board was housed under CECI, except Ritz.
So it was surprising to many when earlier this month, Pence dissolved CECI. He cited a desire to cut a duplicate agency and hopefully create more harmony on the SBOE. Critics of this move say it was for political reasons, to set Pence up for a presidential run in 2016 or to remove Ritz as chair of the SBOE.
This restructuring will really become evident after CECI is officially dissolved Feb. 20.
As 2015 begins we will see the progress of the new ISTEP+, the future of the education budget and whether or not Ritz and the SBOE can work together harmoniously.