Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom


Claire McInerny

Claire McInerny is a reporter/producer for WFIU/WTIU news. She comes to WFIU/WTIU from KCUR in Kansas City. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Kansas where she discovered her passion for public media and the stories it tells. You can follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.

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What Made It Through The First Half Of The Legislative Session?

The legislature continues to discuss education bills during the 2016 legislative session.

The legislature continues to discuss education bills during the 2016 legislative session. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana).

This week marked the halfway point for the 2016 General Assembly – when the house and senate pass their original bills and then switch, passing them to the other house. Following are the education bills that made it through the first half and moved to the opposite chamber.

The following bills were passed by the House and now go to the Senate for consideration:

Recruiting New Teachers

HB 1002 would create a scholarship for college students who want to be teachers, giving them $7,500 a year in tuition if they commit to teaching in the state for five years after graduation. After passing the House it went immediately to the Senate Appropriations committee. This bill had almost unanimous support in the House, passing through 96-1.

Teacher Salaries

HB 1004 would allow local school corporations to increase the salary of a teacher without consulting the teacher’s union, if the school district is trying put a teacher in a hard to fill spot (Special Ed, STEM classes, rural or urban schools). Unions and teachers have pushed back on this bill. It passed through the House narrowly, and representatives did not vote along party lines.

Teacher Raises

If passed, HB 1005 would increase pay for teachers rated effective, and it also makes teachers with lower ratings but in their first two years of teaching eligible for raises.


HB 1219 would require every high school to offer all diploma options approved by the State Board of Education. The SBOE is currently in the process of re-writing the diploma options for Indiana’s high school students, and under the current model schools choose which diploma type they offer. This bill would change that, giving every student the same option.

Future of ISTEP

HB 1395 gives the SBOE the authority to hire a third party vendor to rescore the 2015 ISTEP+ tests. This bill also would create a 24 person panel of educators, legislators and community members that would be charged with looking at the current assessment and make a plan for creating a new test.

The following are Senate education bills that now sit in the House:

Charter School Collection Data

SB 9 says charter schools don’t have to report the following information to the Department of Education: the number of students enrolled in their school, the name and address of each student, where the student transferred from or the student’s grade. The bill passed unanimously through the Senate.

Teacher Pay

SB 10 allows for teacher raises if the teachers has a master’s degree in the content area directly related to a dual credit course or a subject taught by the teacher. Teacher’s unions are not in favor of this bill because these raises are granted outside of the collective bargaining agreement. This narrowly passed through the Senate with a 26-24 vote.


Similar to language in HB 1395, SB 63 creates a panel of educators and lawmakers to examine alternations to the state assessment and generate report on their findings. Unanimously passed through the Senate.

Cursive Writing

SB 73 would require every school corporation to include cursive writing in its curriculum. Cursive writing bills have been introduced the past few years but never made it to the governor’s desk.

Various Education Matters

Among other things, SB 93 allows for an individual with a teaching license in another state to teach in Indiana without completing additional requirements. It also requires any test vendor that administers a state assessment to give the SBOE scores by July 1.

Out of School Programs

SB 251 creates a fund to establish before and after school programs that would be run by the Department of Education.

Financial Assistance for Teachers

SB 328 creates state funded grants for individuals studying to be teachers in high need subjects. Specifically includes students studying to be speech-language teachers.


Q&A: Jennifer McCormick, GOP Candidate For State Superintendent

The 2016 race for state superintendent got a little more interesting last week when current Yorktown superintendent Jennifer McCormick announced she will challenge incumbent Glenda Ritz for the state superintendent spot. McCormick traveled the state to speak with constituents after announcing, and we caught up with her on the campaign trail to ask her about her run and vision for Indiana’s education system.

Yorktown superintendent Jennifer McCormick announced she will challenge state superintendent Glenda Ritz as the Republican nominee. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI News)

Yorktown superintendent Jennifer McCormick announced she will challenge state superintendent Glenda Ritz as the Republican nominee. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI News)

Claire McInerny: So what prompted you to join this race and get into politics after such a long career in education?

Jennifer McCormick: There’s been a lot of frustration and i know sitting in the superintendent’s seat the local level we, many of us have felt that. What with the lack of vision and leadership at the DOE it has had a huge impact on many schools. Through that frustration I’ve decided to step up and try to do something about that.

CM: What do you mean by there’s a lack of leadership at the DOE that affected as a superintendent?

JM: I think when communication is either splintered or not there and things appear to be very disorganized, it greatly impacts the local level on how we operate, how we carry through on mandates or whether it’s suggestions, how we communicate to our staff, how we communicate to our parents– it’s a domino effect.

CM: It has been no secret that our current superintendent Glenda Ritz and Governor Pence has publicly disagreed and not gotten along. Do you think running as a Republican would improve the relationship between the Department of Education and the governor’s office?

JM: I think it’s extremely important to once again put politics aside and put students before politics. I know that’s difficult to do but it takes very purposeful communication, relationships that are at least professional. I think I would bring that first step into, not just the governor but it takes relationships with the legislators and professional organizations out there that communication is lacking in. It takes communication with a lot of local schools, everyone has to be involved in that team effort but I think it would be very important to rebuild those relationships, that’s extremely important to what we’re trying to accomplish.

CM: Under the Every Student Succeeds Act that the federal government just passed, states have this opportunity to change how we used assessments. Our current legislature has talked about ditching ISTEP+, maybe utilizing some of these things that are in ESSA. What’s your stance on assessing students every year?

JM: Currently, many of us are running an assessment system at the local level that is formative, that is ongoing. So we have an ongoing assessment of student performance. None of that formative assessment is aligned to the summative assessment. So many of us are running the assessment system now that is very splintered, so cleaning that up would be a huge relief to not only teachers but administrators and parents. It’s very difficult to explain to parents here’s the beginning of the year, middle of the year, end of the year based on a formative assessment, but based on the summative assessment it’s way off. That’s very difficult to explain to a parent, so really where is your child? How are they performing? Where are those gaps? That’s a very complex system, it’s going to take more than the Department of Education in isolation to come up with a solution for that, but that again is going to take a team effort but it’s got to happen.

CM: Another issues that’s really important in Indiana is school choice. We’ve seen expansive charter laws passed and more money put into the voucher program in this state. Where do you stand with the issue of school choice here? 

JM: For me, being in a public school, I’ve lived the money issue is where I think it becomes an issue for public schools. But every time, I’m a firm believer of if the environment at a particular school doesn’t fit the child’s needs then there are other opportunities and I would not tell a parent any differently. I’ve had many sit in my office and we’ve talked through things, and I’m very blunt about if this isn’t a good fit you owe it to your child, you owe it to yourself to find a good fit.

CM: Would you support or stand behind, for example, the governor putting more money into vouchers as the state has done the last few years?

JM: I won’t speak for the governor so I don’t know what his intentions are, but that’s a legislative decision.

Ritz: HB 1395 Offers Chance To Create More Student Centered Test

State superintendent Glenda Ritz has said she will consider a run for governor. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

State superintendent Glenda Ritz has said she will consider a run for governor. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

After HB 1395 passed through the House this week, the future of Indiana’s testing system has the opportunity to go in a different direction.

The bill, among other things, would create a panel of educators, legislators and community members to study and create a plan for moving to a new assessment type. This is also made possible by the Every Student Succeeds Act passed by the federal government this year, which replaces No Child Left Behind provisions. 

State superintendent Glenda Ritz says she is pleased the bill made it through this first hurdle in the legislature.

This move towards dropping the ISTEP and looking for a different assessment system comes after administration and scoring troubles during the 2015 assessment. 

Ritz says ideally, she’d like the proposed panel to come up with a vision for a different type of test rather than one that asks kids what they learned once a year. 

“I’d like for it to be adaptable, I want to know where children do preform as well as how they grow over the course of the year,” Ritz said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to really have assessments that give meaning to what the students see the results for.”

But many parents and educators have trouble with the high stakes attached to standardized assessments, not the test itself. Ritz says the State Board of Education took steps to address that issue last year, voting to factor more student growth into A-F grades.

“We have allowed within the new system that we created to put multiple measures, to perhaps include some formative information as part of accountability, to really get that accountability system where it is really talking about what happens in our schools and not just focused on one test,” she said. 

HB 1395 passed through the House and will now to go the Senate. 

State Board To Address Chronically Failing Schools Wednesday

The State Board of Education meets Wednesday to discuss action plans for failing schools.

The State Board of Education meets Wednesday to discuss action plans for failing schools. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

The State Board of Education meets Wednesday for a much more subdued meeting after last month’s that approved the long awaited A-F grades for 2015. Now that these grades are public the State Board of Education must address schools that fell in the lowest categories for multiple years in a row.

Schools that are in year four and five of receiving an F are put on specific plans to try and improve the school performance. Schools in year four are assigned a state contact that will help them

The board will take action Wednesday regarding the four schools that are in year five of receiving an F. The schools are Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy, Emma Donnan Middle School, Thomas Carr Howe Community High School and Emerich Manual High School. All are managed by Charter Schools USA, except Theodore Roosevelt which is managed by EdisonLearning.

The board can return these schools to their corporations, creating a new intervention strategy for the school or having the management team apply for a charter for the school.

These board will also discuss what the ESSA law could mean for the future of Indiana’s testing system, as well as get an update from Pearson about the implementation of the 2016 ISTEP+.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. and is live streamed online.

Where The Biggest Education Bills Are Midway Through Session

This week marks the halfway point of the 2016 legislative session Legislators will spend the week finalizing which bills will go to the opposite chamber, thus moving them into the next phase of the legislative process.

The House and Senate must pass any bills originating in their chamber by Wednesday if the bill is to continue in the legislative process.

Here are the bills we’re watching this session and where they stand at this halfway point:

HB 1002

This bill establishes a state issued scholarship aimed at recruiting more people to teach in Indiana. Every year 200 college students would receive The Next Generation Hoosier Scholarship, which would award students $7,500 a year over four years if they attend an Indiana university, receive a teaching certificate and commit to teaching in an Indiana school for five years after graduating. High school students from Indiana that graduate in the top 20 percent of their class or score in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT are eligible.

One notable change to the bill as it moved through the House was with an original eligibility requirement. The original version of the bill said the state would grant the scholarship to high school seniors.

After a current college student testified to the House Education Committee that it should be open to students already committed to teaching, language including students already at a post-secondary institution was added.

This passed through the House and is already on the Senate’s docket for the second half of the session.

HB 1004

This bill allows school districts to increase salaries for teachers in hard-to-fill teaching spots (STEM subjects or Special Education, for example), without consulting the teacher’s union. This is one proposed solution legislators are posing to attract and retain teachers, but unions have spoken out against the bill.

They say by not putting all teachers through the same collective bargaining process, they will pit teachers against one another. This has passed through the House Education and Ways and Means Committees, but still needs a second and third reading on the House floor before it would move to the Senate.

HB 1395

This bill covers a variety of issues related to the ISTEP+. One provision creates a committee of legislators, educators and various community members to discuss the statewide assessment and whether the state should adopt a new version of the test in two years.

The original version of the bill called for a re-score of the 2015 ISTEP+ tests, but an amendment shifted that decision to the State Board of Education.

Both the House Education Committee and Ways and Means Committee advanced it, so it must get a second and third reading from the full House to move over to the Senate.


This bill addresses teacher raises and provides new criteria a teacher can meet to get one. Some of those new provisions include teachers teaching dual-credit classes, as a way to retain a teacher or completing college credit in the field they teach.

This bill needs a third reading before leaving the Senate.


Lingering ISTEP Score Issues Could Help Three Failing Schools

INSBOE members Byron Ernest (left), a charter school director, and Eddie Melton listen during a board meeting last year. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

INSBOE members Byron Ernest (left), a charter school director, and Eddie Melton listen during a board meeting last year. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

The State Board of Education meets Tuesday for it’s monthly meeting, and the big agenda item this week is approving the 2015 A-F grades.

After the late release of the 2015 ISTEP+ scores earlier this month, which factor heavily in the calculation of A-F grades, we saw a huge drop in scores – almost 20 percent lower statewide. Many credit this drop to more rigorous standards and argue that students, teachers and schools should have more time to adjust.

Because of these low scores, the General Assembly rushed two bills through the legislative process that would temporarily shield schools and teachers from the negative consequences of these low scores. Governor Mike Pence signed both bills into law Thursday.

And this week, board member Steve Yager put forth a resolution to continue that sentiment for three schools that are on the brink of the dreaded sixth year of failing grades.

West Side Leadership Academy in the Gary Community School Corporation, and Caze Elementary and Washington Middle Schools in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation received five straight Fs, which mean a sixth consecutive failing grade could lead to state takeover among other options.

Yager’s resolution asks that if these three schools receive an F based off last year’s ISTEP+ scores, they aren’t made eligible for the consequences that come with a sixth F. In his resolution, Yager writes the improvements these schools demonstrated to the board over the last year prove they don’t need state intervention because of low scores on a new test.

SBOE spokesperson Marc Lotter says all three of these schools held the mandatory public meetings this year, which showed strong improvement.

“They have really strong plans in place to help grow the students and improve overall academic performance,” he says. “There’s strong community support and support from local school corporations.”

The SBOE will vote on the resolution and release all A-F grades tomorrow.


Pence Signs Bills Helping Teachers, Schools In ISTEP Aftermath

Governor Pence Thursday signed two bills that curb negative consequences for teachers and schools from last year's low ISTEP+ scores.

Governor Pence Thursday signed two bills that curb negative consequences for teachers and schools from last year’s low ISTEP+ scores. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

Governor Pence Thursday signed two bills that shield teachers and schools from the 2015 ISTEP+ scores.

  • HB 1003 says that low ISTEP+ scores cannot be calculated into a teacher’s evaluation this year, but can only be used if the scores would help the evaluation.- OR can only be calculated into a teacher’s evaluation this year if it would improve that evaluation.
  •  SB 200 does a similar thing for schools, allowing them to choose the higher A-F grade between this year and last year. A-F grades are largely calculated with ISTEP+ scores, and this bill would avoid a large number of schools dipping into the ‘low performing’ category.


These bills were in planning stages before CTB released the ISTEP+ scores from the 2015 administration of the test. Those scores came out earlier this month and confirmed the expected dip – a 20 percent decrease across the state. It is generally accepted that this dip is not an accurate measure of student, teacher or school performance but a result of difficulties unrolling and administering the test.

Before signing the bills Pence acknowledged that Ritz anticipated the dip and was the first to come up with a solution for shielding schools and teachers.

“I also want to thank Superintendent Ritz, who first called this issue as a possibility to our attention in the middle of last year,” Pence said. “We appreciate her passion for our kids, her dedication, let me take this opportunity to thank you.”

Ritz warned the legislature that scores would drop, since many other states saw similar dips in scores when they adopted new assessments. Up until very recently, lawmakers and the State Board of Education dismissed her suggestions to enact a hold harmless plan for teachers in schools, which is what these two bills do.

Ritz was present at the signing and in an official statement thanked the legislature for passing both bills.

“The passage and enactment of this legislation is a welcome step and something that I have been fighting for over the last eighteen months,” Ritz said in a statement. “These common sense bills recognize the reality that when leadership in Indianapolis changes our standards, we need to give our schools time to adjust.”

These are the first bills to pass through the legislature this session. 

House Committee Begins Discussion On Re-scoring 2015 ISTEP

The legislature continues to discuss the 2015 ISTEP+ administration and scoring.

The legislature continues to discuss the 2015 ISTEP+ administration and scoring. (photo credit: Claire McInerny)

The Hou­se Education Committee took a first look at a bill that calls for a re-score of the 2015 ISTEP+ assessment Tuesday. HB 1395, among other things, calls for an outside group to rescore last year’s test.

In this past year, Indiana’s test vendor, CTB, came under scrutiny for their administration and scoring of the test. This summer, the company told the State Board of Education there were issues with grading the assessment and scores wouldn’t be released for a few months.

The 2015 ISTEP+ scores came out Jan. 5. The scores statewide dropped around 20 percent overall, which is something many expected. When many other states shifted to a new assessment they saw their scores dip as well, so legislative leaders say this decline is a result of a new test and tougher standards, not a reflection on student learning.

After initially suggesting a complete re-score, House Education  Committee Chair  Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, proposed a partial re-score of a sampling of tests. This would take less time and be much less expensive. Initial price estimates of a complete re-score process came in between $8 and $10 million.

Behning says it is important to double check at least a few thousand tests because, moving forward, Indiana’s A-F accountability system will weigh student growth more heavily. The new accountability system will use growth as a factor, so schools will be rewarded for their students who do better on the test, even if it’s not at the highest level.

Because of this, Behning says having a correct baseline to compare to next year’s scores would ensure we award the right amount of growth points.

Behning says it’s also important to take some sort of action because there is so much doubt around the test right now.

“I met with many superintendents over the last several days and every one of them says please re-score,” Behning said.

While Republican leaders are in favor of the bill and some sort of re-score process, the Department of Education is urging against re-scoring the test.

DOE spokesperson Daniel Altman says the DOE has done its due diligence in ensuring the test’s accuracy, through a number of assurance processes, and an expense rescore process isn’t needed.

“Right now the data that we have doesn’t indicate that that’s necessary,” Altman said.

Ed Roeber, a testing expert who has served as a consultant for the governor and State Board of Education, wrote a letter to the General Assembly dated Monday urging against the full rescore. He said if the state wants to rescore, a small sampling of tests would be valuable and more cost effective than doing them all.

“While this plan involves more steps than simply rescoring all responses to every prompt, it has the potential to answer the questions about accuracy of hand scoring without attendant expense of scoring all responses,” Roeber wrote. “Thus, I believe you will achieve your objective of checking on the accuracy of the scoring at lower cost.”

Right now, Behning’s bill does not include a plan for how Indiana would pay for the re-score, whether it would come from taxpayer dollars or CTB would pay for it.

Report: Purdue Should Solely Run IPFW, Split With IU

report released by the Legislative Services Agency Friday recommends Indiana University- Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) break into two separate regional campuses.

LSA conducted the report after Sen. David Long, R- Ft. Wayne, asked for a study to look at how the regional campus was serving the area.

The report criticized certain aspects of the campus’ success:

Over the past decade, the external and internal governance structures for IPFW have not produced substantial growth in the areas of teaching and research that are important for the well being of Northwest Indiana and its citizens. For example, a gap in offered bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral or professional degrees affecting at least 17 occupational fields and 15 degree and certificate programs.

The report suggests Purdue be the authority of the campus, removing IU as a governing entity.

For the campus to be successful, the report recommends the school should split from being a joint entity run by both Purdue and IU into two campuses, with each school focusing on its strongest programs.

In this case that would mean IU would run the medical and health science programs and Purdue would oversee everything else.

Right now, students at IPFW receive a diploma from either Purdue or IU, and last year IU awarded more certificates, associate degrees, bachelor and master’s degrees than Purdue at the campus.

In a statement released Friday, IPFW chancellor Vicky Carwein said this report is not a mandate.

“It’s important to remember that the recommendations from the LSA and the LSA working group are exactly that—recommendations for the future of our campus,” said Carwein. “While there is significant potential and exciting opportunities outlined in the recommendations, many questions, issues, and technicalities will need to be addressed. Right now there are many more questions than answers.”

IU President Michael McRobbie released a statement Friday saying despite the report IU wants to still serve Fort Wayne in terms of higher education.

“Indiana University is committed to higher education in Fort Wayne and the northeast region of Indiana. The Working Group’s recommendations offer a way forward for IU to focus on programs in Fort Wayne that we would manage and that leverage our core academic strengths in the health sciences area,” McRobbie said. “We find these recommendations to be a creative response to the recurring claims that something needs to be done to enhance the public higher education programs in Fort Wayne. We remain willing to do our part to implement the recommendations as they relate to Indiana University.”

The decision on whether to split is up to the universities and nobody at either university has set forth a timeline for making the decision.

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