Rachel Morello comes to StateImpact by way of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She has worked for various news and education-related organizations across the country - but no matter the locale, you’re sure to find her sporting a Packers jersey and tuning into “Car Talk.” You can follow her on Twitter @morellomedia.
A common complaint among parents today is that their kids take way too many tests.
There are multiple sittings for state assessments, along with college entrance exams in high school – not to mention the unit tests students already take in different classes.
And since the spring of 2011, kids in Indiana have also taken the IREAD 3, an evaluation given as part of a reading deficiency remediation plan. Right now, it’s students in third grade who take that assessment.
Now, one senator has proposed what she sees as a remedy for all the testing. Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, wrote Senate Bill 169, which would move the IREAD assessment to second grade.
Houchin says this will alleviate the stresses of testing for third graders, who take the ISTEP+ for the first time that year, too.
Senate Bill 169 would move the IREAD-3 test from third to second grade. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education/Flickr)
Houchin’s bill only adds to controversy surrounding IREAD-3.
Currently, every third grader has two chances to pass the high-stakes exam. Students who don’t pass on their first try in March are given the chance to pass a retake after a few months of remediation work. Students who don’t pass on second attempt have to retake third grade versions of the ISTEP+ and IREAD exams the following school year.
Unlike many of his predecessors before him, President Barack Obama has let his hand show in the weeks leading to his seventh State of the Union address Tuesday night – so, we’re confident we can fill you in on some of what to expect.
President Barack Obama delivers his seventh State of the Union address Tuesday night. (Photo Credit: Talk Radio News Service/Flickr)
Education issues certainly took center stage in Governor Mike Pence’s annual State of the State address last week. President Obama has said he will lay out details on a few major school-related initiatives, but the topic will be one of many receiving air-time.
This year, the commander in chief tried something new, laying out some of the policies he intends to introduce in his annual address ahead of time, during trips across the country.
That’s why, a few weeks ago, he traveled to Tennessee with Vice President Joe Biden to announce what he called one of the most important proposal he’ll make Tuesday night: a new initiative aimed at making community college tuition free. We’ve already explained this idea in-depth, but here’s a basic rundown:
To qualify, a student must maintain a 2.5 GPA and attend school at least halftime, and
President Barack Obama unveils his 2016 budget request sometime in February. (Photo Credit: mirsasha/Flickr)
If history repeats itself, we might expect the president to increase his funding request for the federal Department of Education in 2016. Last year, he requested an appropriation of $68.6 billion – an increase of $1.3 billion from 2014, and almost $3 billion more than in 2013.
The USED’s elementary and secondary programs serve approximately 50 million students in close to 17,000 school districts annually. Department programs also provide assistance to more than 13 million postsecondary students.
Here in Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence named education as one of four main priorities in his recommended budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. K-12 and higher education spending combined would make up about 60 percent of that budget.
As we’ve reported, Pence’s initiatives for Hoosier schools would work toward two larger goals: getting 100,000 more students in B or better schools and achieving a five-fold increase in high schoolers graduating with an industry-recognized credential, both by the year 2020.
How do the governor’s plans for Indiana measure up against the president’s?
Paying for school is a big issue this legislative session. With proposed tweaks to the school funding formula, vouchers, and charter schools taking center stage in multiple budget proposals, among others, it is likely Hoosier schools could see different dollar amounts coming from the statehouse.
Districts could also see a shift in how they supplement that state funding.
A bill facing lawmakers this session could change the rules about when school corporations can propose referendum tax levies to support their general or capital projects funds.
The proposal, written by House Majority Whip David Frizzell, R-Indianapolis, suggests requiring school referenda only appear on the ballot during general elections. Right now, they can come up in May or November.
With the implementation of property tax caps in 2008, districts have increasingly turned to referenda to finance school projects. (Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012/Flickr)
Over the last five years or so, Hoosiers may have heard the word “referendum” more than they ever had before. In particular, school districts have been asking voters to consider raising their own property taxes more often.
Most, if not all of the education recommendations Governor Mike Pence made in his annual State of the State address Tuesday night were items Hoosiers have heard before from the lawmaker.
The third State of the State address from Gov. Mike Pence – pictured here at an event in Washington D.C. – focused heavily on education – something many Hoosiers expected. (Photo Credit: The Heritage Foundation/Flickr)
“The key to unlocking the full potential of our state is not in her factories and her fields. It is in her classrooms,” Pence said. “Let’s agree here and now that this will be an education session dedicated to improving all our schools for all our kids.”
This time around, schools across the state were scheduled to administer the online “stress test” between 10 and 11 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Sam Klawitter, director of technology for Mitchell Community Schools, says by 10:07 a.m., a majority of the 270 students taking the test had experienced timeouts – and it only got worse from there. By about 10:15 a.m., it had become essentially impossible to continue administering the test.
And Klawitter is understandably frustrated.
“My reaction is kind of one of contained outrage – it’s rather disappointing when it fails every year,” Klawitter says. “The standard testing models that are in place for both Indiana and at a federal level are already fundamentally flawed in the expectations that they create for our students, but they’re further complicated by the fact that they’re technically impossible to execute.”
Gov. Mike Pence delivers his annual State of the State address Tuesday night.
Pence has been promising a focus on schools since previewing his legislative agenda in early December, along with touting his “education budget.” It’s also a priority shared by both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature, who have also set forth heavy agendas for education policy and funding.
The governor gave a sneak-preview of how Indiana has been doing – and the moves he wants the state to make – during a legislative conference late last year. He cited a tuition support increase of $193 million in the last budget cycle, as well as $41 million for universities, and said Indiana is fully funding its teacher pensions, unlike other states.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is calling on Congress to repeal and replace No Child Left Behind, the cornerstone federal education law, while still maintaining what he considers to be key elements – including annual testing.
The law, signed by former President George W. Bush in 2002, has been due for reauthorization since 2007. It is the current iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), an extensive federal statute that has funded primary and secondary education since 1965.
In a speech delivered Monday, Duncan laid out his visionfor rewriting what he calls a “tired” and “prescriptive” law.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visits with preschoolers in Virginia last year. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)
“I believe we can replace it with a law that recognizes that schools need more support – more money – than they receive today,” Duncan says. “A law that recognizes the hard work educators across America are doing to support and raise expectations for students, and lifts up the profession of teaching by recognizing that teachers need better preparation, better support, and more resources.”
Duncan says a rewrite needs to emphasize the following components:
Improved preparation, support, resources and pay for teachers, and
More financial support for districts that “pursue bold innovations” in terms of testing.
“If we make our national education responsibilities optional, we would turn back the clock on educational progress,” Duncan said. “When so many states and districts have put in place the building blocks to sustain educational progress…reversing course would be a terrible mistake.”