Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

ISTA Asks Pence For Flexibility On Teacher Accountability

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said his department will allow states flexibility in tying student performance to teacher evaluations.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said his department will allow states flexibility in tying student performance to teacher evaluations.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced last week his department will allow states flexibility with factoring student test scores on assessments into teacher evaluations. In response, the Indiana State Teachers Association sent a letter to Governor Pence Tuesday requesting he seek this flexibility.

In a blog post on the U.S. Department of Education’s website, Duncan wrote about his experience speaking with teachers and principals around the country, and how many have concerns about the coming year in terms of transitioning to new standards and assessments:

I have heard from many teachers that they have not received all the support they’d want during this transition. Yet America’s teachers are making this change work – and I want to recognize and thank them for that and encourage their leadership in this time of change.

Duncan said to help teachers transition better and ensure students are still learning and not just preparing for assessments, the USED will provide flexibility options for states that request it: 

States will have the opportunity to request a delay in when test results matter for teacher evaluation during this transition. As we always have, we’ll work with them in a spirit of flexibility to develop a plan that works, but typically I’d expect this to mean that states that request this delay will push back by one year (to 2015-16) the time when student growth measures based on new state assessments become part of their evaluation systems – and we will work with states seeking other areas of flexibility as well.

At the Education Roundtable in June, Governor Pence said the state will continue to tie school, district and teacher accountability to the state’s new assessment (which isn’t created yet), denying State Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s request to not do so.

In ISTA President Teresa Meredith’s letter to Pence, she explains the challenges that Indiana teachers face this school year, and how they don’t need more pressure in an already tense situation:

Indiana dropped Common Core standards and adopted new academic standards to be implemented this school year. That means new curriculum for teachers to teach and students to learn. It also means a new statewide high-stakes standardized test will be administered this year that is still being developed [ … ]

ISTA calls on you to reverse your decision to oppose suspending consequences of
Indiana’s accountability standards considering your previous argument was based on
appeasing the USDOE.

Teachers have been feeling the pressure for students to perform well for a while now. Just last week an Indianapolis based charter announced its closing after teachers were found to be altering students’ ISTEP+ tests to get better scores.

The updated version of the ISTEP+ students will take this spring that tests the state’s new academic standards is not developed yet. At a State Board of Education meeting earlier this month, CTB/McGraw-Hill officials updated the board on the assessment’s progress and said sample questions will be available by October.


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