The Interim Study Committee on Education met for the fifth and final time Monday to finalize the list of recommendations it will make to the 2016 General Assembly, passing the list with bipartisan support on most items.
Since the 2015 General Assembly ended, the group of senators and representatives serving on education committees within their own chamber met to discuss a variety of issues that came up during the session but did not make it into a bill or law.
Some of those topics included raising the age of a student can be classified as needing special education services, the state of the ISTEP+ and the current teacher shortage facing the state’s school districts.
All of those discussions were consolidated Monday into a list of 19 suggestions the committee will give the larger legislature as things to pursue in the next session. The committee passed 17 of the suggestions, creating a sort of rough draft of a legislative agenda for 2016 when it comes to education.
Most of the suggestions have to do with the ISTEP+ or ways to attract and retain teachers. The two suggestions that were voted down were proposed by Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, and had to do with pausing certain accountability measures that come with ISTEP+ scores, such as teacher pay and A-F letter grades for schools. It’s something state Superintendent Glenda Ritz has suggested for months now, but the State Board of Education also doesn’t back the idea.
Here are the suggestions in their final language as decided by the committee Monday:
1. Increase the age until which a student may qualify for the disability category of developmentally delayed for purposes of providing special education services.
2. A statewide survey of public schools should be conducted by the Legislative Services Agency to provide the General Assembly information regarding the amount of time students are required by grade to participate in statewide or school corporation wide testing.
3. The State Board of Education should require ISTEP+ test results to be submitted to the State Board by July 1 so that schools have adequate time to evaluate the ISTEP+ test results in a manner which would allow parents and educators to better utilize the test results.
4. The introduction of legislation which encourages or provides incentives for the establishment of viable mentorship or induction programs to support new teachers.
5. The introduction of legislation which would provide further review for increase salary flexibility in teacher shortage areas.
6. The introduction of legislation to provide incentives for STEM grant programs to focus resources directly on the most critical teacher shortage areas.
7. The State Board of Education, in consultation with the Department of Education, should establish a communication plan so that parents and educators are aware that ISTEP+ essay questions are annually released to the public. The Committee further recommends that the best ISTEP+ essay responses be shared to highlight the accomplishments of Indiana students.
8. Further study should be conducted related to the feasibility of releasing all ISTEP+ test questions to enhance transparency regarding student expectations pertaining to the test.
9. The establishment of a comprehensive annual summary of school corporation teacher needs by subject area and geographic location so that appropriate policy decisions can be made to increase teacher supply in teacher shortage areas.
10. The introduction of a study which provides incentives and flexibility to Transition to Teaching programs.
11. The introduction of legislation that would require a significant amount of new money appropriated to schools to be directed to educator salaries, specifically to educators with one to ten years of experience.
12. The General Assembly consider the feasibility of expanding Indiana teacher loan forgiveness programs or providing additional incentives for teachers teaching in a content shortage area or locality shortage area.
13. The General Assembly and the State Board of Education should consider the feasibility of policies which remove barriers pertaining to teacher licensure to encourage more reciprocity with other states.
14. The General Assembly should review teacher benefits to determine if increasing teacher salaries and the transition to a defined contribution retirement plan would improve teacher retention.
15. The General Assembly shall consider the feasibility of recommendations made by the Dual Credit Advisory Commission.
16. The General Assembly shall consider the feasibility of recommendations made by the Indiana Department of Education Teacher Shortage Commission.
17. Teacher professional development shall consider additional funding and incentives, including for the pursuit of masters degrees with 18 hours in a content area.