As students and teachers creep toward Thanksgiving break and the end of their first academic semester, state policymakers are preparing for their own “term” to begin.
The 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly begins in January, but before legislative leaders call the group to order they have some preliminary business to attend to – primarily, defining the issues they plan to address. Lawmakers and other policy leaders say education will be an important agenda item.
House Bill 1002 – the House’s second priority, after transportation – will highlight solutions for teacher recruitment. House Speaker Brian Bosma says he will work with Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, to sponsor the bill, which will focus on attracting the state’s best and brightest into the teaching profession.
“That’s one step,” Bosma says. “Licensing, open borders for excellent teacher from other states – it’s all part of the picture.”
Identifying solutions for Indiana’s teacher shortage has been a concern for many education leaders in the Hoosier state in recent months. The state’s Blue Ribbon Commission met for the fourth of its five meetings Monday afternoon to begin crafting their own legislative agenda around the issue.
The group narrowed down a list of priorities, and says any measure meant to “fix” the current state of the teaching profession in Indiana must address:
- Compensation, career options and ongoing learning
- Positive press
- Standardized tests and teacher evaluations
- Diversity in the workforce and teacher preparation costs
- Clinical experiences for teacher candidates
- Professional development
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has been leading that group for the past few months. She says she’s hopeful that conversations about teaching are beginning to turn into action.
“That’s what the legislative process is really all about is coming to a common sense of what we’d like to see happen,” Ritz says.
Bosma says he will move at the start of the session to decouple teacher evaluations from test scores for a year, a solution he hopes can be expedited through the House. His counterpart in the other chamber, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, agrees.
“We need to find an answer,” Long says. “I don’t think that means we completely abandon accountability and outcomes for these scores, but we need to find an answer. I think hopefully, one everyone agrees is fair.”