2015 was a busy year for education in Indiana – if you don’t believe us, just look back at our list of everything that happened over the past 12 months.
And we’re sure 2016 won’t be much different. Already, state policymakers and education leaders are gearing up for the year ahead – and so are we. Check out what’s on deck for the new year…
Some ISTEP+ Housekeeping…
One of this year’s most noteworthy (and controversial) education stories will undoubtedly remain in the headlines into 2016: results and ramifications from the statewide ISTEP+. Following a series of delays due to technical and grading errors this fall, the scores from last spring’s test have yet to be officially released to the public.
Remember, ISTEP+ scores typically factor into other things like school A-F accountability grades (we showed you the preliminary data for those earlier this month), teacher evaluations and, in turn, teacher pay – so it’s safe to say Indiana schools look forward to seeing their students’ results in any given year.
What makes this particular round so interesting? Many don’t expect scores to be so good – students took a brand-new test this year, one that matched Indiana’s latest set of academic standards, and history shows that typically leads to a drop in scores. And that has led a growing group of state lawmakers to suggest Indiana “hold schools harmless” for this year’s performance. Look for legislation in the early part of the 2016 session to decouple ISTEP+ results from teacher evaluations.
…And Starting Anew
Come February, it’s out with the old and in with the new: CTB, the vendor that has experienced so many complications administering Indiana’s ISTEP+ test, will no longer be tasked with that job. The state will instead deal with Pearson, a British testing company. Many are curious to see how the new relationship works out – Pearson has a history of test security issues in other states, although the company has said they’re confident they can avoid problems in the Hoosier state.
Meanwhile, the future of the state’s testing system appears to be up for discussion during the legislative session, as well. Just last week, legislators said they’d be open to talking about replacing ISTEP+ with a different, “off-the-shelf” test.
Teacher Recruitment Efforts
Department of Education data exposed in 2015 revealed that Indiana is seeing lower numbers entering its teaching force than in years past. Superintendent Ritz’s Blue Ribbon Commission worked to comb through the data and present legislators with some potential solutions, and lawmakers plan to examine the issue during session this year. House Speaker Brian Bosma has said teacher recruitment in particular will be the General Assembly‘s second priority this year.
Rock the Vote
The 2016 presidential election is now only 10 months away, so you can expect what’s already been an onslaught of primary coverage to ramp up even more. In the handful of debates that have already happened, we haven’t heard much about candidates’ thoughts or plans for education – but there’s still plenty of time for that to change.
And don’t forget: there are other big elections right here in Indiana come November, too! Hoosiers will head to the polls to cast votes for governor, state superintendent and a host of other legislative positions.
A New Era for ESEA
Right before year’s end, the U.S. Congress worked to get a new version of No Child Left Behind to President Barack Obama‘s desk, and he signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law. This is the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the nation’s cornerstone education law, and it gives states more flexibility in how they deal with things like accountability, testing and failing schools.
Watch for news from the U.S. Department of Education – under the new leadership of John King, following former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s departure – about how they plan to work with states to usher in the first reauthorization of ESEA in more than a decade.
High School Diplomas
Policymakers hunkered down to revamp Indiana’s high school diplomas throughout the last year, but the work isn’t yet finished. After scores of parents, teachers and students spoke out against some of the changes – including increased math requirements and an overhaul of special education diplomas – the State Board of Education decided to send the ideas back to the drawing board.
Listen for news out of the special committee Superintendent Ritz will convene to further define these new diploma requirements. She says they’ll try to bring suggestions back to the state board, who hopes to have new drafts finalized by April.