In his State of the State address Tuesday night, Gov. Mike Pence affirmed many of the legislative actions around education issues that the legislature laid out so far this session.
As HB 1003 and SB 200, two bills aimed to curb consequences of this year’s low ISTEP+ scores for teachers and schools, Pence echoed the sentiment behind these bills.
“Accountability is important, but testing must be reliable and the results fairly applied. Let’s take a step back from ISTEP and improve on the test we use to measure our kids and schools every year,” Pence said during his State of the State speech. “Let’s also take action to ensure that our teachers and schools are treated fairly with the results of the latest ISTEP test.”
Pence also praised efforts to recruit and retain more teachers in the classroom, including a scholarship program originating in the House.
“That is why I am so enthusiastic about speaker Bosma’s Next Generation Scholarship that would cover up to $7,500 per year in tuition for students who are in the top 20 percent of their class and commit to teaching in Indiana for at least five years.”
And while the legislature, governor and state superintendent Glenda Ritz are all in agreement with these issues, this bipartisan support is new.
After his speech, Ritz’s spokesperson for her re-election campaign sent out a statement criticizing the governor for his recent change of mind regarding changing accountability for one year.
“Governor Pence is only now changing his stance on testing because he’s facing an electoral test,” said Annie Mansfield, campaign spokesperson. “But Governor Pence isn’t fooling anyone with his sudden flip-flop on education. Schools haven’t forgotten that up until last month, he was hell bent on penalizing them for an unfair exam. Teachers haven’t forgotten that he told them not to take ISTEP scores personally.”
Up until a few months ago, Pence publicly said school and teacher accountability would remain intact, despite administering a new state assessment in a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in June 2014.
“We do not support a pause in accountability as it relates to delivering A to F grades to schools, determining intervention strategies in under-performing schools, or teacher evaluations that reflect classroom performance,” Pence wrote.
His letter was in response to an op-ed Ritz wrote asking for the pause in accountability.
But now everyone is on board with the hold harmless plan for schools and teachers, and legislative leaders are saying they expect it to be signed into law by the end of January. The State Board of Education rescheduled its monthly meeting for Jan. 26 in anticipation of the legislation being in place by then.