Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What Big Education Issues Should We Watch In 2017?

The State Board of Education voted Nov. 16, 2016 to express support for legislation that would expand preschool in that specific manner, following a blueprint set by state’s current preschool pilot program. (Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)

Expanding state funded pre-k is one issue that will take center stage in 2017. (photo credit: Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)

This was the year to tee up changes in public education, including ISTEP+ panel meetings, a new state superintendent and calls to expand public pre-K. And when the legislative session begins in January, the actions taken in 2016 could evolve into real change.

Here’s what we’re already preparing to cover in 2017, and what you want to keep tabs on.

A New, Or Newly Named, ISTEP+

Much of 2016 was spent talking about changing the state’s assessment system. Legislators scrapped the current test with a bill in early 2016, and they created a panel of educators, legislators and state officials to craft a recommendation to replace the test.

The final recommendation was general and didn’t offer the sweeping changes to the testing system many wanted. Now the fate of the testing system lies with the General Assembly, and lawmakers must craft a new test – a test slated to be in use by the end of the 2017 session.

Recently, Sen. Dennis Kruse, the chair of the Senate education committee, said they may extend that deadline to ensure it’s what they want and done properly.

Jennifer McCormick Will Take Office

After four years of running the Department of Education, Democrat Glenda Ritz will leave the post in January when Republican Jennifer McCormick is sworn in.

As one of the only Democrats in a statewide, elected position, Ritz’s tenure as state superintendent was marked with friction between the State Board of Education, legislators, and often, Republican governor Mike Pence.

Pence publicly blamed Ritz and the DOE for the length of the ISTEP+ in 2015. Ritz and the previous State Board of Education clashed and fought publicly, which led to dramatic moments like Ritz walking out of a meeting and suing the board for communicating via email without her.

Added to this, Ritz and the Republican supermajority were operating from different political perspectives.

It will be interesting to see how a Republican superintendent could change these relationships, and this is something McCormick campaigned on.

McCormick does not currently appear to be remarkably different from Ritz on other issues. She wants to study that state’s voucher system and review its finances, reduce testing and give the school funding formula another look.

How Much Will State Funded Pre-K Expand?

All of 2016, politicians and early education advocates talked about expanding the state’s current pre-K pilot program. And there is some political will to do it – most lawmakers on both sides of the isle have said the state should offer this service to more children.

We’ve already dug into this issue a lot in our reporting on the current pilot program and the probable patch of expansion.

But what we know for sure, in 2017, the legislature will talk about expanding state funded pre-K. Now we will see how they do it.

Will The State Help Teachers Get More Education To Meet New Requirements?

Indiana high school dual-credit teachers are facing new requirements if they want to continue teaching their classes.

The idea behind dual-credit courses is simple – students can earn both high school and college credits at the same time. But changes announced last year would have required anyone teaching one of these course to have a master’s degree, in the same subject, within two years. So a high school teacher teaching advanced Biology must have a master’s in biology.

A state panel appealed to a federal body, arguing that 71 percent of dual-credit instructors teaching nearly 45,000 students don’t meet that requirement and that the timeline to meet it was too short.

Now, dual credit teachers will have until 2022 to get those masters degrees.

But the state does not cover the cost to the teacher. It didn’t allocate money or require universities to give discounts on classes. This is something we will be watching this session.

The 2017 Legislative Session starts Jan. 3.

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