Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #196 – January 26, 2015

Dear Friends,

House Bill 1486 was posted at 1:30pm today for a hearing at 8:30am tomorrow, January 27th. Reading HB 1486 late this afternoon motivated me to alert you to a series of controversial changes that I strongly oppose.

HB 1486 would:
  • Rewrite Indiana’s school accountability law Public Law 221 for only the third time since 1999, the legal basis for the A-F school grading system, deleting an important line added in 2013 that banned the “measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.” This would open the door to reinstating the current flawed A-F system that is embedded with peer based growth comparisons, also known as norm-referenced measures.
  • Delete the word “individual” from the definition of growth in the A-F system, allowing a return to the days of judging schools by results of large groups of different students and ignoring the before and after scores of the same individual student.
  • Take away the power of the IDOE to develop ISTEP tests and give it to the State Board.
  • Put the setting of ISTEP passing scores now overseen by IDOE in the hands of “independent experts” selected by the State Board.
  • Change the State Board from a policy body to a nuts and bolts operations body by giving the power to “oversee the operation of turnaround academies” to the State Board.
  • Give the State Board new authority to audit or evaluate any educational program based on data the IDOE would be required to provide.
  • Put the State Board rather than the IDOE in charge of the teacher evaluation program, allowing the State Board to set “a minimum and maximum threshold for the use of objective measures of student achievement and growth in all staff performance evaluation plans,” taking away local control in the current law and pointing the way to Dr. Bennett’s often stated goal that at least 51% of each evaluation should be based on student test results.
  • Change the control by the state over the local evaluation plan from “may” to “shall” language, leading to the loss of local control as districts set plans to evaluate their teachers.
  • Remove the power of IDOE to determine which other subjects besides “the big four” subjects will have academic standards and give that power to the State Board.
  • Mandate a “statewide assessment administered in grade 3 that serves as a determinant evaluation of reading skills in grade 3” which “shall be referred to as IREAD-3”. The 2010 law pushed through by Dr. Bennett made no mention of a test or of IREAD-3 which was mandated later via rules of the State Board.
Enough Said! Contact Members of the House Education Committee

This is a lot to digest in the 19 hours between posting the hearing and the 8:30am meeting.

I would love to take time to amplify my concerns, especially the first two bullets above that open the door to a return of norm-referenced growth comparisons that were debunked to the point that the 2013 legislature voided the A-F system and required a new system.

At least they thought they did.

The Governor and many current State Board members have embraced the old flawed system that Dr. Bennett created, which has been used to grade schools three times now with a plan to use it once again next fall. Now this proposed bill would allow them to keep it permanently.

I must stop here and urge you to contact members of the House Education Committee about your concerns about House Bill 1486. The chair of the committee is Representative Behning, who sponsored the 2013 bill on A-F (HB 1427) which would be reversed in part by this bill. Republican members of the committee are Representatives Rhoads, Burton, Clere, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas, and Thompson. Representative Thompson is the sponsor of HB 1486. Democrats on the committee are Representatives Vernon Smith, Austin, Errington and Moed.

Make as many contacts as you can about one or several of the points above. Every email and phone call helps!

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #195 – January 23, 2015

Dear Friends,

Governor Pence’s budget cost estimates have been updated by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency and by his own policy director in testimony Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The new official figures for funding charter schools and vouchers leave extremely low increases for traditional public school funding: 1.3% in the first year and 0.3% in the second year. These are calculated based strictly on the cost estimates for charter schools and vouchers announced by state officials.

There are other costs not mentioned by officials which would make these increases even lower.

Let your legislators know that they must do better than the Governor, who has set a very low standard to beat. The “2%/1%” 2013 budget was a historically low budget for public school funding, producing $330 million in new public school funding for the biennium. As low as that was, the Governor’s new budget would give only $200 million to public schools, with about $100 million going to upgrades for charter school funding and voucher funding.

This extremely low budget during healthy economic times suggests that Governor Pence cares little about giving public school students the resources they need in their current schools. His budget seems to favor private and charter schools over public schools.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Meeting on January 22nd

Senator Kenley focused the first meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee on the Governor’s proposal to give charter schools a new grant of $1500 per student. He invited and received testimony from Chad Timmerman, Governor Pence’s education policy director, from State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, and from Russ Simnick, policy director of the National Alliance of Charter Schools.

Chad Timmerman made the case that charter schools need additional funding because they don’t get property tax funding for facilities. Glenda Ritz reviewed the extensive work she has done to help charter schools improve and said that the fairest way to go would be to add to the tuition support of all schools. Russ Simnick said that Indiana is ranked as #2 in the nation in the climate for charter schools and the reason it is not #1 is the need for better funding.

Following these presentations, testimony was invited from the public. Joel Hand gave the testimony for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, raising two key concerns. First he cited ICPE opposition to for-profit K-12 schools and asked how the General Assembly can assure taxpayers that a $1500 increase per charter school student will go to student learning and not to give investors a bigger profit. Second, referring to the LSA list showing per pupil support from all revenue sources, he cited 16 charter schools that even without property tax are averaging a higher per pupil average than the grand state average of $11,783 from all revenue sources. He asked how the General Assembly can reassure taxpayers that extra money for charter schools will be used to equalize funding and not to give a bonanza of dollars to these 16 charter schools that are already above average in total revenue. This would create inequity, not remove it.

The complete ICPE testimony on the charter school proposal is attached.

The Governor’s Budget after Cost Estimates were Revised

Based on the testimony of Chad Timmerman, the Governor’s budget proposal for school funding can now be analyzed more precisely.
First year of the new budget, FY2016:
1) The Governor wants tuition support to increase $134 million (2% increase).

2) Chad Timmerman said the cost of the charter school proposal would be $41 in FY2016.

3) LSA has written a fiscal estimate (dated 1-16-15) saying removing the voucher cap would cost $3.8 million.

4) $134 million minus $41 million (charters) minus $3.8 million (vouchers) = $89.2 million left for traditional public schools.

5) $89.2 million is a 1.3% increase over the current budget, less than the cost of living.

6) $89.2 million for 1,040,000 public school students = $86 total increase per public school student. This compares unfavorably to the $1500 total increase per charter school student.
Second year of the new budget, FY2017:
1) The Governor wants tuition support to increase $67 million (1% increase).

2) Chad Timmerman said the cost of the charter school proposal would be $45.5 million in FY2017.

3) LSA has written a fiscal estimate (dated 1-16-15) saying removing the voucher cap in FY2017 is a cost that can’t be calculated at this time.
4) $67 million minus $45.5 million (charters) = $21.5 million left for traditional public schools.

5) $21.5 million is a 0.3% increase over the current budget, far less than the cost of living.

6) $21.5 million for 1,040,000 public school students = $20 total increase per public school student.
A budget like this would clearly hurt our public school students.

These figures are summarized on an attached page for your use with legislators.

Additional Costs the Governor Does Not Want to Talk About

There is an additional fiscal cost which comes out the tuition support budget that the Governor doesn’t like to talk about. The voucher program, due to the 2013 expansion, is no longer saving the state money as it did in the first two years but is now a fiscal cost which must be paid for from the same tuition support line item.

How big is the net cost of the voucher program? A precise accounting in a financial report by the IDOE dated June 17, 2014 pegged the cost at $16 for 2013-14. No new cost figures have been released for 2014-15, but since the number of vouchers increased by 50% in 2014-15 to 30,000, it is reasonable to say that the cost of the voucher program has also increased by 50%, from $16 million up to $24 million. That $24 million has to come out of the Governor’s budget for tuition support and obviously would reduce the figures above for public schools even further.

Governor Pence’s budget is not fair to public schools. Share your concerns with members of the House and Senate who will write their own budgets in the weeks ahead.

Senate Bill 169

In the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday (Jan. 21st), Chairman Kruse proposed an amendment to SB 169 to make the IREAD-3 proposal to be the subject of a summer study committee. He said the discussion last week showed that there was more to the proposal than he first thought and that it would need extensive study in a summer study committee. The amendment was accepted and the bill passed 9-0 to send it to a summer committee.

Contact Legislators about Public School Funding

Let members of the House and Senate know that the Governor’s “2%/1%” plan is really a “1.3%/0.3%” for public schools. It is sad that the Governor’s budget shows such little support for community public schools.

In the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Senator Rogers pointed out that the Governor is now saying that in order to improve charter schools, more money is needed. She said that in the past, the Governor has said that money is not needed for schools to improve, but she says with this charter proposal, the Governor has turned his position around to saying that money is needed to improve. She said she hopes that the Governor will always remember this in the future.

Many districts have “Third House” or “Cracker Barrel” meetings on Saturday where you can talk with members of the House and Senate about the budget needs of public school students. Let them know how public school students need better support than the Governor has proposed.

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Support INSPIRE

Below is a letter to State Senator Zakas (R-11) from one of our readers, Bob Raz.
Dear Senator Zakas:

I live in your district and this is the first time I have contacted you. My concern is the proposed cuts to the Indiana State Library in the current budget. I am 72 years old and am still working as a consultant. I use an excellent online resource provided by the State Library through my Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Library. It is INSPIRE.

Now I am having an especially difficult time trying to determine how the Republican platform can espouse support for education and at the same time “save” money by cutting support for INSPIRE. This $1.3 million investment by the state saves much more than that all across the state for universities, schools, public libraries and individuals doing research. Purchasing reference tools at the state level makes all of these resources available to everyone with access through a library card, public school or college.

I urge you to read the attached letter from the State Librarian to educate yourself on just what this great reference tool really is. There are, of course, many companies in our country that create research information. It is a product that they don’t make available free over the internet – they sell their product. The state buys for everyone, thus saving millions of local dollars that would be spent to purchase these important research tools.

Cutting the State Library budget is not saving anything – it is cutting out an investment in Indiana’s education network.

Please let me know what you will do about this and show me that the Republican platform support for education is not just a platitude.

Thank you.

Robert Raz
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #194 – January 18, 2015

Dear Friends,

Governor Pence’s rhetoric and his budget are showing a major disconnect. He is calling this the “Education Session” but is recommending the lowest education funding increase in a generation for non-recession budgets.

In his television interview on “The Lawmakers” on Friday Jan. 16th, Governor Pence once again endorsed new funding of $200 million for “traditional public schools” in his proposed budget.

While he spun it to sound great, $200 million is a significant decrease from the previous 2013 budget, a two year budget cycle which has left public schools in dire financial straits and in many cases unable to give teachers any raise. Public school students have suffered from program cuts and rising class sizes while the Governor brags about a $2 billion surplus.

His new budget proposal would give tuition support for public schools the smallest increase since before the 1999 school accountability reforms were passed, except for the two budgets during the Great Recession.

In Indiana’s competitive marketplace of schools set up in 2011 by the voucher program, parents can choose among community public schools, charter schools and private schools. Once again in his budget, Governor Pence has shown favoritism to private schools over public schools.

A Lower Increase for Public Schools Than Two Years Ago

One of the major reasons why math is required in the education of all citizens is so that politicians can’t pull the wool over the eyes of citizens. Let’s do the basic arithmetic.

In the last budget in the 2013 session, which was not a good budget for public school funding, it took $132 million to lift the tuition support budget in the first year by 2%. Then in the second year of the budget, another $132 million was required just to maintain that effort. To lift the second year of the budget by another 1% required $66 million more. To calculate the total investment of new dollars in the 2013 budget for public schools, those three numbers must be added together: $132 million + $132 million + $66 million = $330 million.

Compare that with Governor Pence’s plan to give “traditional public schools” $200 million dollars in the new budget. Even if he is somehow rounding off the numbers, he is proposing at least $100 million dollars less for public schools than they are getting now in the current poorly funded school budget.

Do Hoosier voters and taxpayers really want to keep degrading public school funding following the lead of Governor Pence?

Funding the Governor’s Preferred Alternatives

The Governor’s budget as presented to the General Assembly on January 8th called for a 2% increase the first year and a 1% in the second year. If you do the math for each year, that would require a total increase of $336 million. ($134 million + $134 million + $68 million)

Normally, politicians spin their budgets to show their support in the biggest way possible. In this case, that would mean announcing a raise in funding by $336 million, but neither Governor Pence nor his budget director has used that figure in public discussions. Instead, they have consistently said $200 million more will go to “traditional public schools.” One must ask: Why aren’t they claiming a $300 million dollar increase?

Apparently, without saying it directly, the Governor is taking out some $100 million from the “2%/1%” plan for his preferred alternatives, voucher and charter schools, even though voucher and charter school students represent only about 6% of the K-12 enrollment in Indiana.

His staff has already said that removing the cap on voucher payments will cost $4 million per year, or $8 million for the biennium. Then his staff has said that extra funding for charter schools would cost $41 million over two years. Adding $41 million to the $8 million for vouchers makes a total of $49 million which the Governor’s office admits to, reducing the $336 million required for the “2%/1%” plan to $287 million for “traditional public schools.”

The Governor’s estimates, however, for voucher expansion and charter school grants are extremely questionable. There is no reason voucher schools can’t raise their tuitions now that the Governor has said the state should pay whatever the private school asks for with no cap. The $4 million per year cost estimate would average only a $133 rise for each of the current 30,000 voucher students, an unlikely low estimate. Regarding charter school funding, the Governor’s estimate seems wildly inaccurate, since paying an extra $1500 per year for each of the 35,678 school students would cost $53.5 million per year or $107 million for the biennium. This would account for the $100 million that is not going to “traditional public schools.”

The Recent History of Funding Public Education

Given all this, the Governor is not really proposing a “2%/1%” increase for public schools, as they received in the 2013 budget. In the year he calls the “education session”, he is proposing the lowest funding for “traditional public schools” in years if the low budgets of the Great Recession are taken out of the mix.

Here is the budget history for Indiana for education since the bipartisan school accountability reforms were passed in 1999. These are not numbers or percentages that I calculated. I copied them right off the school funding formula summary page for each budget made available to the public each session:
_______________________________________________________________________

TUITION SUPPORT FUNDING INCREASES IN INDIANA BUDGETS SINCE 1999

(Source: Legislative Service Agency School Funding Formula Documents)


1999 BUDGET:

FY 2000...............................................................................+4.7%
FY 2001...............................................................................+4.7%

2001 BUDGET:

FY 2002...............................................................................+3.5%
FY 2003...............................................................................+3.5%

2003 BUDGET:

FY 2004...............................................................................+3.3%
FY 2005............................($5.87 Billion)...........................+2.9%

2005 BUDGET:

FY 2006............................($5.94 Billion)...........................+2.6%
FY 2007............................($6.02 Billion)...........................+2.4%

2007 BUDGET:

FY 2008............................($6.27 Billion)...........................+4.1%
FY 2009............................($6.48 Billion *)........................+3.6%

2009 BUDGET: (June 2009 during the Great Recession)

FY 2010............................($6.55 Billion **)......................+1.1%
FY 2011............................($6.57 Billion **)......................+0.3%

2011 BUDGET: (April 2011 during the Great Recession)

FY 2012............................($6.28 Billion)...........................-4.5%
FY 2013............................($6.34 Billion ***)...................+1.0%

2013 BUDGET:

FY 2014............................($6.62 Billion)..........................+2.0%
FY 2015............................($6.69 Billion)..........................+1.0%

Footnotes:

*included Federal stimulus/stabilization funding of $.61 Billion
**reduced by $.30 Billion in Dec. 2009 due to revenue shortfall and by $.327 Billion during 2010-11
***adding the full day kindergarten line item to the formula during the 2013 General Assembly raised the actual FY2013 base expenditures to $6.49B.
_______________________________________________________________________

It is readily seen with a quick glance at this history that the “2%/1%” plan in the 2013 budget was the lowest since 1999 except for the two budgets of the Great Recession. Now Governor Pence proposes to reduce the “2%/1%” of the 2013 budget by about $100 million dollars in order to fund voucher and charter schools, leaving only about $200 million for “traditional public schools.”

Contact Legislators about Public School Funding

Let members of the House and Senate know that the Governor’s “2%/1% minus $100 million” plan is not good enough.

In his State of the State Address on January 13th, Governor Pence said: “I stand before you as your governor to proudly report that the state of our State has never been stronger.” If Indiana is that strong and has a strong surplus, we can surely do better for our students than to fund our public schools at the lowest level in our recent history.

The historic average of this funding table (deleting the two budgets of the Great Recession) years is a 3.19% annual increase in school funding. That number represents our past legacy of support for our public school students. Contact your legislators throughout this session to urge them to make funding for our public school students a priority once again.

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #193 – January 17, 2015

Dear Friends,

The bill to move IREAD-3 to the second grade, Senate Bill 169, seemed to receive a favorable reception in Wednesday’s Senate Education Committee hearing. The committee vote on the bill will be this Wednesday afternoon, January 21st.

The question proposed by SB169 is: Shall all community public schools, charter schools and private schools give IREAD-3 to their second graders, allowing remediation in grade 3 for those who do not pass as second graders before retesting at the end of third grade. Currently, all three types of schools give IREAD-3 in the spring of the third grade. Failure leads to retention in grade 3.

All second and third grade parents and teachers and all others with a strong interest in this bill should communicate their views to their Senators before the vote next Wednesday.

Details of the Hearing

Senator Houchin introduced her proposal to move IREAD-3 to May of the second grade year with no requirement that failing the test as a second grader would require retention. She said remediation would occur in grade 3 and students would be retested at the end of grade 3 before the retention rule for failing to pass IREAD-3 would be enforced. She said that Senator Pete Miller and Senator Mishler have joined her as co-sponsors of SB169.

She said the idea for this bill came from teachers in her district, and she introduced Tom Rosenbaum, principal of West Washington Elementary, to give the points why the bill is supported by his teachers:
  • Third grade teachers are currently “bombarded by state testing”.
  • Excessive third grade testing could be spread out by giving IREAD-3 at the end of second grade.
  • Second graders who did not pass would not face mandated retention but would have third grade for remediation with two opportunities to pass the test at the end of grade 3, once in the spring and once in the summer.
  • There is no money for summer school remediation, so remediation is best done in the third grade.
  • IREAD-3 tests second grade skills, especially phonics.
Five others then testified on the bill. J.T. Coopman, IAPSS, supported the bill. Maryann Schlegel Ruegger, the only parent to testify, opposed the bill. Sally Sloan, AFT-Indiana, opposed the bill due to the $1.2 million price tag but said some teachers in her network liked the concept. Ronni Embry, ISTA, opposed the bill. As the last to testify, I opposed the bill, making four points:
  • A consensus has held for 25 years in Indiana that no statewide testing should begin before grade 3 due to the research that test scores for young children lack stability and reliability and are subject to false negatives.
  • The $1.2 million cost to transition to the second grade should be used for more pressing priorities like restarting professional development funding that has been cut completely from the budget.
  • This would engage second graders for the first time into the pressure of the testing culture, giving some students and parents a third grade year filled with anxiety if the students fail IREAD-3 as second graders.
  • Schools currently have a local option to download, use and score IREAD-2 to see if students are on track. This bill would remove this local option and mandate all to take IREAD-3 as second graders.
I have attached my full testimony for those who want more details. [You can read and download Vic's Testimony here]

John Barnes representing IDOE was asked for information about IREAD-3. He said the State Board, the Governor’s office and the Indiana Department of Education have all agreed in the past that it is not appropriate to have statewide tests below grade 3. When he confirmed that the IREAD-3 test is a test of second grade skills, Senator Rogers who is the ranking Democrat on the committee said based on that information, she will support the bill.

It is my hope that all parents, teachers and administrators with a strong interest in second and third grades will weigh the pros and cons on this issue and participate in this debate by contacting the Senators on the committee and their own Senator.

Will this solution to excessive third grade testing serve as a benefit or a hindrance to second graders, and is it worth spending $1.2 million to do this? Obviously, I oppose the bill, but there are approximately 80,000 second graders and 80,000 third graders whose parents and teachers should have their say. Only six people have testified on the bill thus far. Let our democracy go to work!

Thanks for your involvement and participation in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 15, 2015: Question of the Day

What say you, Dear Readers? What makes an excellent school?

Diane Ravitch wrote...
New Hampshire teacher Shawna Coppola wonders how to define a good school. She explains why the school she teaches in is an excellent school that defies all the current reforms and educates all children to meet their needs, not to raise their scores. The school may be closed because of the cost of renovations; besides, it does not have the cachet of the districts with high scores. This crazy notion that beloved community public schools should be closed is recent in our history, dating only to No Child Left Behind. That now discredited law decreed that schools must be subject to a cascade of sanctions, including closure, if their test scores don’t move towards 100% proficiency in grades 3-8. Never before in our history were public schools closed except for shrinking enrollments or consolidation of facilities—but not for test scores. Many states have adopted A-F grading systems, but those are overly simplistic and they rely too much on standardized test scores. How should we judge a school?
Read the rest on Diane Ravitch's blog HERE.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #192 – January 13, 2015

Dear Friends,

This is a follow-up to Statehouse Notes #190 regarding my commentary on Senate Bill 169, the IREAD-2 bill.

Senator Houchin called me yesterday (Monday) to let me know that she has a new amendment to the bill which clarifies that second graders who don’t pass the statewide IREAD-2 test would not be required to be retained in the second grade. Instead they would go on to third grade where they would be retained as third graders if they failed to pass IREAD-3 at the end of Grade 3.

I will let those parents and teachers of second graders decide for themselves if this makes Senate Bill 169 more palatable to them. I appreciated Senator Houchin’s call and her efforts to send me the amendment in advance of the hearing.

Details of the Amendment

Senator Houchin’s amendment clarifies two points that were not in the original bill:
1) The timing of the change to a statewide IREAD-2 test would be in 2016-17. The amendment says:

“This subdivision applies after June 30, 2016.”

2) Second graders would not be automatically retained if they fail the statewide IREAD-2 test. The amendment says:

“An emphasis on a method for making determinant evaluations by grade 2 that might require retention or remedial action for the student in grade 2 or grade 3. A student who requires remediation after the student is evaluated in grade 2 must receive remedial action and be reevaluated in grade 3. If the student remains below standard after receiving remedial action and being reevaluated in grade 3, the student, after other methods of remediation have been evaluated or used, or both, must be retained as a last resort. If a student who is in kindergarten or grade 1 is not on track to meet grade level reading expectations as required by the plan, the student’s teacher may suggest remedial action, including retention of the student. Appropriate consultation with parents or guardians must be part of the plan.”
That is Senator Houchin’s amendment which all should be aware of if you are concerned about this bill.

Come to the Hearing or Contact Your Legislators as You Are Can

Should the first statewide assessment of reading be moved back to second grade?

I think this question should be answered with major input from second grade teachers and parents. Senator Houchin shared with me that the idea for this change came from elementary teachers in her district.

I continue to have three broad concerns:
1) This change would be the first statewide testing of second graders since ISTEP testing in grade 2 was dropped nearly 25 years ago. Since then, a consensus has held that statewide testing should begin at grade 3 based on greater stability and reliability of testing at that level. I believe that consensus should be sustained.

2) This change would cost $1.2 million for the transition year when the IREAD assessment would need to be given at both second and third grades. After that, it would be given at the second grade, but there would be some additional cost to the state for retesting third graders who did not pass as second graders. If lawmakers feel they have an extra $1.2 available, I hope they will direct it to restarting the professional development fund that was eliminated in the Dr. Bennett years.

3) Even though some teachers may perceive this as a fairly small change, others will see it as huge and unwarranted. It would put second graders and second grade teachers into the pressured milieu of the testing culture that currently starts at third grade. Inevitably, second grade IREAD scores if available would become data points to compare schools in the grand competitive marketplace of parental choice that we now have in Indiana. Inevitably, second grade IREAD scores if available would become factors in the evaluation and compensation decisions for second grade teachers. As I see it, this is not a change we need to make in a complex year devoted to implementing new standards and new assessments.
The meeting will begin in the Senate Chamber tomorrow, January 14th at approximately 2:30pm after adjournment from the annual State of the Judiciary Address. The hearing on Senate Bill 169 will be the fifth bill out of six on the agenda. I hope you will have your say either at the hearing or in communications with Senators on the Education Committee or with your own Senator.

Thanks for your involvement and participation in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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