Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #137– April 24, 2013

Dear Friends,

The word going around the Statehouse on Tuesday (yesterday) was that a conference committee on voucher expansion will give vouchers to all who live in attendance areas of “D” schools as well as “F” schools. If this is true, it would be a huge expansion beyond the Senate version of the number of students that would get vouchers for living in the attendance areas of failing schools. Instead of 148 F school areas, it would affect 389 D or F schools. That is 18.6% of all schools. Remember, this uses the flawed and widely disrespected A-F system introduced by Tony Bennett last October.

Let your Senator and Representative in the House know that using the failed A-F system to give vouchers to 18% of Indiana’s school attendance areas is wrong. It will unfairly impact too many schools that were graded unjustly. They should vote HB 1003 down until a revised A-F system that has the confidence of the public is in place.

House Bill 1003 – Voucher Expansion

The Conference Committee report is expected soon which meshes the Senate version and the House version of voucher expansion. Then both houses must pass the final report one more time. We are hoping that changes made in the final version of the bill will lead legislators who voted for vouchers the first time around to decide to vote it down in the final vote. Your messages to them about the A-F system may motivate them to switch.

Let legislators know about the injustices involving “D” schools and “F” schools in last fall’s new rating system that was rejected so decisively in the election. Let them know about cases in your area comparable to these two examples:
  • Liberty Early elementary in MSD Decatur got a D. It serves only pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. These students have not been tested on ISTEP+. So how did they get a D? Formulas say that early childhood centers are given grades based on the average of elementary schools that they feed students to. The elementary students are tested in grades 3 through 6, so Liberty Early elementary was graded on the performance of students that the school has not interacted with for three years.
Should this be the basis for a judgment that this school is so bad that parents should avoid it and get a voucher?
  • William Bell School #60 in the Indianapolis Public Schools got an F. It serves only K through 2 students who have not taken ISTEP+. It reopened this year as a Reggio magnet school under the guidance of Butler University. Nearly all of the students are new this year under the new magnet program philosophy, yet under A-F rules based on students in past years, it is an F school.
Should this be the basis for a judgment that this school is so bad that parents should avoid it and get a voucher?
The building block for this flawed system is a flawed growth metric comparing student growth to peers, creating differing expectations for growth for each student depending on how other students across the state perform. Two cases stand out in illustrating the flawed growth statistics:
  • A 5th grader in northern Indiana who had scored Pass+ since the 3rd grade scored 39 scale score points this year above the Pass+ cut off score for English/Language Arts. Yet, the student was marked as “Low Growth.” The principal was mystified.
  • A central Indiana superintendent and principal verified that an elementary student with a perfect score for two years in a row was labeled as “Low Growth.” An appeal to IDOE made no difference.
Here is the kicker on HB 1003’s language regarding failing schools: The bill doesn’t confine the provision of vouchers to only those going to the school. If a student is going to an elementary school rated “A” but also happens to live in a high school attendance area rated “F”, that student can get a voucher.

It would be wrong to pass legislation based on these A-F formulas for elementary and middle schools until confidence in their validity has been restored.

House Bill 1338 – Charter School Administration and A-F Revisions

Transparency suffers in the final week of the legislative session. It took over 24 hours to get a copy of proposed legislation to revise the highly controversial A-F system. The proposal is a last minute addition to the conference committee report on the charter school administration bill, HB 1338. This language is important because it appears now that the other vehicle for revising the A-F system, House Bill 1427, is dead.

This new version of HB 1338 is 39 pages long, and the last four pages propose a rewrite of Public Law 221 to recreate the A-F system following Rep. Behning’s revision that he introduced early in the session in House Bill 1337.
There is one short section on page 38, line 5 that would bring bipartisan support in ending the flawed system and moving to a better system.

“Sec. 5. (a) Not later than November 15, 2013, the state board shall establish new categories or designations of school performance under the requirements of this chapter to replace 511 IAC 6.2-6. The new standards of assessing school performance:
(1) must be based on a measurement of academic growth; and
(2) may not be based on a measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.
511 IAC 6.2-6 is void on the effective date of the emergency or final rules adopted under this section.

This language deserves applause. It voids the current system and restricts the new system from including a growth model based on comparisons with peers. That is all that is needed to guide the State Board of Education and State Superintendent Ritz to a new and fair system.

The rest of the four pages carry the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s proposal for how to change PL221 that the House resoundingly voted down in HB 1337 back in February. It goes into prescriptive detail in telling the State Board how to prepare a new system, illustrated by the following:

“(3) Determine the number of students who did not exceed the minimal performance levels determined under subdivision (1) but whose academic growth is projected to be sufficient to exceed minimal performance levels or to reach the next highest performance benchmark in future years.”

This is the Indiana Chamber’s view of the new A-F system. It does not match up with the proposals that State Superintendent Glenda Ritz advocated to the Senate Education Committee. It should not be placed in Indiana law. The system should be left to State Superintendent Ritz and the State Board to rework with all stakeholders involved, not just the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The other controversial addition to the new HB 1338 is to put the “A” through “F” labels in Indiana law. This proposal drew immediate opposition from Rep. Vernon Smith and Sen. Rogers during Monday’s brief conference committee meeting.

Currently, the State Board can decide how many categories our accountability system will have, whether it is 3, 4, 5 or 6, and what labels to apply to each category. This latest version, coming five days before adjournment in a charter school bill, takes the State Board’s authority on this away and dictates that Indiana will have five categories and that they will be called “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and “F”.

A hearing on using “A” through “F” labels was held by the State Board of Education on April 30, 2010 when Dr. Bennett wanted to change the rules. A total of 57 speakers showed up at that hearing, which went on for five hours. Of those 57, 56 were opposed to using “A” through “F” to describe our schools. One speaker representing the Indiana Chamber of Commerce was in favor. The way HB 1338 is rolling out, that 2010 hearing may turn out to be the only indicator of public sentiment on the A-F issue before the legislature has to vote on it. Given the issue’s unpopularity with many in the public, it is possible that legislators may want to balk on putting this in law.

Do you remember what happened to this language back in February when it was pages 2-4 of House Bill 1337? It was defeated decisively 61-33, with 31 members of the Republican caucus turning against it.

Keep Sending Messages!

Members of the House and Senate should hear your thoughts about adding “D” schools to the voucher eligibility list, especially those who voted “Yes” on voucher expansion the first time. They should change their votes and send HB 1003 to a study committee.

27 Republican Senators voted yes: Senators Banks, Boots, Bray, Buck, Crider, Delph, Eckerty, Hershman, Holdman, Kenley, Kruse, Leising, Long, Merritt, Nugent, Pat Miller, Pete Miller, Paul, Schneider, Smith, Steele, Walker, Waltz, Wyss, Yoder, Michael Young and Zakas.

57 Republican Representatives voted yes: Representatives Arnold, Baird, Behning, Braun, T. Brown, Burton, Carbaugh, Cherry, Crouch, Culver, Davis, Davisson, DeVon, Eberhart, Friend, Frizzell, Frye, Gutwein, Hamm, Harman, Heaton, Heuer, Huston, Karickhoff, Kirchhofer, Kubacki, Lehe, Lehman, Leonard, Lucas, Lutz, Mayfield, McMillin, Messmer, Morris, Morrison, Negele, Niemeyer, Ober, Pond, Price, Richardson, Slager, Smaltz, M. Smith, Speedy, Steuerwald, Thompson, Torr, Turner, Ubelhor, VanNatter, Washburne, Wesco, Zent, Ziemke and Speaker Bosma

Thanks for standing up for the public school students of Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. I keep hearing reports that some public school supporters read these “Notes” with great interest but don’t translate that interest into joining ICPE. To keep our outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand in place, who is working hard against voucher expansion during conference committees, we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education. Please join us! Thanks to all who have joined or sent extra donations recently!

Go to for membership and renewal information.

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.

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