Friday, June 28, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #146 – June 28, 2013

Dear Friends,

A review of 23 consecutive years of data for Indiana’s public schools show that they are currently performing at or near their historic high on eight of ten key indicators. While there remains plenty of room for further improvement, claims that Indiana’s public schools have declined or failed are clearly not based on facts, as a review of the attached data will show. The legislative push to dismantle public education and use state tax dollars for vouchers to send students to private schools is clearly based on beliefs and ideology and not on performance data.

A 23 Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools

To rebut charges that Indiana’s public schools were failing, I issued the first data report data for the decade of the 1990’s in May of 2000, showing year by year ups and downs on ten common measures. After adding additional data each year, the ten tables have now grown to 23 years.

Once again, I updated this report for presentation at the annual IUPUI/ IUSA Summer Conference on Urban Education, held this year on June 12, 2013. The full 16-page report is attached.

Here are a few findings from data for the most recent year, showing changes from the 2012 report to the 2013 report:
1) Indiana’s graduation rate shows that 88.4% graduated in four years or less in the Class of 2012, up from 85.7% in the Class of 2011 and up from 76.1% in the Class of 2006 when the new 4-years-or-less cohort definition was initiated.
2) Hoosier public schools successfully raised the daily attendance rate to in 2011-12 to 96.1%, tied with the highest level ever recorded in 2008-09.
3) Performance on the SAT, both quantitative and verbal measures, taken by 69% of Indiana’s students, lagged behind the past performance of Indiana’s students and comprise the two key indicators out of ten in which Indiana students are not at their historic high.
4) Performance on the ACT, taken by 32% of Indiana’s students, continues to exceed the national average and to stand at the high point in Indiana’s longitudinal record with a composite score of 22.3, well above the national average of 21.1.
5) No additional National Assessment scores were released during the past year. Indiana has outperformed the national average on the basic standard on all 41 NAEP assessments since 1990.
6) Hoosier public school students improved their passing percentages on ISTEP+ English/Language Arts in Grades 3, 5 and 6 compared to the previous year. Grades 4 and 8 remained the same, and Grade 7 went down.
7) On ISTEP+ Math, Hoosier public school students improved their passing percentages in Grades 3, 6, 7 and 8 compared to the previous year. Grades 4 and 5 remained the same. No grade went down.
8) Academic Honors Diplomas reached a record high of 32.3% of all diplomas in the Class of 2012, and Core 40 diplomas tied the record set the previous year at 49.6% of all diplomas. Added together, a record total of 81.9% earned either the Academic Honors diploma or the Core 40 diploma.

This is not a failing record. While great improvement is still needed and tremendous needs still exist in many locations, the steady improvement seen in these statewide data undercut arguments made by some that public education needs to be dismantled and privatized through vouchers and for-profit ventures.

Check out the data for yourself on the ten tables in the attached report. The tables are designed for transparency, showing year-by-year data and whether each year went up, went down or stayed the same.

The last page summarizes 23 years in a glance. If you have limited tolerance for numbers, just look at this page, which is also reprinted below. It summarizes the 23-year range on each indicator, gives the current mark and then answers the question of whether Indiana is near the historic high.

The conclusion is that on eight of the ten measures, Indiana’s public school students are performing at or near the historic high for that indicator.

This improvement is unrelated to the two years that Indiana has given out vouchers, undercutting the argument that voucher proponents are fond of making that vouchers improve public schools. The longitudinal charts show that steady improvement has occurred throughout the 23 year span.

This record of improvement is the result of the hard work of thousands, even millions, of educators, students, parents and community members. Public schools need the broad support of the entire community to maintain this record of improvement.

Thanks for your continuing support of public education in 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. We had an outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand working hard to support public education throughout the session. We need additional members and additional donations to pay off our expenses for the General Assembly session. We need your help! 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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