Sunday, January 11, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #190 – January 11, 2015

Dear Friends,

All second grade teachers, elementary principals and parents should be aware that Sen. Houchin’s bill to change the IREAD-3 test to IREAD-2, giving the high stakes reading test to all second graders, has been approved for a hearing at the next Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 in the Senate Chamber. The meeting will start approximately 2:30pm after adjournment from Chief Justice Rush’s State of the Judiciary speech at 1:30pm.

Senator Houchin’s proposal is Senate Bill 169.

This is a disruptive proposal which elementary teachers and parents don’t need right now as they implement new standards and new assessments. Nevertheless, the proposal has been made to radically change the second grade assessment, and the best authorities to comment on this major change are the parents and teachers of second graders. I hope some will come to testify or will communicate with Senators about Senate Bill 169 before Wednesday.

All parents, teachers and principals who have strong feelings about whether high stakes tests in reading should be given to all second graders should feel invited to the Statehouse on January 14th to share their comments with the Senators. Even a few teachers or parents who are directly affected by a change of this magnitude can add a dimension of reality in the hearing which can make a big difference in whether the Senate Committee approves the proposal.

Background to Senate Bill 169

Senate Bill 169 would amend the law that Dr. Tony Bennett worked hard to pass in the 2010 short session. The language passed in 2010 required a reading plan which “must include the following: … An emphasis on a method for making determinant evaluations by grade 3 that might require remedial action for the student, including retention as a last resort, after other methods of remediation have been evaluated or used, or both, if reading skills are below the standard.”

Dr. Bennett used this law to pass State Board rules requiring the IREAD-3 assessment and retention if needed. In 2013 when ISTEP testing was affected by these rules for the first time, about 2500 students were tested as retained 3rd graders rather than as 4th graders.

Senate Bill 169 changes “grade 3” in the current law to “grade 2”, transferring the high stakes testing from Grade 3 reading to Grade 2.

The fiscal impact statement of the Legislative Services Agency says that “for the first testing cycle after the bill takes effect on July 1, 2015, the state would have to test students in Grades 2 and 3. In subsequent years, only students in Grade 2 would be tested. The current contract for the IREAD-3 assessment is approximately $1.2 million. As a result, the state would incur a one-time additional cost of approximately $1.2 million."

Spending an extra $1.2 million to make this transition is inappropriate. This is $1.2 million that could be made available to the tuition support fund that is in desperate need of more money. Additionally, it is $1.2 million more than Indiana now spends on teacher professional development, a line item that was zeroed out during the Bennett years.

As the bill reads now, this change to grade 2 does not apply to charter schools and, of course, it does not apply to private schools. If enacted, parents who object to high stakes testing for their child in the second grade would have no choice but to transfer to a private or charter school. This would hurt public school enrollment which reduces the resources for all public school students. Perhaps that is the motivation for this bill. It would put new regulations in place for public schools but not for the competitors of public schools in the grand marketplace of schools that the Indiana General Assembly has created. This is not fair to public schools.

It is not clear who supports this bill that Senator Houchin is sponsoring. High stakes testing for grade 2 students has not been a well publicized issue. Governor Orr’s original ISTEP testing plan starting in 1988 included testing all 1st and 2nd graders but not for high stakes retention purposes. In the early 1990’s, 1st and 2nd graders were dropped from the testing plan altogether, leaving grade 3 as the earliest assessment level. The concern expressed by testing experts over the forty years I have been watching this topic is that testing results for young students are unreliable and unstable. That is why experts for decades have recommended starting large scale assessment in grade 3, a level followed by both the ISTEP law in Indiana and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Senator Houchin is not an educator. She is newly elected to the seat held by Democratic Senator Richard Young since 1988. Prior to being elected to the Indiana Senate, she served on the staff of Senator Coats. Newly drawn district lines tilted the district to a bigger Republican base.

Two education points Senator Houchin made in her campaign were (1) we need to direct more dollars to the classroom and (2) we need to maintain local control. Senate Bill 169 disregards both of these points. Regarding the first point, testing and evaluation are officially categorized as overhead in the flawed “Dollars to the Classroom” ratings resurrected recently by Speaker Bosma, so dollars used to implement grade 2 testing would not be going to the classroom. Secondly, state required high stakes tests for grade 2 would be taking local control away from local teachers and principals and putting the decision about retaining second graders in the hands of state test makers.

It doesn’t make sense.

Senate Committee Procedures

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, January 14th in the Senate Chamber at approximately 2:30 after the Chief Justice gives the annual State of the Judiciary speech. Senate Bill 169 will be the fifth of six bills that Chairman Kruse will call, which means that any teacher or parent who can get to the Statehouse by 3:00pm might participate in the hearing. To testify, each person needs to fill out a form held by the committee attorney and then wait to be called. I know that many second grade teachers and parents would like to speak strongly against putting second graders into the high stakes testing arena. Come if you can.

If you can’t come to speak, you can contact members of the committee to share your feelings about this proposal. Senator Kruse chairs the committee. Senators Yoder, Banks, Bassler, Leising, Pete Miller, Raatz, and Schneider are the Republicans on the committee. Senators Rogers, Mrvan and Stoops are the Democrats on the committee. You can email them using the Indiana General Assembly website: Remember to let your own Senator know how you feel about SB 169 as well.

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“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 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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