Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #197 – January 27, 2015

Dear Friends,

The hearing on House Bill 1486 this morning in the House Education Committee was suspended at 11:00am. The hearing will be completed at the Thursday (Jan. 29th) meeting beginning at 8:30am in Room 156C of the Statehouse. The committee will then vote on the bill which restores peer comparisons to the measures of student growth in A-F metrics and transfers operational authority in several areas from the Indiana Department of Education to the State Board, as I outlined in Vic’s Statehouse Notes #196 sent out yesterday.

If you object to the return of norm-referenced growth measures in the A-F law or the expansion of powers of the State Board, you should contact members of the House Education Committee before Thursday morning.

House Bill 1609 is also scheduled for a hearing and vote at Thursday’s meeting. HB 1609 would remove the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board and allow board members to elect a chair annually, effective as soon as the law is passed. I strongly oppose HB 1609. If you feel as I do, contact members of the House Education Committee or come to testify.

House Bill 1486

After passing two bills 11-0, one on bargaining issues and one to give teachers a $200 tax credit for supplies, Representative Thompson presented his controversial bill to give the State Board more authority over several functions now controlled by the State Superintendent and the Indiana Department of Education.

I will reprint the list of points that I sent out last night in Notes #196:

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.
State Board member Brad Oliver testified in favor of the bill. Six speakers testified against one or more elements of the bill: John O’Neill, ISTA; Joel Hand, ICPE; Scott Turney, Small and Rural Schools Association; Sally Sloan, AFT-Indiana; Brian Smith, ISBA; and John Barnes, IDOE. At that point, Chairman Behning said the other two speakers, including me, will be called on Thursday, followed by the vote.

John Barnes, representing Superintendent Ritz and the IDOE, said, “We see this as an irresponsible power grab.” He pointed to the duplication of services by the duplicate staff which could cost in the neighborhood of $5 million. He quoted Senator Kruse regarding the intent of the language on the teacher evaluation program: “Please quote me. I wrote this language. ‘Significant’ was the intent.” The proposed bill would change the word “significant” and have the State Board set a minimum and maximum percentage of student test data to be figured into teacher evaluations, which was suggested by Brad Oliver in his testimony to likely be 33% to 50%.

House Bill 1609

Several bills have been filed to reduce the power of State Superintendent Ritz. This is the first to be scheduled for a hearing. It would allow State Board members to elect a chair on an annual basis, and it would take effect immediately upon passage. It is sponsored by Representatives McMillan and Wesco.

I strongly oppose this bill. Changing the powers of the State Superintendent during the term in which she was elected is offensive to the voters who elected her to fulfill the powers of the office at the time they voted. This bill completely ignores and undercuts the power of Hoosier voters and in that way undercuts our democracy.

Contact House Education Committee Members before 8:30am Thursday

Contact members of the House Education Committee about your concerns about House Bill 1486 and House Bill 1609. Representative Behning is the chair of the committee. Republican members of the committee are Representatives Rhoads, Burton, Clere, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas, and Thompson. Democrats on the committee are Representatives Vernon Smith, Austin, Errington and Moed.

Every email and phone call helps!

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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