Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #237 – November 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

Legislators came to the Statehouse last Tuesday (Nov. 17) for Organization Day.

The Speaker of the Republican House and the President Pro Tem of the Republican Senate who hold all the supermajority power talked about helping teachers and schools.

They left the Statehouse without doing so.

Continued uncertainty hangs over the dual crisis related to ISTEP+ tests:

1) Will teachers be punished in their performance bonuses for the lower scores of the transition to new ISTEP+ tests?

2) Will schools be punished in their school letter grades for the lower scores of the transition to new ISTEP+ tests?

The amazing contrast between how well Indiana students achieved in 2015 according to the National Assessment and how low Indiana students scored on the new, more difficult ISTEP+ test was clearly documented in my previous “Notes #236”. According to the National Assessment, known as “the nation’s report card”, Indiana students have never achieved better. Clearly students, teachers and schools are performing well. They do not deserve to be punished for the transition to new ISTEP+ tests which have produced such low pass rates that the uninformed might claim that Indiana students have never performed worse.

With NAEP as the best yard stick in the nation, it is clear that Indiana’s recalibration of the new ISTEP+ test should not negatively impact either teachers or schools. Without legislative action, however, the new test will negatively impact both.

Fewer teachers will get bonuses.

More schools will get D’s and F’s.

There was no legislative action to ease this crisis last Tuesday. While promises for action in January were made by the leaders of the Republican supermajority, the dual crisis remains, an apparent unwanted holiday burden given to the teachers and schools of Indiana by the Indiana General Assembly.

The Impact on Teacher Evaluations and Teacher Performance Bonuses

Senator Mark Stoops, a Democrat, pushed a plan before Organization Day to take action to beat what he said was a December 5th deadline so that teacher performance bonuses are not reduced because of the test transition.

Speaker Bosma instead will wait until January. As quoted in the Indianapolis Star (Nov. 18th), he said, “The House will take up decoupling ISTEP from teacher raises for a year as its first order of business when lawmakers return in 2016.”

Apparently, when Governor Pence said on October 27th that he was asking legislative leaders to fix the problem of teacher bonuses, Speaker Bosma decided that this issue was not a high enough priority for Organization Day action.

If Senator Stoops was correct about the December 5th deadline, questions abound:
  • Will bonuses be figured and distributed based on the current law and the low test scores by December 5th?
  • Then will they have to be refigured and redistributed based on the “January fix” that Speaker Bosma has promised?
Once again, an effort to help teachers was given no priority, and teachers were told to wait.

The Impact on School Letter Grades

Senator Lanane, the Senate Minority Leader, in his remarks on last Tuesday said that he was hoping Senator Stoops’ “hold harmless” proposal on school letter grades would be approved that day. He described it as a proposal whereby each school would keep the grade they received last year in this transition year except in cases where the new scores actually raised the grade.

Senator Long, leader of the Republican Senate, however, claimed “we have limitations on what we can do on A-F” because the “federal government has thrown handcuffs on us on this.” He has apparently ignored the fact that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan months ago gave the green light to a transition year for accountability when it became obvious that new testing programs would require such a move across the nation.

Speaker Bosma gave a lower priority to a fix for school letter grades. After promising a fix to teacher bonuses as the first order of business in January, he said that “potential revisions to school A-F accountability grades because of an anticipated drop in ISTEP scores will take more time to weigh,” as quoted in the Indianapolis Star (Nov. 18th).

Punishing schools for letter grades based on the lower passing rates of this unprecedented transition to a new test would be a travesty of justice, for three reasons:
1) The school letter grade formula to be used again this year is the same flawed formula pushed in place by Dr. Bennett in 2012 and voided by a displeased General Assembly in a law passed in April 2013. Despite the words of the 2013 law and the consensus that the current A-F system is deeply flawed, it is still in use for this one more round of school letter grades. That is just wrong.

One reason it was considered flawed was that it relied almost completely on the percent passing the test and gave only minor attention to year-to-year student growth. With the percentage passing falling precipitously this year as expected due to higher standards and a more difficult test, school letter grades are sure to drop as well, an artificial drop due to the reset of the test.
2) The Sheldrake-Grew report in 2013 reviewed Dr. Bennett’s actions on the A-F system and wrote on page 19: “For the 2012-13 school year and subsequent years until the new accountability system required by HEA 1427-2013 is implemented, state policymakers should consider not subjecting a school to state interventions described in IC 20-31-9-4 due to a sixth consecutive year of placement in the lowest category or designation of school performance. (p. 19)”

No school should be moved further on the state takeover list based on letter grades from this transition year. This is a second reason to hold schools harmless due to the reset of the test.
3) ISTEP+ pass rates have plummeted this year due to the more difficult tests despite the fact that NAEP tests have shown Indiana students to be performing better than ever. No independent observer would agree that it would be fair to apply the old A-F system under these unprecedented pass rate drops.
That’s three strikes against using this year’s ISTEP+ scores to give letter grades for schools.

Schools should not be punished for school letter grades this year. The General Assembly has made filing a lawsuit over such in injustice to schools very difficult. We are left with the need to persuade Governor Pence and all legislators that schools should not be punished just because the state wanted to reset to a much more difficult test.

Governor Pence visited Longfellow Elementary in Muncie on the same day as Organizational Day and was reported in the Star on Nov. 19th to have told teachers “not to take this year’s low ISTEP scores personally.” His press secretary later clarified his comment by saying: “The Governor was explaining to a dedicated third-grade teacher that we are in a transition year and that the decline in scores was fully anticipated.”

Third grade scores dropped from 80% to 61% passing math and from 83% to 71% passing English.

It is amazing that the Governor would acknowledge this transition year to teachers in this way without telling them that he will take strong action to press the General Assembly and the Governor’s members of the State Board of Education to make sure that the low ISTEP scores do not personally impact teachers or schools regarding performance bonuses or school letter grades. He should use his powers to protect teachers and schools during this crisis that he “fully anticipated.”

I urge you to share these points with your legislators or with all legislators at your earliest opportunity.

Thank you for your advocacy for public education!


Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!

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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE and was present on Organizational Day. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on as we prepare for the short session beginning in January. We welcome 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, November 12, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #236 – November 12, 2015

Dear Friends,

This is a crucial moment in the history of education in Indiana. Three developments are colliding:

1) The 2015 National Assessment scores recently announced have shown that Indiana schools have never performed better.
2) The new, more difficult ISTEP+ tests have produced some of the lowest pass rates ever seen since annual comparisons began in 1997.
3) Governor Pence faces a crucial decision about whether to punish Indiana schools with low letter grades due to the drop in pass rates during this transition to a more rigorous test.
Three historic story lines have converged to put Governor Pence’s education policies and the future of our teachers and schools in crisis mode. Here are details about each story.

Story #1: Student achievement has reached historically high levels in 2015.
  • According to the National Assessment of Educational Progressive, known as “the nation’s report card”, Indiana 4th and 8th graders have scored higher than ever in reading. The federal NAEP testing program first reported Indiana scores in 1992, and the 2015 results for Indiana are the best ever.
  • In 2015, 75% of Indiana 4th graders passed the basic standard in reading, compared to 68% in the US as a whole. On the proficient standard, 40% passed compared to a US mark of 35%. In 8th grade, 80% passed the basic standard compared to 75% nationally, and 37% passed the proficient standard compared to the national mark of 33%.
  • In math, the 2015 results for Indiana nearly matched the historically high marks set in 2013, and actually surpassed previous results on the proficient standard. On the basic standard, 89% of Indiana’s 4th graders passed compared to 81% in the US, and 50% passed the proficient standard compared to 39% nationally. In 8th grade, 77% passed the basic standard compared to the US mark of 70%, and 39% passed the proficient standard compared to 32%.
  • These high marks have improved Indiana’s ranking among states to historic highs: 10th in 4th grade reading (up from 15th) and 16th in 8th grade reading (up from 27th). In math, 4th graders remain 4th in the nation and 8th graders are now 11th (up from 19th).
  • The complete table showing all of Indiana’s NAEP results since 1990 can be seen in Table 6 in the attachment. It is worth a look and a moment of celebration for great work by our students and educators!
Story #2: The new ISTEP+ scores for 2014-15 show historically low passing rates due to the new cut scores just adopted for the more difficult ISTEP+ tests. Ironically, these historically low results come in the same month as the historically high results on the national NAEP exam.
  • In English, pass rates approved by the State Board on October 28th plunged by an average of 15% for grade 3-8 from the previous year (2013-14) in a year that NAEP declared to be a superb year of achievement in Indiana.
  • In math, pass rates dropped even more, by an average of 23% in grades 3-8 from the previous year.
  • The State Board approved adjusting cut scores to compensate for those taking ISTEP+ online, which has been found to be more difficult than paper and pencil tests. These adjustments will bring pass rates up a bit, but the historic drop in pass rates remains clear.
  • To get the full impact of the enormous and historic drop in pass rates in this transition, take a moment to examine the pass rates for each grade level in Tables 7 and 8 in the attachment, which show complete ISTEP results for each grade level going back to the first year, 1997. After reviewing these data, it is absolutely clear that this transition is unlike any year Indiana students and schools have ever experienced in this era of testing.
  • The new ISTEP+ results must be treated as a new baseline and must not be compared to the previous year. Comparisons to the previous year are simply not fair. Since A-F grades include comparisons to the previous year, they would not be fair. Educators must make every effort to help the public and to help politicians understand this concept.
Story #3: With record setting high achievement on NAEP proving to all observers that the dip in ISTEP+ pass rates is due to a tougher new ISTEP+ test and not due to poor teaching or poor performance, Governor Pence has been put on the spot to reverse his opposition to a transition year “hold harmless” plan which would prevent penalties to teachers or to schools due to higher expectations and low pass rates.
  • Under pressure to prevent these low pass rates from harming teachers, Governor Pence announced with great fanfare a letter on October 27th sent to the State Board of Education saying that at his request “legislation is being crafted to ensure that test results will not negatively impact teacher evaluations or performance bonuses this year.”
  • His letter did not directly say that school letter grades would be protected in the same way. The Indianapolis Star reported on November 12th (page 3A): “The Republican governor also said this week his administration is exploring ways A-F accountability grades could be modified because of the scores.”
  • Legislative leaders did not leap to quickly endorse the Governor’s plan for legislation. Indeed, some voucher-supporting legislative leaders wouldn’t mind seeing more schools get F’s because more students would then be eligible for private school vouchers in those F school attendance areas.
  • Representative Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, said in the same November 12th article in the Star regarding the A-F system: “It would be my personal opinion that we don’t totally suspend it, but maybe we have a position of where we minimize the amount of fall (a school) could have if they had a fall.”
  • State Superintendent Ritz has called for a “hold harmless” policy for over a year, but the Governor’s State Board of Education members control the policies. At one State Board meeting earlier this year, the Governor’s members curtly voted to take the subject off the agenda as the meeting opened to eliminate even a discussion of the problem.
  • Months ago, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that a one year pause in accountability due to the increase rigor of tests would be understandable to federal officials.
  • Dr. Gregory Cizek, a testing expert from North Caroline brought in by Representative Behning and Senator Kruse to the Interim Study Committee on Education on September 29, 2015 recommended that new tests should not used for accountability purposes for three years.
These three stories provide the context for three questions to be answered soon:

1) Will the General Assembly take action to protect teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses from the lower ISTEP+ passing scores, as the Governor has requested?
  • Action could be taken as early as Organization Day on November 17th as recommended in a proposal by State Senator Mark Stoops, described in the November 12th Star article. He states that the “law requires the state to send performance pay to school districts before December 5.”
  • Representative Behning, according to the same November 12th article, “plans to introduce a proposal that he feels is consistent with what Pence has outlined—but to expect it when the legislature returns in January.”
2) Will the General Assembly take action on Organization Day or in January to protect schools from sharply lower school letter grades based on the lower ISTEP+ passing scores, as the Governor has hinted but not directly requested?
  • Many do not realize that the school letter grade formula to be used again this year is the same flawed formula pushed in place by Dr. Bennett in 2012 and theoretically voided by a displeased General Assembly in 2013.
  • Despite the 2013 law and the consensus that the current A-F system is deeply flawed, it is still in use for this one more round of school letter grades.
  • One reason it was considered flawed was that it relied almost completely on the percent passing the test and gave only minor attention to year-to-year student growth. With the percentage passing falling precipitously this year as expected due to higher standards and a more difficult test, school letter grades are sure to drop as well, an artificial drop due to the reset of the test.
3) Will the Governor change his mind and finally agree with State Superintendent Ritz that this year should be treated as a transition year in testing with no negative consequences either for teachers or for schools?
  • For Statehouse posturing, there is no doubt that Governor Pence does not want to appear to be changing his mind to agree with State Superintendent Ritz on this.
  • His October 27th statement has already shown that he has changed his mind enough to agree with her regarding protecting teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses. He apparently did not want individual teachers to blame him for their failure to get a bonus.
  • If he doesn’t extend the same protection to school letter grades, he will be blamed for the low grades given to many schools and for helping private schools get more voucher students due to many schools receiving F’s for the first time. Under the voucher law, all students living in the attendance area of an F school, including those already enrolled in private schools, become eligible for a free voucher to attend private schools.
  • If he does extend the same protection to school letter grades, he will be chided for waiting for a full year before seeing the light and agreeing with the State Superintendent.
The Governor has painted himself into a corner on school letter grades. Regardless of that and now that the huge drops in passing rates are clear, he should do the right thing and endorse a transition year plan which will not hurt schools with an artificially low letter grade in a year when the National Assessment has told us that Indiana students are achieving higher than they have ever achieved on the highly respected “nation’s report card.”

I urge all public school advocates to communicate with Governor Pence and with their legislators or with all legislators to say that transition year test scores should not penalize teachers in their performance bonuses and also should not penalize schools in their letter grades.

The status of both teachers and schools should be held harmless while new baseline test scores are reset.

Thank you for your advocacy for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on as we prepare for the short session beginning in January. We welcome 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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Monday, November 2, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #235 – November 2, 2015

Dear Friends,

Did the Indiana General Assembly really think it would be right for Grace College and Theological Seminary, a private religious college in northern Indiana, to intervene controversially in the public education climate of Monroe County, 150 miles away, against the wishes of the Bloomington-Ellettsville community?

On January 19, 2011, just twelve days after ICPE was born, Joel Hand gave testimony for the first time on behalf of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, opposing a bill to allow private colleges to authorize public charter schools.

He said that private colleges should not be authorizers of public charter schools because they are not accountable to public tax payers.He was joined by three other public school advocates including me in opposing this provision, but the General Assembly passed the bill anyway with the strong support of State Superintendent Tony Bennett.

Now four years later, the Seven Oaks charter school proposal that was turned down twice in 2014-15 by the Indiana Charter School Board could be given life by the privately appointed trustees of Grace College, of Winona Lake, Indiana, near Warsaw.

Should privately appointed trustees, living far away and not accountable in any way to public voters and taxpayers, have the power swoop in to commit public tax dollars to establish charter schools resisted by the local community and already turned down by the Indiana Charter School Board? I say no.

You can say no also in two ways:
1) Speak against the charter school proposal at the only public hearing on this charter school plan. It will be held on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 5:30 to 7:00pm at the Holiday Inn Express, 117 S. Franklin Rd., near 3rd Street and 37 on the west side of Bloomington.
2) Let your own Senators and Representatives know that this power obviously undermines local control and the wishes of the local community to point where this law should be changed and the power to shop failed charter school proposals to private colleges should be reined in.
Meanwhile, the private trustees of Grace College should withdraw this proposal so as not to prompt a legislative initiative to end authorizer shopping for failed charter school proposals.

Authorizer Shopping

This charter school was reviewed by the Indiana Charter School Board in the fall of 2014 and rejected by the board, a rare event. The proposal was resubmitted to the same body in the spring of 2015 but was withdrawn without a vote after the ICSB staff recommended that it be declined a second time.

Then the same proposal was shopped to other authorizers, and Grace College got involved. Grace College sponsors two other charter schools, one in Dugger new this year and one in Fort Wayne with a two year track record of F in 2013 and F in 2014. Grace College gets 3% of the tuition for authorizing a charter school. Thus, for example, if the state tuition for a charter school is $6000 per student, Grace College would get a cut of $180 per student.

Is Grace College doing this for the money or are they out to make a name for themselves, and I would say, muddy their name with public school advocates across Indiana?

Documentation

In the first attachment to “Notes #235”, you can read for yourself the numerous problems found by the Indiana Charter School Board staff in their recommendation saying this proposal should be declined by the ICSB in the spring of 2015.

In the second attachment, Steve Hinnefeld of Bloomington has documented that no significant changes were made in the proposal before shopping it to Grace College. Steve has carefully detailed in a blog dated October 27, 2015 the shortcomings of the charter proposal, providing an excellent summary that need not be repeated by me. If you are not familiar with Steve’s work, he does a masterful job of analyzing public education issues, and I highly recommend his blog, entitled School Matters.

Local Opposition

For two years in a row, the leaders of the Monroe County Community School Corporation and the Richland- Bean Blossom School Corporation in Ellettsville have opposed this ideologically driven school proposal linked to an out-of-state charter school network based at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Judy DeMuth, superintendent of the Monroe County Schools, has written a strong letter objecting not only to the charter school but to the frustrating fact that the same proposal was turned down twice after a thorough review by the Indiana Charter School Board but was then revived controversially by shopping the proposal to Grace College.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education – Monroe County has opposed this proposal for two years and is actively looking for public school advocates who will speak at the November 4th hearing. You can email them at icpe.mc@gmail.com for more information about speaking out against this proposal at the hearing.

If you don’t live close enough to get to Wednesday’s hearing, raise this issue with your own State Senator or your own member of the House of Representatives. This practice of authorizer shopping should stop.

If the Indiana Charter School Board rejects a proposal, it should not be shopped ad infinitum around the private colleges of Indiana. Ask the General Assembly to revisit and correct that part of the charter school law.

Private colleges should not have the power to commit public tax dollars to public charter schools without giving tax payers who want to hold the private officials accountable a recourse for their objections.

This practice muddles the lines between private and public authority and in this case between church and state, and it further fragments our local school communities and our society in general.

I hope you can attend the November 4th hearing or else communicate with your legislators about your opposition.

Thank you for your advocacy for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on as we prepare for the short session beginning in January. We welcome 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, October 14, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #233 – October 14, 2015

Dear Friends,

Despite the deep questions about too much testing raised by the General Assembly in the last session, the State Board of Education is poised to set new cut scores that will drive Hoosier schools to double down on the teaching and learning time needed to pass tougher math and English tests.

Expectations for Indiana students have been ratcheted upward, and lower rates of passing ISTEP+ are the result. Lower test scores will lower school letter grades and will impact teacher compensation linked to test scores.

At today’s meeting of the State Board of Education, recommendations for cut scores were presented but not passed pending additional information. The agenda materials presented to the board and to the public showed the impact of the proposed cut scores: Grade 3-8 pass rates would drop 12% to 18% in English/Language Arts from the previous year. In math the Grade 3-8 drops would range from 19% to 29%.

State Superintendent Ritz has called for a plan to prevent the change to more rigorous standards and tests from punishing our schools. Governor Pence and his appointees on the State Board have said no to her proposals to “pause” school letter grades during this transition. Public school advocates should look at the data and let our leaders know that raising standards should not be used as a tool to lower school letter grades and punish our schools or our teachers.

Consider the Data

In a memo attached to the State Board of Education agenda item on “ISTEP+ Standard Score Setting” available for all to see online, the pass rates (“Impact Data”) using the cut score final recommendations were listed as seen in the first column below. The second column shows pass rates from the previous year on the 2013-14 test, which are documented on pages 10-15 of the attached report entitled “A 25-Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools.”

................................Pass rates based on new.................Pass Rates 
........................recommended cut scores 2014-15......2013-14............Change

Grade 3 English/Language Arts..........71%........................83%....................-12%
Grade 4 English/Language Arts..........70%........................86%....................-16%
Grade 5 English/Language Arts..........63%........................81%....................-18%
Grade 6 English/Language Arts..........64%........................78%....................-14%
Grade 7 English/Language Arts..........63%........................77%....................-14%
Grade 8 English/Language Arts..........59%........................76%....................-17%

................  ............Grade 3 Math....................61%........................80%....................-19%
................  ............Grade 4 Math....................64%........................83%....................-19%
................  ............Grade 5 Math....................67%........................89%....................-22%
................  ............Grade 6 Math....................60%........................85%....................-25%
................  ............Grade 7 Math....................52%........................80%....................-28%
................  ............Grade 8 Math....................52%........................81%....................-29%

Important Questions Loom
  • Did anyone consider the fiscal cost of investing more time and effort in getting students above ever higher cut scores in English and math?
  • Will this redoubled effort in English and math continue the decline in time and attention paid to the arts, world languages, social studies and even science?
  • Do these proposed cut scores reflect accurate judgments about what students must know or has the cut score process failed to get it right?
  • Will lower pass rates punish schools and teachers through lower school grades and lower teacher compensation bonuses?
  • During this transition to higher standards and higher expectations, should schools and teachers be “held harmless” to avoid the negative consequences of sharply lower test scores on this new test?
  • Should adjustments be made since the 2014-15 test will only be used this one time to be followed in 2015-16 by a new test from Pearson?
Ever More Rigorous Tests: We’ve Seen it Before

Since the 1999 Accountability law was passed, more rigorous tests have been introduced with great fanfare two times, most recently in 2008-09 when the test was switched to spring. The 2008-09 change resulted in pass rates going down by an average of 5% per grade in Grades 3-8.

The figures released this morning which are seen above show a starkly greater impact than a 5% drop.

The average for Grades 3-8 in English/Language Arts is a 15% drop in the pass rate.

The average for Grades 3-8 in Math is a 23% drop in the pass rate.

I urge you to discuss these testing changes and these pass rates with your state legislators as well as your State Board of Education members.

Before they approve these cut scores, are they sure they have it right?

Are schools and teachers going to be punished as collateral damage to a policy effort to raise standards and tests in English and math to the most rigorous level we have ever seen in Indiana?

Do we need to step back and figure out a way to “hold harmless” the impact on schools and teachers in this huge change in testing?

Thanks for your advocacy for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in September and October. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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, October 7, 2015

Bus Trip to Downtown Chicago

The Fort Wayne Education Association is sponsoring a bus trip to Downtown Chicago on Dec. 5th. The bus will leave at 6 a.m. and return at 10 p.m. There are still seats available, but they must be reserved by October 23rd.

Please contact FWEA President Julie Dickey Hyndman if you are interested.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #27– October 6, 2015

Dear Friends,

This is the first “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” for 2015. Notes under this title contain my commentaries on election candidates and my personal candidate endorsements. There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
__________________________________________________________________

Public education advocates should know that John Gregg, candidate for Governor in 2016, has declared himself as a strong supporter of public education. In his 2012 race for Governor, his stance on public education seemed to be best characterized as non-involvement.

That has changed.

In the August 29th meeting of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, held in Indianapolis at the Dean Evans Center, John Gregg spoke clearly and directly about his support of public education. He did so in the presence of the State Superintendent Ritz, who was described as his “go to person” on education and who also spoke at the meeting.

After I heard him speak and then reflected on it, I decided that John Gregg deserves my full personal support for Governor in order to restore public education in Indiana to a high priority. I recommend that you read what he said and then make your choice as well.

[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

John Gregg’s Comments on Public Education
  • John Gregg began his comments at the meeting by saying that when he is elected Governor, “the war on public schools will end”. He said that many “wanted to blame everything on public schools.”
  • He said when he is elected, the war on the policies of the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz will be over.
  • He said during the eight budgets he worked on in the House of Representatives, there was more money for public schools every time.
  • He said he is “100% against vouchers.” He said when he was Speaker of the House, several voucher bills were filed and he assigned them to the Rules Committee, well known as the committee where bills die.
  • He said we would “stop expansion” of vouchers and that we should “audit the choice schools.” He said as Governor he would oppose any expansion of vouchers with a veto if necessary.
  • He said we should separate voucher expenses as an independent line item in the budget.
  • He said we should limit the income base for choice scholarships.
  • He said that we should reform the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit scholarships. While we should eliminate the tax credit program “altogether”, it will take several “steps along the way” to accomplish that.
  • He said public schools are a source of “community pride.” He said that closing the public school “killed my home town.” He said he “hates to see what we’ve done” to our public schools.
  • He said we should “expand civics and government” in our schools. He said Indiana was “dead last in voter participation” last year.
  • He said we should “remove unnecessary testing.”
  • He said he would follow the lead of State Superintendent Ritz on education policies such as parental opt out policies.
  • He said he would ask for the resignation of all State Board of Education members appointed by the Governor to make sure we have a board willing to work with State Superintendent Ritz.

The Choice in 2016

These are unusual times. It appears that even before the November 2015 municipal elections, the candidates for Governor in November 2016 are clear. The incumbent Mike Pence will face the challenger John Gregg.

The choice for public education advocates is clear. Governor Mike Pence has favored policies sending ever increasing amounts of public tax dollars to private and religious schools through the voucher program. Candidate John Gregg supports public education and opposes vouchers.

As Governor, Mike Pence worked hard to pass a huge expansion to Governor Daniels’ voucher program in 2013, and then followed that up with pushing for more dollars going to private school vouchers in the 2015 budget. He is dedicated to giving more and more public money to private schools.

Governor Pence’s 2013 voucher expansion meant that many students no longer had to attend a public school first to get a voucher as Governor Daniels wanted. Governor Daniels gave a speech at Harvard after the 2011 voucher plan was passed saying that Indiana did it right by having families try public schools first. Then if they didn’t like their school, they could transfer with a voucher to a private school.

His plan saved the state money because vouchers were nearly all going to students transferring from public schools to cheaper private schools. This money saving feature helped sell the program to legislators in the original voucher battle in 2011.

Governor Pence threw Governor Daniels’ money-saving voucher plan under the bus in 2013.

With Governor Pence’s 2013 expansion, several pathways allowed students who had never attended a public school to get a voucher to pay for their private school. In other words, vouchers were no longer about funding a new choice.

Governor Pence arranged for taxpayers to start paying for religious school tuition for families that had already made the choice to go to private schools from the start. Each such student meant the state had to pay for the voucher as a new fiscal cost, approximately $5000 per voucher. IDOE fiscal analysts reported that the net fiscal cost to the taxpayers in 2014-15 was an astounding $40 million, up from $15 million in 2013-14, in the Choice Scholarship Annual Program Report, dated June, 2015.

If Mike Pence had campaigned in 2012 on a platform saying, “I’m going to get $40 million from the General Assembly to pay for the private and religious school tuition of 8379 current private and religious school students who have never tried a public school, but I’m only going to ask for $10 million for preschool and $0 for statewide teacher professional development”, I doubt if he would have been elected.

John Gregg has said he supports public education, as you have read above. He deserves the support of every public school advocate. He will need grassroots support from members of all parties who consider public education a high priority when they vote.

With the election over a year away and the stakes this high, it is time for public school advocates to go to work at the grassroots. Talk to friends and family about the clear difference in the two candidates on public school issues. Talk with them about the attacks on public schools and the need to stop them. Talk with them about the future of public schools in Indiana. It is time to go to work if a strong public education system is one of your priorities.

The stakes are high. We need a strong Governor who will reverse the low priority given to public education in recent years and stop the efforts to privatize our public schools.

Good luck in your work!

Thanks for advocating in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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, October 2, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #231 – October 1, 2015

Dear Friends,

Achieve President Michael Cohen played a nasty trick on the Indiana education system Tuesday and then left the state. He left behind a headline featured in a Fox 59 article entitled “Experts say Indiana students aren’t as smart as they’ve been led to believe,” which contained the following information:

“Recently Achieve looked at test results in all 50 states and compared them against the National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card.
In Indiana, experts found one of the largest gaps in the nation between what ISTEP deemed proficient compared to national standards.


“What I told legislators is they’re basically misleading students and parents about their performance,” Cohen said. “They’re telling them they’re proficient when in all likelihood they’re not very well prepared to learn the material at the next grade level, nor are they prepared for success in post-secondary education.”

These are tough charges by Dr. Cohen, but his bashing of Indiana education results, and presumably those of other states, is misleading and inappropriate. Here is what he left out of his remarks to the legislators:
  • He didn’t tell legislators that “Proficient” on the National Assessment is not the same thing as “Passing” on ISTEP. The numbers he cited for ISTEP are “Passing” percentages.
  • He didn’t tell legislators that a careful definition of “Passing” is developed by the committees that guide the Indiana cut scores, and it is not the same as the definition of “Proficient” developed by the NAEP governing board.
  • He didn’t tell legislators that National Assessment has another standard called “Basic” that better matches the “Passing” definition and is more commonly used to describe how a state is doing.
  • He didn’t tell legislators that Indiana scores on the National Assessment are above the US national average on both the “Proficient” standard and the “Basic” standard at both grade levels.
A truly fair and balanced table of results would look like this, in place of Dr. Cohen’s table above:


Clearly, the basic standard fits closer to the definition of passing ISTEP in Indiana.

Education expert Diane Ravitch, in article entitled “The Myth of Charter Schools”, has called this interpretation of NAEP data a “distortion”:

“I served as a member of the governing board for the national tests for seven years… The highest level of performance, “advanced,” is equivalent to an A+, representing the highest possible academic performance. The next level, “proficient,” is equivalent to an A or a very strong B. The next level is “basic,” which probably translates into a C grade.”

Dr. Cohen is not the first to attempt to elevate NAEP “Proficient” scores from their current “A/B” to a level that all students are expected to pass. Governor Daniels, in his 2011 State of the State address, in pushing his voucher proposal to give public money to private schools, said: “The brute facts persist: only one in three of our children can pass the national math or reading exam.” Without explaining, he was talking about the NAEP proficient scores, using them to demean our school progress in the historic 2011 debate to begin to privatize public education with vouchers.

Dr. Cohen cherry picked only part of the data, did not even mention the Basic standard, and failed to tell our legislators that Indiana NAEP scores are above the national average on both the Proficient and the Basic standard. He has tried to turn a positive story of Indiana’s strong and improving performance on NAEP since 1990 into a negative. While he accuses Indiana educators of misleading students and parents, his omission of the context of NAEP is misleading our legislators and our state leaders.

Of course, everyone is trying to raise Indiana’s standards and improve our performance. That is happening in a steady manner, as documented in the attached report. Debates over our progress should include the full context of the data.

The entire record of Indiana’s performance and improvement on the National Assessment since 1990 can be seen on Table 6 (p. 8) of the attached report about improvement in Indiana schools. ISTEP data is detailed in Tables 7 and 8.

Thanks for your advocacy for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in September and October. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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, September 30, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #230 – September 30, 2015

Dear Friends,

All public school advocates in Northeastern Indiana are invited to hear a presentation by State Superintendent Glenda Ritz followed by a panel discussion of leading educators this Saturday (Oct. 3) at 2pm in Fort Wayne.

The panel will discuss solving the teacher shortage. We are delighted that Superintendent Ritz will be available to discuss the commission she has formed to investigate this topic and to brief the group on other current issues in Indiana schools.

We hope you and your friends who support public education will come!

This regional ICPE meeting co-sponsored by the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education will be on Saturday, October 3, 2015, at 2 pm (EDT) in the Ivy Tech Coliseum Campus Auditorium, 3800 N. Anthony Blvd., Fort Wayne.


Speakers

After the presentation by State Superintendent Ritz, a panel of experts will discuss the teacher shortage:
  • Rep. Melanie Wright, Yorktown (Sen. Kruse and Rep. GiaQuinta were invited but were unable to accept)
  • Kathy Carr, Director of Human Resources, Fort Wayne Community Schools
  • Karin Huttsell, Teacher, Northwest Allen and Blue Ribbon panel member on the teacher shortage
  • Dr. Joe Nichols, Professor, IPFW
Jenny Sanders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education will moderate the panel. Marilyn Shank, board vice president of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, will serve as chair of the meeting.

We thank State Superintendent Ritz and all the panel members for accepting our invitation to Saturday’s meeting.

I hope you can support public education in Indiana by coming to our Fort Wayne meeting. Bring a friend who is also ready to join the battle to restore public education to a high priority in Indiana!

If you can’t come to Fort Wayne, please consider coming to one of three subsequent meetings around Indiana:

October 13, 7pm (EDT), Bloomington City Hall

October 20, 6:30 (CDT), Evansville Central Library

October 21, 7pm (EDT), New Albany Schools Service Center Auditorium


Thanks for your advocacy for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in September and October. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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.

###

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #226 – September 3, 2015

From Vic Smith...for anyone who might be planning to be near Merrillville on September 10, 2015. ICPE is planning a meeting in Fort Wayne on October 3. Click here for more information.

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Dear Friends,

After an excellent meeting last Saturday in Indianapolis, the second Indiana Coalition for Public Education meeting will be held in Merrillville on Thursday, September 10th. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has told us she will be there, and a panel of area legislators will also be there.

We hope you and your friends who would like to restore public education to a high priority will be there as well!

The meeting will be on Thursday, September 10, 2015, at 6:30 pm CDT in the Merrillville High School Auditorium, Entrance M, 276 E. 68th Place, Merrillville.


Speakers

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz confirmed her appearance on September 10th in Merrillville while addressing the meeting last Saturday. In addition, a panel of four area legislators will be speaking:
  • Sen. Rick Niemeyer – R, District 6
  • Sen. Earlene Rogers – D, District 3
  • Rep. Harold Slager – R, District 15
  • Rep. Vernon Smith – D, District 14
Six Questions about the Future of Public Education in Indiana

The future of public education is now in play in every session of the General Assembly and in every election. The discussion on September 10th will focus on six questions that we have asked our speakers to address:

1. What do you see coming up in the 2016 legislative session that might help or hurt public schools? What priority do you place on providing public funding to private schools?

2. What is your position on expanding or curtailing the choice scholarship voucher program, now using public money to pay for 29,000 private school vouchers?

3. What is your position on the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit program? There have been bills to automatically give higher state funding to SGO tax credits if donation levels reach certain goals. Are we going to continue to see this concept come up in future sessions?

4. What role do you see for public schools in holding communities together and supporting the civic participation of young citizens in our democracy? How is that role changing as our public school system in Indiana is increasingly privatized?

5. Are we likely to see new legislation to change the role of high stakes testing or reduce the amount of testing? Do we need legislative action to allow parents to opting out of testing without penalizing students or their schools?

6. How do you as legislators react to the current duplication of services between the State Board of Education staff and the Indiana Department of Education staff?

We are pleased that State Superintendent Ritz and the four area legislators have responded to our invitation.

Please come on September 10th and get involved in ICPE’s efforts to support public education.

I hope you can support public education in Indiana by coming to our ICPE meeting on September 10th.

A flyer about the September 10th program is attached for you to share with others who support public education and might come to this meeting.

If you can’t come on that date, please consider coming to one of the subsequent meetings in five other cities around Indiana. The next is on Thursday, September 17th at West Lafayette High School at 7:00 pm EDT.

Thanks for your advocacy for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in August and September. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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.

###

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #224 – August 26, 2015

Dear Friends,

Glenda Ritz has accepted our invitation to speak at our first ICPE membership meeting on August 29th at 2pm.

It will be held in the Washington Township Community and Education Center at the corner of 86th Street and Woodfield Crossing in Indianapolis.

Can you join us to hear the latest update by Glenda Ritz on education issues in Indiana after an eventful summer?

Can you join us to hear the newest data on improvement in Indiana’s public schools as I unveil the new edition of “A 25 Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools“?

I hope to see you on Saturday.

The Changing Landscape in the Race for Governor


Based on the crucial power of the Governor to lift or degrade public education in Indiana, the ICPE board instituted a plan to invite all candidates for Governor to discuss the future of public education in a series of seven meetings this fall. On July 20th, letters were mailed to all four candidates: Mike Pence, John Gregg, Glenda Ritz and Karen Tallian.

Much has happened since.

On August 7th, Glenda Ritz announced she is leaving the race for Governor and instead will run for reelection as State Superintendent. A few days later she endorsed John Gregg.

On August 17th, Karen Tallian announced she is leaving the race for Governor and endorsed John Gregg.

Mike Pence has not responded to our invitation.

John Gregg has said in a television interview that he and Glenda Ritz are running as a team and that she will be his “point person” on education policy. At our meeting on Saturday, Glenda Ritz presumably will be able to comment for herself and for John Gregg on our six questions regarding the future of public education:

1. As Governor, what priority would you give to public education in Indiana and what priority would you give to providing public funding to private schools?

2. As Governor, would you work to expand or to curtail the choice scholarship voucher program, now using public money to pay for 29,000 private school vouchers? What steps would you take to expand or reduce the program?

3. As Governor, would you work to expand or to reduce the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit program? Would you support or oppose an escalator clause giving higher state funding to SGO tax credits automatically if donation levels reach certain goals?

4. What role do you see for public schools in holding communities together and supporting the civic participation of young citizens in our democracy? How is that role changing as our public school system in Indiana is increasingly privatized?

5. How would you change the role of high stakes testing in Indiana to allow for more instructional time and to promote attention to subjects other than the tested subjects of language arts and math? What is your position on parents opting out of testing?

6. How would you address the current duplication of services between the State Board of Education staff and the Indiana Department of Education staff?

Join us on August 29th and get involved in the battle to save and restore public education.

“A 25-Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools” – The New Report

Did you know that the graduation rate for the public schools of the state of Indiana leaped up to 89.8% for the Class of 2014, the most recent year reported?

That is up 1.5% above the Class of 2013.

That is only a fraction shy of the 90% goal that has been talked about for years.

That is nearly 14% higher than the 2006 figure using the new four years or less methodology when the first result was 76.1%.

That is way above the figure frequently shown this summer in advertisements for WFYI Channel 20’s American Graduate Project which claimed Indiana’s graduation rate to be 76% and listed all the benefits that would happen if we could lift our graduation rate to 90%.

Someone should tell Channel 20 the news is better than they think.

Through all the controversies and all the efforts to diminish the work of public school educators, the public schools of Indiana have continued to steadily and methodically improve over the past 25 years. The evidence is clear.

This and other points of improvement are found in the latest edition of my annual report entitled “A 25 Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools” which will be unveiled at the August 29th ICPE membership meeting at the Dean Evans Center.

This report as well as information about the important report critical of Indiana’s voucher program released by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability last April will follow the presentation by Glenda Ritz.

Saving public education and restoring it to a high priority will take all of us who are dedicated to the mission of an excellent public education available to all students.

I hope you will join us on Saturday, August 29th at 2pm at the Dean Evans Center. If you can’t come Saturday, please consider coming to one of the subsequent meetings in six other cities around Indiana.

Thanks for your advocacy for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in August and September. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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.

###

Friday, August 7, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #223 – August 6, 2015

Dear Friends,

We have learned definitively in the past four years that whoever holds the office of Governor – not the State Superintendent but the Governor -- carries the most weight in deciding whether Indiana’s public schools get support and funding and whether public education flourishes or recedes in Indiana.

Four candidates have declared that they want to run for Governor in 2016. The campaign is on.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education has invited all four candidates in a letter mailed on July 20th to discuss six questions about public education with ICPE members and prospective members at a series of seven ICPE membership meetings throughout Indiana.

Please check out the list of meetings below and plan to come to one or more. Bring along a friend who supports public education! Membership meetings are open to all ICPE members and those who are considering membership.

Seven ICPE Meetings


All who support public education are welcome to come to one or more of the fall meetings:

Saturday, August 29 – Indianapolis Dean Evans Center, 8550 Woodfield Crossing Blvd., 2 pm (E.D.T.)

Thursday, September 10 – Lowell Lowell High School Auditorium, 2051 East Commercial Ave., 6:30 pm (C.D.T .)

Thursday, September 17 – West Lafayette West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School Auditorium, 1105 N. Grant Street, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Saturday, October 3 – Fort Wayne Ivy Tech Coliseum Campus Auditorium, 3800 N. Anthony Blvd., 2 pm (E.D.T.)

Tuesday, October 13 –Bloomington City Hall, 401 North Morton, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Tuesday, October 20 – Evansville Central Library, 200 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., 6:30 (C.D.T.)

Wednesday, October 21 – New Albany Location TBA, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Please note the northwest Indiana meeting (Sept. 10th) and the southwest Indiana meeting (Oct. 20) are on Central time.

Six Questions

You are probably familiar with the four declared gubernatorial candidates, listed alphabetically:
  • John Gregg
  • Mike Pence
  • Glenda Ritz
  • Karen Tallian
Since ICPE is a bipartisan nonprofit advocacy group in support of public education, all four candidates were invited in exactly the same way to speak or to send a spokesperson empowered to speak on their behalf to address six key questions:

1. As Governor, what priority would you give to public education in Indiana and what priority would you give to providing public funding to private schools?

2. As Governor, would you work to expand or to curtail the choice scholarship voucher program, now using public money to pay for 29,000 private school vouchers? What steps would you take to expand or reduce the program?

3. As Governor, would you work to expand or to reduce the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit program? Would you support or oppose an escalator clause giving higher state funding to SGO tax credits automatically if donation levels reach certain goals?

4. What role do you see for public schools in holding communities together and supporting the civic participation of young citizens in our democracy? How is that role changing as our public school system in Indiana is increasingly privatized?

5. How would you change the role of high stakes testing in Indiana to allow for more instructional time and to promote attention to subjects other than the tested subjects of language arts and math? What is your position on parents opting out of testing?

6. How would you address the current duplication of services between the State Board of Education staff and the Indiana Department of Education staff?

To date, we have not had a response from any of the four candidates, but we are confident that at least some of the candidates will want to address Indiana citizens who support public education in these fall ICPE meetings.

We will keep you updated on how the candidates respond. If you know the candidates, let them know you are eager to have them participate in these meetings.

Meanwhile, mark your calendars and make plans to attend one or more of the fall meetings.

Thanks for your advocacy for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in August and September. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #222 – May 12, 2015

Dear Friends,

The step-by-step dismantling of public education in Indiana continued in the 2015 session. The passage of Senate Bill 1 on the final day of the legislative session marked a significant upheaval in the tectonic plates undergirding the once-sturdy foundation of public education in Indiana.

Under Senate Bill 1, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, elected by the public, will lose the power of chairing the State Board of Education, a power held by the State Superintendent since 1913, over a hundred years.

After December 31, 2016, the chair will be elected by the appointed members of the board, not the voters. Since no qualifications for the new chair were set by Senate Bill 1, the General Assembly has opened the door to have a non-educator chair the State Board of Education for the first time.

No effort was made in the bill to protect the importance of public education experience in chairing the State Board.

Milton Friedman, the inventor of private school vouchers, in a speech to state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006 answered his own question of "How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?" by saying "the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it." Demoting and marginalizing the State Superintendent of Public Instruction appears to be a step along the path endorsed by Dr. Friedman.


Governors and State Superintendents: Who Controls Education Policy?

There was a time in my career when every Governor did not want to be the "education Governor." I began teaching in the era of Governor Whitcomb who left education policy to the State Superintendent and the State Board. Governor Bowen, after engineering the landmark collective bargaining law of 1973, essentially did the same thing.

In the 1980's, when the history of unending education reform began, Governor Orr ran on a platform of assisting with the early grades, and his interest resulted in major funding for Project Primetime, a popular and effective program to lower the class sizes in Grades K-3. He followed that initiative with the A+ reforms of 1987 which brought us the ISTEP tests. Governor Orr resisted President Reagan’s call for private school vouchers and consistently supported public education, but with his actions, gubernatorial involvement in Indiana education policy was firmly established.

Every Governor since has been deeply involved in education policy, but no Governor has sought to take over the duties of the State Superintendent until Governor Pence took office. In 2013, even before State Superintendent Ritz was inaugurated on January 19th, House Bill 1309 was introduced in the General Assembly on January 14, 2013 requiring the state board to elect a vice chairperson who “may call meetings; set and amend agendas; arrange for witnesses; and carry out any other administrative function as it relates to meetings of the state board.” The bill went nowhere, but the plan to diminish the previous powers of the State Superintendent was already in place as both Governor Pence and State Superintendent Ritz began their terms of office. Governor Pence has shown no willingness to work with the elected State Superintendent from the beginning.

Senate Bill 1: New Potential Sources of Confusion and Conflict

While the stated purpose of SB 1 was to resolve conflicts and bickering, the language of the bill appears to open a new arena for conflict. The supermajority decided it was too dangerous politically to change the powers of the State Superintendent in the middle of the term of office, so the removal of the State Superintendent as chair was delayed until the beginning of the next term of office, after December 31, 2016.

More immediately, however, under provisions of the new law, "a vice chairperson shall be elected at the first meeting of the state board after June 30, 2015" who "shall act as chairperson in the absence of the chairperson."

Here is the new problem: "The chairperson and the vice chairperson are jointly responsible for establishing agendas for state board meetings after receiving and considering recommended agenda items from the members of the state board." This last minute addition to the language of the bill leaves many questions:

1. Is the vice chairperson supposed to actually function as a co-chairperson?

2. If there is a disagreement about the agenda between the State Superintendent and the vice chairperson, does each have a veto over the final decision?

3. Why can’t the chair have the normal power of setting the agenda with the input of the board members, as it is now?

4. Did the General Assembly have to micromanage even the agenda powers of the State Superintendent?

It seems obvious that the seeds of further conflict have been sown by these words of the General Assembly.

Who Will Appoint State Board Members?

The reason Senate Bill 1 took until the last day was a disagreement between the Senate and the Governor over appointments to the State Board. The original House Bill 1609 left all 10 appointments to the Governor, as it has been since 1984, when the reform creating the State Board of Education was passed under Governor Orr. Senate Bill 1 reduced the total size of the board to nine, with four appointments by the Governor, two by the Speaker of the House and two by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. The State Superintendent was to serve as the ninth member.

House Bill 1609 never got a hearing and died in the Senate. Senate Bill 1 was amended by the House and passed in the final meeting of the House Education Committee. The House version called for a 13 member board, with the Governor appointing ten, the Speaker one and the President Pro Tem one, with the State Superintendent serving as the 13th member.

Senator Holdman, the bill’s sponsor, dissented on the House changes and took the bill to Conference Committee. The Conference Committee did not meet until April 27th, only two days before the session ended. The proposed Conference Committee report sliced the State Board back down to nine members and delayed the removal of the State Superintendent until after the next election.

The bill remained in flux until the final day, April 29th. The final deal was to leave the number at eleven, the number on the State Board now, with the Governor getting eight appointments, the Speaker one, and the President Pro Tem one. No doubt the Governor was not pleased about losing two appointments to the legislative branch, but that is how it came out.

Senate Bill 1: Partisan Support and Bipartisan Opposition

Senate Bill 1 was passed by the supermajority Republican members, but some courageous members of the Republican caucus joined the Democrats in voting against the bill. Some Republicans were "taken to the woodshed" over their opposition to SB 1. It can be damaging to a political career to vote contrary to the wishes of the caucus leadership.

Public school advocates should thank the members of the Republican caucus and the Democrats who opposed Senate Bill 1 in the House and in the Senate.

They were standing up for the power of voters. In the 2012 election, voters had the power to choose the chair of the State Board, but in 2016, the voters will lose that power. As few as six appointed members of the State Board will gain the power to elect the chair of the State Board.

In the House of Representatives, this bill was opposed by ten Republicans and all Democrats in the final day 60-38 vote. Those voting no included Republican Representatives Arnold, Beumer, Braun, Dermody, Harman, Judy, Koch, Mahan, Nisly and Truitt and Democrat Representatives Austin, Bartlett, Bauer, C. Brown, DeLaney, Dvorak, Errington, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Goodin, Hale, Kersey, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Niezgodski, Pelath, Pierce, Porter, Pryor, Riecken, Shackleford, V. Smith, Stemler, Summers and Wright.

In the Senate, the final day 31-17 roll call showed nine Republican Senators and all eight Democrats who voted opposing the bill. Those voting no included Republican Senators Alting, Becker, Delph, Ford, Glick, Head, Leising, Messmer, and Tomes and Democrat Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Lanane, Randolph, Rogers, Stoops and Tallian.

As the 2015 session of the General Assembly ends, the foundations of public education in Indiana are showing new cracks and the voters have lost an important power.

Many have called Senate Bill 1 a power grab. This has two meanings. One is that the Governor has grabbed power from the State Superintendent. In broader terms regarding our democracy, it also means that government appointees have grabbed power from the voters. Will the voters notice and react?

Our democracy and the role of voters have been diminished by the legacy of Senate Bill 1.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education during the 2015 session of the General Assembly!

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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