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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