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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