Indiana GOP holding off teacher pay action in 2020 session

In this April 29, 2019 file photo, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, left, shakes hands with Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, after signing the state's budget bill at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. The 2020 Indiana legislative session began Jan. 26.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders are backing a one-year delay in using the student results from the spring 2019 ILEARN exam so they don’t hurt teacher evaluations or school/district evaluations.

That comes after statewide language arts and math results showed about 48% off students in grades 3-8 met or exceeded proficiency standards in those subjects. Those are both more than 10 percentage points lower than the passing rates in 2018 under the now-discarded ISTEP exam.

“While ILEARN and the federal accountability ratings are important and we strive to exceed those expectations, often they feel like moving targets,” Northwestern Superintendent Kristen Bilkey said. “It seems that our legislature concurs that the validity of ILEARN is questionable with recent action to once again hold harmless our schools and educators. In addition, new legislation may remove test scores from teacher evaluations altogether.”

In a press release, Kokomo School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hauswald addressed the federal and state school accountability rating policy and its flaws.

“In an era of over-testing with a fixation on scores (one test) that correlate most closely with socio-economic status, our state and federal leaders cannot agree on what a school’s accountability system should be,” said Hauswald in the release. “Imagine a student receiving two grades for English. District and school officials will continue to remind our parents and guardians, who truly want to know how their student is performing, to ask the experts – their teachers.”

Teachers want to suspend the use of those student test results on teacher evaluations and in determining pay raises, saying the “high-stakes tests” don’t accurately demonstrate teacher performance.

“State and federal leaders should figure out a consistent, and valid, means of measuring individual student academic growth without comparing one student to another student … but before taking on this major task, state leaders need to first find a way to increase education funding to adequate levels,” Hauswald noted in the release.

“State legislators are spending less money per student today than a decade ago when adjusted for inflation,” he said.

Taylor School Corporation will be using the data from the first ILEARN to help make a plan of what to do next. According to Taylor School Corporation Superintendent Chris Smith, the corporation has collaborated with teachers in order figure out how to help students who are struggling, as well as those who are already proficient.

“We are taking that ILEARN data … and they’re going to break that down per child,” he said. “Then we’ve developed what you call data rooms, we have rooms that are just for teachers and administrators where they have a picture of every single kid on a 3-by-5 card and we look at the two lowest areas and we put a plan of action of how are we going to help these kids be more proficient.”

Smith also noted a new dashboard system has been purchased where the school can download all the ILEARN scores for their students and create graphs to break down the information in a plethora of ways to get the best examination of the data.

Bilky said Northwestern would continue to strive for excellence, noting the educators examine data from ILEARN and other sources.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, who has long supported the use of student scores for evaluating teachers, said recently lawmakers should take a “hard look” at ending that practice.

“Maybe that doesn’t make as much sense as it seemed to 20 years ago,” Bosma said.

“That one indicator is not a picture of everything we do … I’m proud to be an administrator in Indiana, I’m proud of our teachers at Taylor and my administration and we will continue to look at our data and do everything we can to help all kids,” Smith said

“I’m proud of all the county schools and Kokomo. Everybody’s working to get better. I can’t believe there’s a school system in the state of Indiana that’s not trying to do really well on that test.”

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