Indiana lawmakers plan to move quickly to pass a new law designed to shield teachers from some of the sting of lower test scores, House Speaker Brian Bosma said today.
Pausing the A to F school letter grade system, however, is not something the state’s Republican leadership is considering, he said
Schools across the state this year have been bracing for lower ISTEP scores due to tougher standards that have made the test harder to pass.
But Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said teachers shouldn’t have to personally pay the price for those higher standards by seeing their evaluations suffer and their bonus pay compromised.
“At the very start of the session, we will expedite a decoupling of the teacher evaluation system from the accountability grades,” Bosma said at an Indiana Chamber of Commerce event today.
His remarks came ahead of Tuesday’s Organization Day at the Statehouse, which is a one-day ceremonial start to the 2016 legislative session. Work on bills begins in January and wraps up in March.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and Bosma both said A-F grades for schools will continue.
“I believe the teachers should not be penalized for the drop in scores,” Long said. “I don’t think that means we completely abandon accountability and outcomes for these scores.”
The Republican plan to change the law comes as Democrats, including State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, have called for a “pause” in school grades. Ritz has lobbied hard for 2015 grades to be changed only if a school’s ratings go up or stay the same when compared to 2014.
Last week, Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, proposed a bill that would pause school accountability grades and “hold harmless” teachers’ evaluations that might suffer because of steep drops in students scores. He suggested the legislature pass it immediately on Organization Day, but Republican leaders didn’t embrace his ideas or his urgency.
The cutoff scores to pass ISTEP that were approved by the state board last month are projected to result in big drops in the number of students passing the exam. Passing rates are expected to sink an estimated 16 percentage points in English and 24 percentage points in math.
“We are not looking to dismantle the A-F system,” Bosma said. “Clearly there is attention that needs to be paid to it. The drop in scores was not unanticipated. Every state that has gone through this higher standards (transition) has gone through something similar. So we’ll survive.”
Other education bills that might be coming up this session include a measure to help school districts hire and keep teachers in the classroom.
Bosma said House Bill 1002 would focus on recruiting the “best and brightest young people to the education profession.”
“There is shortage of teachers in the classroom, like there are in 40 other states,” Bosma said, noting he plans to release details of the recruitment bill tomorrow.
School districts across the state have said they’re having difficulty recruiting teachers qualified to lead special education, math and science classes, according to previous Chalkbeat reports. There are enough licenced teachers in Indiana to fill open positions, but districts say the teachers looking for work don’t necessarily have the skills to fill available jobs.
“There’s no shortage of licensed teachers,” Bosma said. “There is a shortage of teachers in the classroom. We need to attract those best, brightest, and retain them in the classroom.”