Jumping Ahead: Guv, Reed Move Annual ISTEP Test Back To The Spring

ApplephotoThoughts on this?

"Gov. Mitch Daniels said today that beginning in the 2008-09 school year, students will begin taking the ISTEP-plus test in the spring.

"Because of federal testing requirements, that year students will take tests both in the fall and the spring, with the fall test quizzing them on what they learned the previous year and the spring test quizzing them on what they learn in their current grade.

"In all future years, the test will only be administered in the spring.

"The announcement settles a long-standing political debate in Indiana over when to administer standardized testing.

"Originally, Indiana students had taken the test in the spring, but it was moved to the fall in the mid-1990s. Daniels, in his campaign for governor in 2004, had advocated moving the test back to the spring.

"'This achievement by the board of education will result in parents and educators having the information on children's progress before school ends, about seven months earlier than has been the pattern. This will be done at a savings to taxpayers and incidentally I believe will surely result in schools starting much closer to Labor Day, as it should,' Daniels said.

"The governor's office said the cost of the test, which now is $31 million annually, will drop to $29.5 million each year for two years and then to $28.5 million in the third and fourth years of the contract with CTB-McGraw Hill. The state is in the final stages of settling that two-year contract with the state, renewable for two additional two-year terms."

No Way To Go Through Life: Indiana, National SAT Scores Drop Again

Applephoto_2You've been a relatively quiet bunch today. Put your problem-solving caps on and tear into this:

"SAT scores for Indiana's high school class of 2007 dropped on all sections of the exam, marking the second straight year of lower scores and further eroding gains made over the past several years.

"Students in the class scored an average of 497 of a possible 800 points on the critical reading portion of the college entrance exam. That score is down from 498 for the class of 2006 -- the first to take a revamped SAT. Average math scores fell from 509 to 507, while average writing scores dropped from 486 to 483.

"A similar trend emerged nationwide as average math and reading SAT scores fell four points to their lowest mark since 1999. Still, the combined national score of 1,511 in reading, math and writing continued to top Indiana's average of 1,487.

"'The latest SAT scores are clearly disappointing, especially at a time when more Hoosier students are taking challenging high school courses and going on to college than ever before,' said Suellen Reed, the state's superintendent for public instruction. 'SAT scores may be trending downward nationwide but that does not make these results any less of a concern.'

"Indiana scores had been steadily increasing for several years until the class of 2006 took the redesigned and longer SAT, which included higher-level math questions and eliminated analogies."

Now, TDW has never been a huge fan of standardized tests, but these numbers aren't good. So, what's your take on how we improve the situation?

Public Instruction: Fort Wayne Writer Looks At Reed's Past And Future In Politics

Schoolhouse_2 The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Karen Francisco, always a thoughtful editorial writer, focuses on Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed in a profile and preview this morning. A very good read, and an interesting study in state politics:

"The superintendent’s greatest political strength might be found in her willingness to listen. Her visit last Tuesday was typical. At Bunche Early Childhood Center she moved from classroom to classroom, speaking quietly with the principal and teachers. There was no address or even informal remarks to the faculty – just quiet questions about the school’s Montessori curriculum and how the 5- and 6-year-olds fared in the full-day setting.

"It was the same at Northwood Middle School, where she visited with Todd Roberts, runner-up for state teacher of the year, and patiently listened to Principal Matt Schiebel’s concerns about testing ESL students.

"At her 'listening tour' at North Side High School, the superintendent made a brief presentation on legislative priorities, but quickly opened the floor to hear what northeast Indiana residents had to share with her. That trait of listening more than talking is one that few politicians have mastered.

"Schools chief

"Reed’s skills and experience put her in the company of just a handful of long-tenured national education leaders. That group includes Sandy Garrett, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction since 1991. Thought Garrett is a Democrat, Reed points to her as the schools chief with whom she is most 'in sync.' The two are close friends through the Council of Chief State School Officers.

"'We’ve been able to kind of lean on each other,' Garrett said in a phone interview last week. 'Indiana and Oklahoma have the two most similar education systems in the nation. Suellen and I are both elected and both are chairs of our boards.'

"Garrett said she and Reed have both had the challenge of balancing partisan interests, and in working for governors of different parties. Garrett worked eight years with former Republican Gov. Frank Keating, and now is working with a Democrat, Gov. Brad Henry. She has enjoyed great success in advancing early childhood education – leading Oklahoma to its status as leader in the nation for preschool programs. Seventy percent of the state’s four-year-olds are enrolled in public school programs.

"'I can tell you it was done – not without controversy – but sort of under the radar with a lot of other reforms we passed,' Garrett said. 'Just like Indiana, we are a conservative state.'

"She praises Reed’s ability to listen, as well.

"'She's a wonderful leader and is always anxious to get other ideas, and not reinvent the wheel,' Garrett said."

Revised Numbers: 25 Percent Of Hoosier Students Don't Graduate On Time

School1_1Finally, let's talk about this:

"The state's top education official unveiled a 75.5 percent graduation rate Monday to the politicians, educators and business officials who make up the Indiana Education Roundtable. The number was a significant drop from inflated figure from previous years, which hovered near 90 percent.

"Statewide, about 12 percent of the 77,558 students in last spring's graduating class dropped out of high school, according to the figures. Others who didn't graduate on time still were taking classes or finished high school through an alternative program such as the general educational development test, or GED.

"The problem is most severe for about 22 Indiana high schools in eight districts, where 60 percent or fewer students graduate on time, according to researchers who presented the adjusted graduation rates Monday. Those researchers, from a national academic standards watchdog called Achieve Inc., said about a third of the state's minority students are enrolled in poor-performing schools they referred to as 'dropout factories.'

"Achieve officials did not name individual schools in a presentation to roundtable members Monday but told them high schools need to do a better job preparing students for the real world -- and they need flexibility with budgets, calendars and staff to make it happen.

"'Take action now,' said Jennifer Vranek, a consultant who presented recommendations on behalf of Achieve. 'There are some things you can do, but doing it will require a big commitment.'

"High school dropouts are a drain on taxpayers and stymie efforts to modernize Indiana's economy, state officials say. A report by the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation in Indianapolis shows the 2006 dropouts will cost the state about $55 million a year in lost income taxes, government aid and prison costs."

Along these lines, the New York Times Magazine ran a lengthy piece this past Sunday about what it takes to make a good student. It's an excellent read, but you'll need to set aside at least 20 minutes to really absorb it. Highly recommended, though.

If You Build It: Time To Bridge Funding Gap Between Rich, Poor Schools

Schoolhouse_4 The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette also chimes in on school funding in an editorial that pretty much hits the nail on the head:

"Gov. Mitch Daniels has criticized school-construction expenses as a drain on classroom spending, citing Indiana’s rank among the top states for per-pupil spending on construction. But those numbers are skewed by spending in affluent districts, where the projects sometimes include athletic facilities that rival those of many colleges. Lafayette Jefferson High School, for example, built an $8 million stadium featuring a video scoreboard with instant replay.

"In response to taxpayer complaints about such projects, the Daniels administration has imposed controls on construction costs. The Department of Local Government Finance credits those measures with tax savings of about $90 million.

"If those controls make local decision-makers think twice about investing in lavish facilities that do little to advance student achievement, they are worthwhile. But they do a disservice if taxpayers then believe all school-construction spending is baseless. The investments must be judged on local needs – and in the context of a growing divide between wealthy schools and poor schools."

The Guv especially should know about this problem, seeing as how the Washington Township school district from which he graduated is now among those suffering for funds because of faster-growing areas like Carmel and Fishers.

Instead of punishing everyone because a few suburban districts are exploding, it's time to figure out a school funding formula that doesn't hurt students in districts where enrollment is either stagnant or on the decline.

Who You Callin' Divisive? Daniels Board Of Ed Picks Cause Concern About Reed Rift

Schoolhouse_1The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette weighs in on the Guv's picks for the State Board of Education, with special emphasis on the growing rift between the Mitchies and Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed:

"Daniels’ other appointments were the director and principal of charter schools in Gary and Evansville, and David Shane, who will leave his post as the governor’s education adviser to join the board.

"Shane’s appointment is the most troubling. He’s been a lightning rod for educators who believe the administration is anti-public education, although – admittedly – the direct blows at public schools have come almost entirely from the Republican House Caucus. But behind the scenes, there is unarguably tension between the governor’s office and Reed.

"If the state superintendent, whose political popularity was reinforced in her last re-election contest, was posting little progress, the tension might be understandable. But Indiana continues to be recognized for improvements in education.

"That progress must continue, and an atmosphere of trust and cooperation between the Daniels administration and the state superintendent is the only way that will happen."

Guv Appoints Four, Including One From His Office, To State Board Of Education

School_2Not sure if this announcement, care of Jim Shella's blog, technically qualifies as another top-level gubernatorial staffer leaving the office, but it's definitely one to watch:

"Education advisor David Shane is leaving the governor's staff. He's taking a seat on the state Board of Education. Shane is one of four appointments announced today in a move that is sure to attract statewide attention.

The influence of State School Superintendent Suellen Reed continues to wane."

One TDW reader noted in an e-mail that it should be interesting to see what happens now that the 10-member board includes two charter school representatives. Charters have their share of supporters and opponents in the Statehouse and across Indiana.

You can find the announcement about the appointments on this site. (Whenever TDW tries to link directly to a release, it always defaults to the main page. Sorry.)

School Funding: Fort Wayne Paper Opines On Full-Day Kindergarten

ApplepencilThe Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorializes on full-day kindergarten:

"The cost of offering full-day kindergarten to 8,600 of the state's at-risk students, according to a study by Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, is just $8.5 million. That's a pittance when compared to the amounts that will be poured into paving from the proceeds from the Indiana Toll Road lease, but it promises much more in terms of an investment.

"'Like a lot of other things, it's a good idea that is years overdue now, and if the state hadn't been broke, I think we'd have done it before,' Daniels said this week.

"In truth, former governors Frank O'Bannon and Joe Kernan fought for full-day kindergarten. But Republican leaders in the General Assembly were determined not to allow either to claim credit for it. That's a point that Indiana Democrats should remember if they succeed in winning back the House majority this November. It's one thing to oppose the governor's initiative when a clear majority of Hoosiers oppose it; it's another to do so for political gain when a clear majority supports it."

Nine Hundred Rules Later, Lawmakers And Lobbyists Unclear On Bill's Effects

Confusion_1Confusion abounds over the Governor's plan to deregulate local school districts by eliminating more than 900 existing regulations:

"But the scope of what could be out the window was astounding to some on the committee and several who testified.

"A 36-page document from the governor's office showed more than 900 regulations that individual schools could opt out of when they become a 'deregulated school.' All of those were contained in the basic education statute.

"They include mandatory instruction in American history, the U.S. and Indiana constitutions and AIDS education; textbook adoption rules; substitute teacher requirements; and regulations requiring individual education plans for students with disabilities.

"'Are you comfortable that you understand what those 904 code cites are?' asked Rep. Joe Micon, D-West Lafayette."

The overwhelming answer, from those on both sides of the aisle and some who previously endorsed the legislation, was not overwhelmingly in the affirmative. We'll see if the Guv can get this plan sold in the waning weeks of the session.

Governor [Sort Of] Has An Education Strategy, And By Gum He's Going To Get It Done

School_1A few more details are beginning to emerge, courtesy of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, about Gov. Daniels' education strategy for the upcoming legislative session:

"He has spoken in recent months about how Indiana spends more on the administrative side of education than the national average.

"Daniels advocates a 65/35 rule, with the larger percentage going directly to the classroom in teacher salaries, programs and supplies rather than administrative costs. It is unclear whether this ratio would be a general guideline or an actual law.

"And the specifics of how to do so without spending more money on education as a whole have been elusive.

"Last week Daniels gave a few examples to reporters, and Tuesday’s Education Roundtable meeting focused on one major item – cooperative purchasing among school districts.

"'It is principally to provide new tools and authority to local districts to combine for the purposes of reducing overhead and providing more money in the classroom where it can do the most good,' he said. 'We have some structures today that allow them to go together to purchase things for instance but they are not very well used.'"

Again, this is going to be a fun session to watch, since legislators have to run in 2006, and they won't want to be in any way associated with Daniels when they do.

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