Our state superintendent, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, visited Bloomington November 9. Here are some takeaways from the conversation that she had with educators and parents.
1) There is a slow-motion train wreck impending in Indiana in the form of a drop in graduation rates. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the U.S. Department of Education will not count Indiana’s general diploma toward the state’s graduation rates. ESSA requires that the most commonly given diploma be the one that is counted. Indiana’s practice of awarding differentiated diplomas (general, core 40, honors) is a liability for the state. McCormick says that the general diploma is actually more stringent than some other states’ diplomas that have been approved, but the U.S. DOE is proving inflexible. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has applied for a waiver but does not expect to receive it.
McCormick asked us, “Do you want those 9000 kids [currently receiving the general diploma] unemployed and unemployable across the nation?” She also said that under ESSA, because the general diploma would not count, 275 Indiana high schools would receive Ds and Fs. “Do we have room for improvement? Yes. But this is not Indiana. You need to assess us fairly.”
One possible solution, according to McCormick, would require legislative action. Indiana legislators could make all the diplomas the general diploma, with the other, more demanding diplomas just a version of the general diploma. So far, the legislature has not seen this as urgent.
2) Another result of ESSA is that there will be two grades, one from the federal government and one from the state. Imagine: two possibly different letter grades, with two possibly conflicting sets of consequences. McCormick believes the logical response to this is to accept the federal grade as the state grade.
McCormick stated she wants to provide comprehensive and targeted support for failing schools, but reminded the audience that Indiana has moved to a four-year, from a six-year, cycle. Any school that receives 4 F’s in a row under the state grading rubric is at risk of state takeover. School districts in financial distress are also at risk of takeover.
3) There is a major problem to solve in the form of diplomas that the federal government won’t count under ESSA, but the State Board of Education (SBOE) has been focused on the graduation pathways proposal. The panel which developed the proposal was mainly composed of professionals in higher education and business. There was a high school counselor, but no high school principal. Here are some consequences of the proposal, if it is approved.
Other questions the proposal brings up:
The SBOE is accepting comments on the graduation pathways proposal through December 2. Since this is such a complicated proposal, presenting concise comments poses a challenge. Here are possible avenues:
*Voice concern about the potential negative impact the plan would have on graduation rates.
*Encourage SBOE to consider diploma types as the Graduation Pathway.
*Reinforce the idea that much of the concern expressed by workforce and higher ed can be addressed through curriculum and instruction.
*Ignoring/dismissing the constraints associated with implementation of such a plan is irresponsible.
*Consideration needs to be given to students who are not in the high 25-30 percent of performers.
You can e-mail your comments to the State Board of Education at the following address: email@example.com. It is also possible to comment in person on this issue at the SBOE work session on Tuesday, December 5, 1 p.m., in the Indiana Government Center South Auditorium at 302 West Washington Street in Indianapolis. Public comment will be limited to one hour total, three minutes per person. It appears that the SBOE intends to vote on the proposal in a meeting the following day, December 6.
This guest post is from Pat Howey, a special education advocate in West Point, Indiana.
Indiana parents and advocates:
After December 1, it may be more difficult to get certain services for our students in special education. Thanks to the current Trump administration and Betsy DeVos, federal funding for special education to the Indiana Department of Education has been cut for 2018.
Remember the outcry for "full funding" of special education, as was anticipated when the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) was enacted? Congress at that time said it could fund up to 40% of the cost of special education. In reality, Congress has never funded even 10% of the cost. Now, it is balancing its budget on the backs of the poor, the disabled, and the disenfranchised, and it has cut funding for special education.
What this means: The small part of funding that comes from the federal government has been cut even further. Local school districts will now have to foot the bill for the services listed below. School districts that already are struggling to provide adequate services to all students will now have to stretch their budgets even further.
After December 1, 2017, the IDOE has stated that it will no longer be providing funding through Special Education Excess Cost funds for the following services to local schools:
(1) Extended School Year (ESY) in day programs;
(2) ABA services in centers and in schools;
(3) One-on-one services (paraprofessionals and aides) in centers and schools;
(4) Related services; and,
In addition, a cap on residential services and day services is being considered.
What we can expect: Advocating for students in special ed will become more and more difficult. We can expect to have to fight for these services for special education children who need them, even though the IDOE memo states: "Please remember that funding is not a topic for case conference committee discussion. No decisions about services should be based on whether DOE is able to help schools with funding."
Here is the link to the full memo:
Folks, I predict that this is only the beginning. Things will get much worse.
Response from Dr. Kathleen Hugo, MCCSC's Director of Special Education, 11/28/17
The main impact of this on local school corporations will be that certain school-funded services, those that are extremely unique and expensive for a few students, will become the sole responsibility of the local school, further diminishing the available funds for the remainder of students. Special education has never been "fully-funded" by federal or state special education dollars. Yet the needs of students are increasing everywhere which is why the Indiana DOE has seen an increase in the number of requests for additional state funds to pay these excess costs.
The IDOE was clear in pointing out that this does not relieve the local schools from their responsibility to provide these services, if necessary for the appropriate education of the student. Local schools will be required to pay these costs from their existing funds.
Indiana special education funding is allocated to school corporations as one amount. There is no specific funding for paraprofessionals, related services, or teachers. The exception to that is when a particular student has extraordinary needs that are so unique that they are beyond the capacity of the local school corporation. The clearest example of this is when a student requires residential placement. Indiana has had a special mechanism in place for many years by which school corporations can request that IDOE pay for this "excess cost", for one particular student at a time. The memo was referring to the fact that the funds approved in this category by the legislature are being used up and so they are telling school districts that many of these excess services will be the responsibility of the school corporation, specifically services in local ABA centers, unique services in the summer, and others. ###
The fight against private school vouchers is not just about the money diverted from public school students. It’s about the survival of our democracy.
The money is an important factor. Under the 2011 private school voucher law, $146 million in taxpayer dollars were diverted from public schools to private schools in the 2016-17 school year.
That’s $146 million in one year. The amount diverted has gone up each year during the six years private school vouchers have been funded by the state. No doubt that figure will continue to go up each year.
This amount has an obvious impact on public school students. Their schools are getting millions less.
The debate, however, about strengthening or privatizing our public schools is about far more than money.
The deeper debate is about whether our democracy will survive without strong public schools. When our public schools are privatized, will our democracy be able to continue?
Many observers have expressed concerns about the health of our democracy since the 2016 election campaign. It’s a genuine concern.
Private School Vouchers Will Undermine Our Democracy and Our Social Fabric in at Least Five Ways
If you analyze recent trends, you can see they have already done so.
1. Private school vouchers have shattered the separation of church and state observed in K-12 funding in Indiana since the 1851 Constitution.
In Indiana, 98% of private voucher schools are religious schools. Government and religion have now been entwined by giving millions in state tax funds to religious private schools, a practice that had been assumed to be wrong for 160 years after Indiana adopted the 1851 Constitution which said (Article 6) “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” State funds are now going to private religious schools that teach creationism in science class in place of evolution. State funds are now going to religious schools that can legally discriminate based on RFRA since they were exempted from the famous “fix” to the RFRA law. Government and religion are now entwined.
2. We will segregate into religious enclaves. Private religious schools are sectarian; Public schools are not.
Vouchers give an incentive for every religious group to use public tax money to set up their own religious enclave with their own school paid for by taxpayers, leaving communities fragmented. This will complicate the transmission of the skills of listening to other points of view and learning to give and take which are vital to maintaining a democracy. Experience with diversity will diminish and perspectives will narrow.
3. We will have greater partisanship. Public schools are politically non-partisan by law; Private schools, however, can be politically partisan.
Vouchers give public money to private schools that can indoctrinate partisan political attitudes into the minds of young children, unlike the non-partisan pro and con debate tradition that is fundamental to public education. Engrained partisanship will begin in the early formative years, complicating the work of democracy which depends on a willingness to compromise.
4. Marketing will rule. The competition for the approval of parents will put marketing above curriculum and instruction in the priorities of each school.
Vouchers force all public schools to put marketing as a new top priority. In the new world of school choice in a marketplace of schools, if parents do not know how good the school is, they won’t choose it. We all know that in any marketplace, marketing and advertising can make all the difference and that even poor choices can be made to seem good by clever marketing. Public schools must now push to the back burner their focus on sound curriculum and instruction while they put top priority on marketing and public images. The Hamilton Southeastern Schools, for example, is one of several districts focused on updating their brand. They recently initiated a marketing strategy update and branding makeover along with a website redesign costing several thousand dollars, paid not from tax money but from their Coke fund. Public schools across Indiana will have no choice but to take similar steps to maintain their enrollment in competition with virtual charter schools and many other competitive private schools that are recruiting for enrollment in Indiana’s school marketplace.
5. Civics will be neglected. The competition for the approval of parents will force enormous attention only on the subjects used to grade schools in the mandated testing program: math and language arts.
Vouchers force all schools to put math and language arts as first priorities because those subjects are the basis for accountability letter grades which are the most visible marks by which parents judge and choose a school. This has left citizen education, civics and non-partisan voter education as expendable items in the K-12 curriculum, a tragedy for our democracy which must teach every new generation the civic values and procedures of our democratic society. Less attention to civics and citizenship has been well documented in Indiana. This is perhaps the most damaging way that the voucher movement is undermining our democracy.
Consider the prophetic statement of the former Wisconsin State Superintendent Herbert Grover back in the 1990’s when Wisconsin passed the first private school voucher program:
"If you look closely, you can see the social fabric of America beginning to unravel. Private school vouchers permit us to fear one another, to surround ourselves with those who look and think like we do, and — in so doing — to abandon our commitment to pluralism and diversity."
Now consider the conclusion of a great article by Erica Christakos, who has written superbly on the vital importance of public schools in the October 2017 issue of the Atlantic entitled “Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake.” She closes her must-read article with this thought:
“The political theorist Benjamin Barber warned in 2004 that ‘America as a commercial society of individual consumers may survive the destruction of public schooling. American as a democratic republic cannot.’ In this era of growing fragmentation, we urgently need a renewed commitment to the idea that public education is a worthy investment, one that pays dividends not only to individual families but to our society as a whole.”
The public schools of the United States have been a bedrock for democracy for 180 years since Horace Mann led the way. For the reasons cited above, we could lose our democracy if public education is privatized.
Let your legislators know that you support strong and well funded public education because you believe we cannot maintain our democracy without it.
Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
“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!
Our lobbyist Joel Hand represented ICPE extremely well during the 2017 budget session and is preparing now for the 2018 session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. 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!
The 2016-2017 school accountability grades for all public schools, including charter schools, and for private schools accepting vouchers, were released by the Indiana Department of Education back in early October.
Following the release, it became apparent that some schools were being graded by a different yardstick than the rest. Here in Monroe County, we noticed that a new charter school received an "A" despite having some of the lowest rates in the county of passing both math and English ISTEP. Why? Local reporter Brittani Howell included the DOE's explanation in her Herald-Times story on school grades.
As the Indianapolis Star and the School Matters blog also reported, Indiana now bases grades for "new schools"--schools that have been open no more than three years--on their growth score only. Growth is derived through a comparison of students' test scores from one year to the next. Straight performance on ISTEP was not part of the grade calculation for these new schools. (So-called "innovation network" schools also received growth-only grading.) This meant that a school could have low test scores and still get an "A," as long as students had demonstrated growth from the previous year.
Many charters are new. Almost one in three were graded by growth only. Only 1% of district schools were graded by growth only.
Most public schools in Indiana are older than three years. These established schools at the elementary and middle school level were graded on a combination of growth and performance, with each counting fifty percent. Calculations were tethered by the performance score. If performance was low, it held the overall grade down, even if growth was excellent.
In practice, this meant that "new" schools with low test scores could receive much higher grades than neighboring schools with better test scores. For instance: Vision Academy, a K-8 charter school in Indianapolis with 76% free lunch, got an A with 17% of students passing the math section and 35% passing English/language arts. The Daniel Webster School is a K-8 school in the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) district with 75% free lunch. It had 38% passing math and 48 percent passing English/language arts. It received a D. The difference between Vision Academy and Daniel Webster, other than higher scores at the IPS school? The charter received the growth-only calculation; the public school received the performance and growth combined calculation.
Keep in mind that the supposed purpose of A-F grades was to improve transparency about school performance.
The Washington Township Parent Network released the following table on Facebook to show how their schools would look according to the growth-only yardstick.
We followed suit and built tables for our county and then for others throughout the state. You can find these "adjusted grades" below. We obtained the data from the 2017 A-F School Grade Results posted on the Indiana Department of Education web site. You can see our adjusted table here. To find what the growth-only grade would be according to the DOE data, look at the growth score in column G. Ninety and above is an A, 80 to 89.9 a B, 70 to 79.9 a C, etc.
Would you like us to build a chart for your county? Drop us a line on Facebook or send an email to email@example.com.
—Keri Miksza and Jenny Robinson
Click on the links here (the images will open in a separate window). Or scroll below.
Indianapolis Public Schools