NewsEducation / January 5, 2016

Legislature Will Expedite ISTEP, Teacher Evaluation Bills

Legislature Will Expedite ISTEP, Teacher Evaluation Bills

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (right), along with other members of the Senate Republican caucus, announces the group’s 2016 legislative agenda on the first day of the session.

Claire McInerny / State Impact Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the General Assembly convened Tuesday for the 2016 legislative session, discussion of how to handle this year’s A-F grades was one of the first issues addressed.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, filed Senate Bill 200 Monday, which if passed would hold Indiana schools harmless from lower A-F grades this year. The legislation says a school may not receive a grade lower than the one it received in the 2013-2014 school year.

This would only be in effect for one year.

This legislation comes after preliminary ISTEP+ data showed a huge dip in scores, which in turn would plummet many schools into poor performing categories. The lower scores were expected by many, as this was the first year students took an assessment to match new standards, and the test itself was formatted differently.

Although state Superintendent Glenda Ritz suggested multiple times over the last year that this would be the case, and that the state should consider the hold harmless option, the filing of this bill is the first time others in the legislature and the governor agree on this plan.

After unveiling the Senate Republicans’ legislative agenda Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tem David Long said all legislative caucuses as well as the governor’s office, the Department of Education and the State Board of Education had worked together to decide on this option.

“This has been an effort over months to look at all of our options,” Long said. “We finally rallied around the point that hold harmless for one year is the best approach.”

In terms of consequences for receiving an F, the current rule that six years of a failing grade constitutes state takeover would remain intact. Starting next school year, that would change to a four-year system.

In addition, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, plans to bring forth a bill that decouples ISTEP+ grades from teacher evaluations.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, says both the teacher evaluation bill and the A-F changes will be expedited through the legislation process, with the hopes of being signed into law before the end of January.

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