Clash of opinion during Education Roundtable 

By Paige Clark

click to enlarge Governor Mike Pence and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz co-chaired the Education Roundtable discussion Monday. - THESTATEHOUSEFILE.COM
  • Governor Mike Pence and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz co-chaired the Education Roundtable discussion Monday.
  • thestatehousefile.com

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz urged the Indiana Education Roundtable to add a gauge of a student's reading ability to the new ISTEP test, but the recommendation failed Monday.

Ritz wanted the new ISTEP test to compile a separate reading score but the governor disagreed.

"We have to measure reading. It is very important to make sure that that happens," Ritz said. "Reading is the most important indicator of student success."

Ritz said the state test used to include a separate reading score and it was "valuable information." She said the only separate indication of a student's reading level is a pass or fail on IREAD-3.

Currently, Indiana offers IREAD-3, a reading test administered in third grade to assess students reading - separate from ISTEP.

The amendment to add a separate reading score failed by an 18-9 vote after Gov. Mike Pence opposed the measure.

"Making a significant change to testing should include parent input," Pence said. But he said he and the superintendent are "completely aligned in the goal."

Because the amendment was made during the roundtable discussion it could still be brought up at a future State Board of Education meeting.

The recommendation was for the new test that will be administered in 2015-2016, not this upcoming school year.

The Education Roundtable then went on to pass the recommendation that would extend ISTEP testing to tenth grade. If approved by the Board of Education the ISTEP would take over for the current End of Course Assessments. The board can accept, reject or ignore the recommendation, which passed with just Ritz voting against it.

Little detail about the test for the 2014-2015 school year was given, just that it "will be aligned with the new standards." The test will then change in 2015-16. The board did not discuss the ISTEP extension during its meeting.

After the roundtable meeting, tempers once again ran hot when Brad Oliver and Ritz got into a debate over board procedures. Oliver complained that he didn't have all the information for the agenda items. After a lengthy delay involving legal counsel, the meeting continued.

The main item on the agenda was the waiver program, which Indiana has to approve by the end of June in order to continue to receive Federal funding. If it is taken away, schools will lose the flexibility for how they use some federal funds they receive to help disadvantaged children.

"I don't know why there wasn't a greater sense of urgency," Oliver said.

Dan Elsener also made comments that Ritz did not handle the timeline for the waiver well.

The state was evaluated in August 2013 on how well it complied with the waiver. The Department of Education was scheduled to hear back from the the US Department of Education within 45 days, but because of the government shutdown the results were delayed until spring, which put state officials into a rush to meet federal expectations.

The DOE has made several steps to comply with the waiver, but it is still not finished. And, there was very little detail given about how much is left to do before it is due June 30.

Paige Clark is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College students and faculty.

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