An independent review of ISTEP scores began Monday. It could lead to some tests being invalidated.
State school Superintendent Glenda Ritz just announced that a third party will review the test of every student who was interrupted by server problems in April and May. That applies to 78,000 students statewide.
Ritz says she hired the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment in New Hampshire led by Dr. Richard Hill to determine if test scores are valid. In all 482,000 students took the test, so a majority will likely be validated, but Ritz says the results need to be above reproach.
“Like all Hoosier parents students and educators I was extremely frustrated with the alarmingly large number of interruptions during the taking of Indiana’s high stakes test,” said Ritz. “These interruptions were simply unacceptable and they call into question the validity of the test scores.”
The review will cost as much as $53,000, money that could come from fines against test maker CTB McGraw Hill.
Glenda Ritz also says that she hopes this will lead to changes in the use of the ISTEP exam. She says the stakes involving teacher compensation and evaluation are too high.
There were no problems today in the administration of the ISTEP exam after testing was suspended due to computer problems on two consecutive days. Steps being taken to avoid new problems. First, the state Department of Education asked schools to reduce the number of students taking the test online by half. Then, the Indianapolis Public Schools told teachers stop giving the test between 10:30 and 1 o’clock, the peak time period statewide.
Employees of CTB McGraw Hill, the state contractor that supplies the ISTEP test, were on hand Wednesday in offices of the Department of Education monitoring the computer system that became overloaded on Monday and Tuesday. The problems caused members of the state Board of Education to question whether a contract has been violated and state School Superintendent Glenda Ritz emerged from a meeting to say it will be explored. “Certainly we’re gonna be looking at our contractual obligations, or their contractual obligations regarding that,” she said. “I haven’t really delved into that yet.”
Schools now have until May 15th to complete the testing but the request to have half the normal number of students online at once will remain in place. Ritz believes the contractor can help students make up for lost time. “They know every student, the name of the student, and who’s been interrupted,” she said.
The results are important not only to students but also to teachers and administrators who are all evaluated and sometimes compensated based on ISTEP results. “It is a very high stakes test in Indiana,” said Ritz, “and so we have to be very concerned about that and make sure that we can ascertain the validity of the actual student assessment.”
But, first, they must actually take the test. A spokesman for IPS says it will be a major challenge to have 14,000 students complete the test by May 15th. All of them will be on summer vacation, however, by the time this mess gets straightened out.
How to make schools safe. It’s a hot topic all over the country and here in Indianapolis the focus is on a proposal to put an armed guard in every school.
Many schools already have armed guards and schools are currently free to hire them. The bill under consideration calls for a mandate on every school to have someone carrying a firearm on duty. “Anyone in a school setting with a firearm is a bad idea,” said Dr. Margaret Blythe of the I.U. Medical School at a hearing of the House Ways and Means committee where all of the people who testified were opposed.
One woman said she is horrified by the prospect. “The fact that you mandate to every school in Indiana to have someone armed,” said Peg Paulson of Mothers Demand Action, “is reprehensible.”
Governor Mike Pence has already said that armed guards should be an option for local schools and not a mandate. State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz agrees. The issue before the committee is how to fund training. “We know that for most districts with their limited funding,” said Elizabeth Gore of Concerned Clergy, “the persons who would be assigned to carry weapons would not be trained officers. There lies the risk for disaster.”
No other state has mandated armed guards in every school. The committee is scheduled to vote late Monday.
Indianapolis– (WISH) A bill in the General Assembly would make Indiana the first state in the country to have armed security officers in every school.
GOP Governor Mike Pence has called for a statewide review of school safety measures and how to improve them. Glenda Ritz is taking part in it. Both of them, however, believe that the decision on guns in schools should not be made in the General Assembly.
Indiana is already the only state in the country that requires a school resource officer to oversee safety in every school building. That officer can be armed under current law. The bill now in the Indiana House, however, mandates that someone in every school carry a gun. That would also be a first in the country.
Democratic state school superintendent Glenda Ritz emerged from a meeting of the State Board of Education to say she was surprised to learn of the mandate. “And,” she said, “I am for those types of decisions being made at the local level, at the school district level.”
Governor Pence also believes that guns in schools should be the result of local decision making, but what if every school district agrees to have armed guards? “That’s something we’d be prepared to be supportive of,” said the governor. In fact, Pence says that the price tag for proper training of gun-toting school officer is one the state should pay. “We’ll find the resources to make sure that local schools have the funding that they need to provide the kind of security that is appropriate,” he said.
The Republicans who control the state Senate will unveil their state budget proposal Thursday. One lawmaker who has already seen it told News 8 that it includes $10 million for the training of school resource officers.
The Indiana school voucher system is constitutional. That’s the decision issued this morning by the state Supreme Court. The ruling written by Chief Justice Brent Dickson is a unanimous decision.
It says the legislature was within its authority to create a system that gives public school students vouchers so that they can attend private schools. The decision was handed down at mid-morning Tuesday and ends a legal fight that began in 2011. It says that private schools can receive indirect government benefits and that the direct beneficiaries of the voucher program are not the schools but those eligible families who are free to select which schools to attend.
State Representative Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) sponsored the bill that launched the voucher system. “I’m excited for the kids of the state of Indiana,” he said. “I think we believed all along it’s constitutional. We thought we’d done our homework and this just validates.”
State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz opposes vouchers. ”
“We’re disappointed,” said aide John Barnes. “We’re especially disappointed with it being a unanimous decision but our biggest concern all along has been that we don’t think that taxpayer money should be used for schools that don’t have to serve all students.”
The Statehouse has been the scene of rallies in recent weeks both for and against an expansion of the voucher system. Governor Mike Pence issued a statement calling for expansion in light of the ruling. Indiana’s school choice system is already the fastest growing voucher program in the country.
Indianapolis– (WISH) Glenda Ritz took office as state School Superintendent just last month. This week extensive renovations were completed in her Statehouse office.
Supt. Ritz ordered Statehouse renovations that were estimated to cost $111,000. The job came in under budget but it still cost taxpayers $86,000. We got a tour of the new facilities led by the Superintendent’s communications director, David Galvin. “This was one cavernous room,” said Galvin pointing to new walls, “and it was just divided up with cubicles.”
The work, done by an outside contractor, was actually designed by Ritz herself. She drew up the floor plan. State Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn,) the chairman of the education committee, is not impressed. “I don’t think it was necessary,” said Kruse. “It’s a want as opposed to a need.” Kruse calls the expenditure unwise.
Galvin says there has been positive feedback, too. “State employees think it’s a much better, nicer space,” he says. The money came from savings created by the previous administration.
There’s a power struggle underway at the Statehouse and State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz is in the middle of it. Ritz is the only Democrat to hold statewide office and the GOP super majorities in the General Assembly have the ability to take away at least some of her power and that’s just what some Republicans are trying to do.
Ritz says she is working to build relationships with Republicans, including Governor Mike Pence whom she met with last month, but the House education committee has voted to take away her management of the school voucher system. It also voted to eliminate the payroll deduction of union dues from members of the teacher’s union that helped elect her.
Ritz says the election was over in November. “Political games, you know, that might be done just to simply take away power. It’s really not what I’m interested in,” she said.
Ritz says she deserves the same influence that her predecessors had. The state Senate education committee, meantime, may come to her aid. It’s chairman, Dennis Kruse, is on record saying that she should keep the power traditionally held in that office.
Ritz, of course defeated Republican incumbent Tony Bennett in an upset. She opposed the use of vouchers in the campaign but has promised to manage the system fairly now that she’s in office. Governor Pence, meantime, is supporting the bill that Democrats call a power grab.
Governor Mike Pence and state school superintendent Glenda Ritz met today for the first time since they both took office. And while you might expect the governor to host such a meeting, it was Pence who traveled to the superintendent’s office arriving with an entourage just after lunch. If it was meant to be some sort of bi-partisan outreach, the governor didn’t play it up.
After close to an hour, he emerged to give this simple explanation for the meeting location. “She invited me over,” he said.
Statehouse observers expect conflict between the Republican governor and the Democratic superintendent who turned down an invitation to take part in his inaugural ceremony. However, today’s meeting, Pence said, was about finding common ground. “I don’t want to discuss particularities that we covered in the meeting,” said the governor, “but it was a good productive meeting, and quite cordial.”
And while Democrats still point out that Ritz won more votes than Pence did in the November election she’s not seeking controversy at this point. She passed up an opportunity to bring up the Pence budget which increases school spending by just 1-percent a year. “No, we didn’t talk about budget at all,” said Ritz. “We spent time talking about students, philosophical programming for students.”
So, the governor posed for pictures with passing students, and the superintendent said there will be more meetings. “We actually get long very well,” said Ritz. The honeymoon is still underway.
Governor-elect Mike Pence and Governor Mitch Daniels met with each other both before and after a media availability this morning. During that availability Pence made it clear that, while he won’t leave Congress until the end of his term, he is already starting to build a new state administration.
The Republican Pence, who defeated Democrat John Gregg, declared the campaign over and said he is now entering an era of service. He named Bill Smith, his chief of staff in Congress, to be the chairman of his transition committee and left open the possibility that key members of the Daniels administration will remain in their posts.
Pence will take office with super majorities in both Houses of the General Assembly but said this morning that he will reach out to everyone in the state. “I look very much forward to working with members of both political parties in the House and the Senate,” said Pence, “to move forward on our agenda.”
“From our end… absolutely anything we can do to insure that the hand off is flawless,” said Daniels, “and that high levels of service continue.”
Pence said he is disappointed that Republican Tony Bennett lost the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. But he said he hopes to work with newly elected Democrat Glenda Ritz.
John Gregg, the Democratic candidate for governor, helped launch the campaign of Glenda Ritz this morning. She’s the Democrat running for state school Superintendent.
The two appeared outside the Statehouse for an announcement that relied heavily on criticism of incumbent Republican Tony Bennett. “He stood by while the legislature cut $300 million from our education budget,” said Ritz, “funding that our children deserved.”
“Glenda’s been an educator for 33 years,” said Gregg. “She knows the best ideas don’t come out of this building right here behind me.”
Ritz teaches third grade at Crooked Creek School in Washington Township.