Governor Mike Pence released a letter late today which he sent to U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
In the letter, Governor Pence addresses the issue as to whether Indiana should freeze accountability standards to account for expected lower than expected student scores due to a radically new ISTEP test. Pence advises Duncan that if he has his way, Indiana will not freeze the academic standards.
“We do not support a pause in accountability as it relates to delivering A-F grades to schools, determining intervention strategies in under-performing schools, or teacher evaluations that reflect classroom performance.”
On the other hand, Superintendent Ritz has recommended Indiana pause accountability standards for the first initial year of the test. In a op-ed published statewide Ritz further advocated:
“For an accountability system to be strong and meaningful to parents and educators, it must also be fair and equitable. That is why we need to look at ways we can minimize the effect of an expected drop in performance.”
The Bill and Melinsa Gates Foundation released a statement earlier this week in agreement with Ritz’s position.
Also in the letter, Governor Pence accurately portrayed that all policy makers, legislators and he himself, played a role in the state’s predicament that now risks the loss of federal funds tied to the NCLB waiver.
“As you are aware, Indiana was the first state to withdraw from the Common Core standards. In fact, Indiana began to chart its own course on rigorous academic standards and assessments with legislation enacted in 2013. At that time, our state withdrew from the national testing consortium, PARCC. We did this with the full knowledge that these steps would require the adaptation of our existing state test, the ISTEP+, and this was reflected in state law. We then initiated the process to develop a set of excellent standards unique to our state. After an intensive process, we adopted a set of rigorous college- and career-ready standards on April 28, 2014.
Pence also acknowledges Ritz’s immediate work on addressing the waiver issues.
Following these actions, the Indiana Department of Education began immediate work to adapt our ISTEP+ to align with the new standards.
Governor Pence's letter seems to guarantee fairness in ensuring that the skewed student scores in the new ISTEP test won’t negatively affect schools, students and teachers. Although we are pleased Governor Pence is concerned, how are these assurances being made without an articulated game plan? We are curious to know how the state can make something fair that is patently unfair? How do you make the accountability system fair without a baseline score?