As part of a new informational tour for Indiana’s educators, State Superintendent Tony Bennett outlined several recent changes to Indiana’s public school policy in front of teachers and administrators on Wednesday.
The tour, which takes Dr. Bennett and his staff around the state, aims to explain new policies to Indiana educators and field their questions.
Speaking in Indianapolis, Dr. Bennett had just returned moments before from Connersville. “It’s time we had the urgency we lost 23 years ago with A-plus,” Bennett stated in his opening remarks.
The tone of the talk was one of reparation and transparency. The topic given foremost attention were the state’s recent adoption of the national Common Core State Standards Initiative, a drive to standardize student expectations and instruction across the country.
The Common Core Initiative’s website states its appeal as being “(1) research and evidence based, (2) aligned with college and work expectations, (3) rigorous, and (4) internationally benchmarked.”
“This was a state-led process,” remarked Stacey Hughes, Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning. “It was not initiated by the federal government.” A few guffaws in the room indicated not all were convinced.
The move, however, will not take place over night. Hughes outlined a proposed step-by-step integration of the Initiative, being used escalating degrees alongside current state standards between 2010-14. “By 2014 we expect to have a multi-state test [for advancement.]"
A refrain throughout the night was how Indiana’s current (and relatively high) standard of academic achievement will allow changes to be handled more smoothly than in numerous other states. “The changes you make won’t have to be as extreme as in schools with lower standards,” Hughes stated.
The other big topic of the night focused on the state’s projected adoption of the “Growth Model” of achievement. The aim of the model to define student achievement in terms of upward or downward trends, as opposed to more static measurements.
“You’ll be able to see students as they progress throughout the year,” said Senior Advisor for Teacher Quality Mindy Schlegel. “Not as black and white; pass and not pass.” She demonstrated the benefits of the new assessment with examples of students with significant upward trends in achievement who would be seen in the current model as simply failing. Teachers around the room nodded their heads.
“Thank you for this Growth Model,” said a teacher during the question and answer session following the talk. She expressed her frustration with the past method of achievement assessment, saying it was “frustrating” how there had previously been no measure for the progress underachieving students had made.
A slide on her powerpoint presentation read: Performance = Proficiency + Growth. “This is a big game changer for schools,” she said.