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The Journal Gazette

Monday, November 16, 2015 9:28 pm

Measure would spare teachers

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Republican legislative leaders said Monday a bill will be expedited in January to prevent teacher pay and bonuses from taking a hit because of a big drop in standardized test scores.

But they were less certain about whether they will also protect schools from a drop in A-F grades that is expected to follow the test scores.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said the legislature will dissociate teacher evaluations and performance pay from the ISTEP+ scores for one year.

Gov. Mike Pence first suggested the change several weeks ago. The General Assembly would have to pass a retroactive bill early in the 2016 session.

New ISTEP+ results show a massive drop in math and English scores after the state adopted new academic standards and a more rigorous test to prepare Hoosier students for college and careers.

Those scores are used in teacher evaluations and help set pay and bonuses. They also largely determine whether a school’s A-F grade goes up or down. Low-performing schools face a multitude of consequences, including possible takeover by the state.

"I think teachers should not be penalized for the drop in scores," said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

Both he and Bosma were less clear on whether the A-F accountability system for schools would change.

"We’re not looking to dismantle the A-to-F system," Bosma said. "Clearly there needs to be some attention paid to it."

He said he, Pence and Long are guarding against a move to toss out the whole system and come up with a one-year adjustment. "We will figure out how to make that happen," Bosma said.

Democrats and education officials – including Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz – have suggested a one-year "hold harmless" provision in which a school’s A-F grade could rise but not drop.

nkelly@jg.net