(INDIANAPOLIS) - In an eight-hour marathon meeting, the State Board of Education pushed through a heavy agenda of key education policy items, including adopting a new strategic plan to guide clear goals and objectives and final recommendations to outline new 2015-16 student assessments.
After a months-long process with stakeholder input, the Board adopted its strategic plan to focus on specific goals for Indiana's K-12 educational policy. Dan Elsener, District 7 representative, led the committee work and thanked the Department of Education (DOE) and Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI) staff who had also engaged in the work.
"This is a living document and I hope the Board will visit it regularly," said Elsener. "This is a mammoth policy organization and I hope we'll continue forward with integrating the plan with others on the workforce and career council sides. The balanced scorecard that's been created should allow us to follow progress and adjust action plans accordingly."
The Board also established guidance for graduation waivers, in accordance with HEA 1005, where Indiana high schools who have 10% of students seeking graduation waivers for three consecutive years will be required to establish a formal remediation plan. Steve Baker, principal at Bluffton High School and board member of the Indiana Association of School Principals, noted it was important to help students find a better route and emphasizing "assisting" students rather than "punishing" them.
In consideration of a petition for relief filed by Ed Power, which operates the turnaround academy at Arlington High School on the Indianapolis eastside, the Board also adopted a new hearing officer process for those who petition for additional funds. Dr. Brad Oliver noted because schools everywhere are dealing with less funding and making tough decisions, it was difficult to consider any funding modifications. While the Board ultimately denies the petition for funding, it did create a new task force to assist in planning a potential exit strategy for the turnaround academy after the coming school year.
Marcus Robinson, ED Power's CEO, noted the importance of the school to the local community and its rich history. He indicated initial discussions are underway with IPS and the Mayor's Office, which has current oversight for the school at the SBOE's direction.
"Arlington is not just a collection of bodies, it is a community," said Robinson. "I know what Arlington means to those who live in that sector of the city."
Other significant activities included the adoption of recommendations from the Education Roundtable for future assessments, which will contribute to the formation of the RFP to develop new tests, and approved an approach for calculating student growth for 2014-15 as recommended by national growth expert Dr. Damian Betebenner.
While the meeting spent the majority of its course in business-like demeanor, several members took time to denounce the politicization of portions of the session, emphasizing a return to focusing on students and the important tasks at hand. While Andrea Neal complained the discourse at time "made her stomach churn," at-large member Gordon Hendry categorized multiple discussions as "much ado about nothing."
The most intense debates focused on the state's recent submission of its No Child Left Behind flexibility waiver extension request on June 30. A proposed resolution seeking future updates from the Department of Education was ruled out of order by the Board chair, Superintendent Glenda Ritz, but an appeal of her decision was successful and the resolution was finally brought to a vote on the floor. After a 7-3 approval vote, the Superintendent expressed concern the resolution asked for too much oversight by the Board over the DOE.
"I don't disagree with you that DOE owns the waiver submission, and I'm grateful for work that's gone into it," said Gordon Hendry. "It is your responsibility to follow through and prepare. However, this board recognizes the importance of the waiver and is concerned about its success. We wanted to have input and help to guide the process. Now, since waiver has been submitted, what's happening when can we expect updates, who will we hear from, and when will we know so schools can plan accordingly?"
"We're the only state in the union with this many conditions placed on our waiver," added Dan Elsener. "The Board is interested in policies being implemented and we've listened to you saying basically it's none of our business. But this is about advancing education, citizenship, and depending on our group to provide excellent leadership."
FSSA staff also provided an update on the Pre-K pilot program, sharing that all 18 counties who were prequalified as finalists chose to submit proposals vying for the five pilot finalists slots. Selection of the pilot counties is expected to be announced later in July.
A copy of the SBOE's strategic plan can be found at http://www.in.gov/sboe/files/2014-07-03_INSBOE_Strategic_Plan_Version_07.01.2014.pdf
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