Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Samantha Hart
Press Secretary
(317) 232-0550

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz released her quarterly message for parents and guardians of Hoosier students today.

As part of the Indiana Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind Waiver extension, the longest in state history, the Department pledged to increase communication with parents and guardians of Hoosier students through a quarterly message.  Today’s message focuses on the Superintendent’s vision for improving student assessments, the Department’s 2016 legislative agenda and the launch of the Hoosier Family of Readers’ Bicentennial Book Challenge.

Text of the Superintendent’s remarks can be found below:

“As you know, 2015 ISTEP+ results were recently released.  The Spring 2015 version of ISTEP+ measured student progress on the new college and career ready Indiana Academic Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.  These standards, which were first taught during the 2014-15 school year, represent higher-level thinking skills.  The results of the new ISTEP+ test reflect an increase in expectations regarding students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities.

“Because the 2015 ISTEP+ was the first state assessment to be based on Indiana’s new, more rigorous college and career ready standards, these scores are not comparable to previous pass rates.  The 2015 ISTEP+ results established a new baseline for student progress towards college and career ready benchmarks.  You should have received from your school an access code to view your child’s results online.  If you have questions regarding ISTEP+ results, your child’s teacher would be a great resource.  If you have misplaced your access code letter, your school can help you.

“I want to thank our parents, students, educators and administrators for their hard work during such challenging transitions.  I look forward to seeing student growth toward these new, more rigorous benchmarks moving forward.  Please remain in contact with your child’s teacher regarding your child’s progress.

“That being said, I have been advocating, and will continue to lead the conversation, that it is time for Indiana to move away from the costly, lengthy, pass/fail ISTEP+ test.  The one-size-fits-all high-stakes approach of the ISTEP+ test needs to end.

“Instead, Indiana should move towards a streamlined, individualized, student-centered assessment that provides students, families and educators with quick feedback about how a student is performing and how they have grown during a school year.

“Moving forward, I will recommend to the General Assembly that the Department of Education oversee the development of this type of assessment so we can better serve each individual student’s needs.

“I believe in strong accountability.  However, I also believe in accountability that makes sense.  For the past 18 months, I have advocated for flexibility for schools and educators as we transitioned to our new, more rigorous standards and assessments.  I am pleased to see momentum towards legislative solutions that supports a hold harmless approach for our schools and our educators for the 2015 ISTEP+.  This means that schools would not receive a grade lower than the grade assigned during the 2013-14 school year.

“And our teachers would also be held harmless regarding ISTEP+ scores that, in part, inform their personal evaluations.  This ensures that our teachers, schools, and communities are not penalized for a transition to more rigorous standards and the new college and career ready test.

“During this short legislative session, I also look forward to bringing forth recommendations from the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Recruitment and Retention of Excellent Educators.  We all know that great teaching and great learning go hand in hand, and that the decline of individuals entering the teaching profession has brought a new sense of urgency to this conversation for Indiana students.

“I am committed to ensuring that all students have high-quality educators in their classrooms.  This session, I will urge the General Assembly to support the strategies developed by educators to address Indiana’s teacher shortage so that every educator has the support they need and students have access to great teachers in every school.

“Finally, I am excited to announce that all Hoosier children will have access to thousands of free online books all year.  As part of my on-going literacy initiative, the Hoosier Family of Readers, books will be accessible through the myON Digital Library and will be available in both English and Spanish.  You can access myON by visiting the Hoosier Family of Readers website.  I also encourage your children to participate in my 200,000 book challenge.  Every book read using myON will contribute to our goal of reading 200,000 books to celebrate Indiana’s Bicentennial in December 2016.

“I encourage you to follow the Department’s Facebook and Twitter pages for updates throughout the legislative session and sign up for the INschool app.  Through the app, you can get notifications regarding my next video messages and much more!”