INDIANAPOLIS – Today, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz released Imagine 2020 which provides an update on ongoing policy initiatives as well as outlines education policy priorities for the Department of Education during the next Indiana General Assembly budget session.
Along with releasing the Imagine 2020 document, Superintendent Ritz released the following statement:
“Every year, more than half of taxpayers’ dollars go to support K-12 education in our state. When I was elected Indiana’s 43rd Superintendent of Public Instruction, I was entrusted with the responsibility to provide the support needed to serve Indiana’s students in our public schools.
“To support this work, my Department works alongside others who care deeply about the well-being of our children, including local educators serving in our schools, education stakeholders, state and local government, boards, committees, commissions, community partners, and Hoosier families.
“I came to the Department of Education with a strong vision for students that reflected my 34 years of teaching: Imagining the possibilities and making them happen — doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of every individual student.
“Since January 2013, the Indiana Department of Education has embarked on a mission to build an education system of equity and high quality, focused on student-centered accountability. In addition to creating new, more rigorous standards and a new state accountability system, my Department has:
“At the Department, we constantly imagine the possibilities for public education in our state, and then make them happen. While the accomplishments I just listed were major, they are just a fraction of what we have done to support Hoosier students.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that we have done in recent years, but there is still much work to be done, and our students demand nothing less than our complete focus on them and their needs. That is why today I am announcing the vision for the Indiana Department of Education as we plan for the next budget session of the Indiana General Assembly: Imagine 2020.
“Imagine Indiana Pre-K students having access to fully funded high quality early learning programs.
“Imagine Indiana students having more time for learning and spending less time on testing, outperforming other students in the nation in literacy and problem-solving, and experiencing a well-rounded curriculum.
“Imagine Indiana students leaving our high schools prepared for post-secondary education and training to enter living wage careers, achieving a 91% graduation rate, the highest in the nation.
“To make these possibilities become realities, we must focus on the following three educational foundations to advance our system of serving children, no matter their ZIP code:
“Today, our schools face a significant lack in equity of resources in our state. As a parent and as a teacher, that is simply not acceptable.
“As we prepare for the next budget session and approach 2020, I intend to address equity head on by closing the digital divide that our schools face so that all students can harness the power of the internet and experience the incredible ways in which it gives access to all.
“The Department will work with schools to provide wraparound services to students in need by supporting a community approach to meeting the needs of all Hoosier students.
“We must also continue to ensure that our schools are safe and welcoming. That is why my Department will continue to support the work of the Indiana School Safety Academy and share positive culture and climate best practices among schools so that every teacher in every classroom has resources to promote a positive learning environment for their students.
“Additionally, Indiana must do more to ensure that students who qualify for the Evan Bayh 21st Century Schools Program have the support they need to complete the requirements of receiving scholarships that pay for college tuition. Far too many of our most vulnerable students are not receiving the counseling support or resources they need to utilize this tuition assistance program. I will expand the Department’s work with the Commission for Higher Education, as well as increase counseling support to enroll more qualified students while also providing resources so that they can successfully complete the program.
“Finally, I will address educational equity by fighting to secure fair and adequate funding for all public schools in the next budget session. This includes continuing my work with the Indiana General Assembly to create an equitable funding formula for schools, and allowing public school families to take advantage of tax breaks for educational materials that are currently available to private and homeschool families.
“It is not enough for our schools to have equitable resources, they also have to maintain high quality. Our schools are helping our children develop the knowledge and skills they will need as they lead Indiana to 2020 and beyond. The future of our state demands nothing less than an exceptional education for our future leaders, from Pre-K through graduation.
“While Indiana has a high graduation rate, I am committed to working with educators and families to better prepare all students for college and career. My Department will expand its efforts to work with local schools and communities to provide support to address existing achievement gaps as well as identifying and providing the necessary resources to meet the unique needs of the school community.
“To ensure that every student has access to a high quality education, we must also ensure that they have high quality educators in their classrooms. As we move towards the next budget session and 2020, I will continue to fight for our students and schools to ensure that they all have access to excellent educators that are treated like the professionals they are by supporting the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Recruitment and Retention of Excellent Educators.
“As Superintendent, my focus is always on the children that we serve in our schools and communities.
“When you are student-centered, you understand exactly why we need to replace our costly, inefficient, high-stakes and unnecessary testing system that ISTEP+ has come to represent. Over the years, this test has changed to measure teachers, to measure administrators, to measure schools and to measure communities. None of these measures help students. None of these measures help a student learn to read. None of these measures help them solve an algebra problem. These measures serve a political purpose, not an educational one.
“When you are student-centered, you understand that labeling schools A-F only serves to label the students that attend those schools. We cannot possibly hope to instill optimism in our students if we also tell them that they are the reason their school was labeled an F this year. That is why I will work to include multiple measures within the state accountability system so that test scores are no longer the only measure of school improvement or student success.
When you are student-centered, you understand that students should have the opportunity to individualize their learning and their high school graduation plan. Across the state, no matter where they live, a student should have access to robust and diverse college and career education pathways that prepare them for success after high school. While my Department has already begun to increase the number of courses available in our schools, I will work to further expand the career course pathways available to students while at the same time increasing college and career counseling support to Hoosier students.
“Finally, Indiana cannot have a system of high quality when we have students that come to school unready to learn. We cannot have a system of equity when some students are exposed to early childhood education, while many of our poorest and neediest are not.
“As we move towards the next budget session, the Department will make high quality Pre-K available within the boundaries of every school corporation in the state of Indiana by 2020.
“By investing in early learning infrastructure and providing funding for high quality Pre-K classrooms, we can provide high quality, state funded, universal access to Pre-K. Indiana should invest in a public/private Community Pre-K Coalition approach that provides a high quality option within the geographic boundaries of all traditional public school districts.
“Through a combination of leveraging federal dollars, reverting state allocations, and eliminating wasteful spending in the state’s budget, the funds are there if the political will exists. With less than 1% of the state’s annual budget, we can ensure more of our children are kindergarten ready.
“Moving forward, I am committed to building on the accomplishments of the last four years and working with all branches of state government to serve Indiana’s students. Our children, our communities and our state demand nothing less as we Imagine 2020.”