The State Board of Education has approved a motion to close Dunbar-Pulaski School in Gary at the end of the academic year due to “continued failing performance status.” During its monthly meeting Thursday, the SBOE also moved to return operation of Arlington High School in Indianapolis to Indianapolis Public Schools. The board will still maintain some oversight of Arlington.

March 12, 2015

News Release

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ISTEP+ testing, the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver and school turnaround academies were the main topics of action and discussion during the March meeting of the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE).

In a first course of action, the Indiana Department of Administration (IDOA) outlined its RFP process for selecting new testing vendors. Vendors were eligible to bid for any of 14 different components of the testing. While the IDOA has selected testing vendors, it recommended holding off on contract negotiations for new state tests until the protest period has ended. Dr. David Freitas, 2nd District SBOE Representative, requested that testing elements added by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) to the ISTEP+, beyond what is required, be removed from the new test to cut time and cost. This sentiment was shared by District 4 SBOE Representative Sarah O'Brien.

“The State Board of Education will take a very close look in the coming months at the proposed testing contracts in terms of overall scope and cost,” said O'Brien. “Hoosier taxpayers and parents can be assured the Board will not authorize any assessment that results in excessive testing time for our children or spends more tax dollars than is necessary to meet state and federal education requirements.”

The Board also heard recommendations about shortening the test and reducing cost from Board staff and national assessment consultant Dr. Bill Auty. Recommendations included removing excess reading items and looking at different types of questions to shorten the length of the test. Dr. Auty pointed out that open-ended questions can significantly increase testing times.

“Reckless statements have been made about tests, which are needed to serve children at the margins. Teachers are not teaching to a test, they are teaching to standards,” said Dan Elsener, District 7 SBOE Representative. “If a student doesn't meet a standard, we cannot ensure that the student will be college and career ready upon graduation.”

The board next welcomed Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee, who discussed the progress being made at Emma Donnan. IPS and Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) are currently working on an agreement to add K-6 grades to Emma Donnan. Several Board members expressed support for the concept and asked to see a resolution between IPS and CSUSA by the April meeting.

In regards to Arlington, Dr. Ferebee laid out IPS' transformation plan to take over operations this fall. IPS identified $6.5 million in infrastructure improvements needed for the building. He also reported that the district held community meetings to prepare the community for the transition and is conducting a principal search, assessing transportation needs, setting student performance benchmarks and addressing feeder school issues. Ferebee predicted that school enrollment could double by next year through adding 7th and 8th grade and returning local IPS students back to their neighborhood school. The Board passed a motion to return operation of Arlington to IPS, however the school will remain in turnaround status and under board supervision.

Next, the Board discussed Dunbar-Pulaski School within the Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC). Tony Walker, District 1 SBOE Representative, made a motion to close the school at the end of the school year due to continued failing performance status and the dire financial straits of GCSC. He noted that Dunbar-Pulaski and Roosevelt Academy are within one mile of each other, serve the same student populations, and face maintenance challenges associated with dilapidated buildings. Walker argued that by consolidating schools the district could focus its efforts on sustaining one building and student body.

“It's not something I want to do, but it's the right thing to do for the long-term sustainability of the school district and community,” said Walker.

The Board passed the motion to close Pulaski-Dunbar by a 6-4 vote.

Later, the IDOE discussed the state's NCLB waiver. The agency reported they have only received four public comments about the waiver to date. It is due to be filed with the U.S. Department of Education by March 31, 2015. The IDOE committed to sharing a copy of the final waiver with the Board within the next two weeks and prior to submitting.

In other business, the Board approved a resolution for A-F appeals process for schools and to extend ISTEP+ testing windows by five days for paper tests and two days for online tests. And, it voted to give two charter schools serving students with special needs one year to improve its academic performance.

Most materials presented at the March 12, 2015 SBOE Regular Business Meeting can be found at http://in.gov/sboe/2613.htm. The next SBOE meeting will be held on April 1, 2015 in Indianapolis.

Source: The Indiana State Board of Education

March 13, 2015

News Release

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Yesterday, Indiana Department of Education's request to extend the testing window for ISTEP+ Part 2 was unanimously approved by the Indiana State Board of Education. The extension adds five days to the testing window for schools using paper and pencil and two days to the window for schools taking the test online. In response to this vote, Glenda Ritz, Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction issued the following statement:

“I am pleased that we took this step to give schools much needed flexibility in the administration of ISTEP. I have worked tirelessly to reduce the burden of testing on our schools, students, educators and parents and this additional flexibility will help do just that.”

In addition, the State Board of Education took the unprecedented step of closing Dunbar-Pulaski Career and Academic Academy in Gary. This step will close the only dedicated middle school in the Gary Community School Corporation at the end of this school year. The drastic step was taken over the objections of the Indiana Department of Education and Gary Community Schools and in spite of detailed plans that were presented of ways to improve the school. The vote to close the school was 6-4, with Superintendent Ritz joined by State Board members Troy Albert, Sarah O'Brien and Cari Whicker in voting no.

In response to this vote, Superintendent Ritz issued the following statement:

“I am incredibly disappointed in the Board's vote to close Dunbar-Pulaski. The Department of Education has been working hand-in-hand with Gary Community Schools and the Board's unilateral action throws out all the work that has been put into strengthening this school. The children of Gary deserve better.”

Source: The Indiana Department of Education

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