Using positive language rather than "F" or "fail," creating equitable assessment tests and increasing funding support for early childhood education.
Those are just some of the ideas suggested during a meeting Thursday night held to invite public input on writing Indiana's new education plan to fulfill requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Indiana Department of Education organized the meeting at the Fort Wayne Urban League, 2135 Hanna St., which was one of several public input meetings the department has held around the state.
"Truly, ESSA is our moment to get some things done," Jennifer McCormick, who took office in January as Indiana's superintendent of public instruction, said during remarks opening the meeting attended by about 100 people.
The new law, which was passed in 2015, replaces the No Child Left Behind Act and gives states more freedom to determine how to measure the learning growth by their students and schools.
Patrick McAlister, Indiana education department policy director, then led the meeting. He broke people into small groups to spend 30 minutes discussing one of four topics:
- Ideas on how to determine how schools are doing.
- Ideas on how to communicate how schools are doing.
- Supporting all students.
- Improving schools in need.
In one of the groups discussing how to support all students, at least two people said the current state student assessment system doesn't treat students with disabilities fairly. Special-needs students have to take the same assessment tests as other students, which makes it more difficult for them to pass.
One person suggested schools use different tests for assessing students of varied abilities.
Another group member recommended involving all school staff and parents in providing services and resources to students.
After 30 minutes, the small groups came back together and one person from each group shared their group's ideas.
Common themes included more equitable funding and assessment testing, as well as treating each student as an individual rather than just another face in the class group.
Indiana education officials have received similar ideas at the other public input meetings held throughout the state, said McAlister, who grew up in Fort Wayne and now is in charge of coordinating development of Indiana's ESSA plan.
State education officials will compile all of the ideas gathered at the public input meetings and through residents' direct contact with the department, McAlister said at the end of the meeting. State education staff then will use the ideas to write a first draft of the state's ESSA plan.
The department will post that draft online by June 30 for public comment through July, McAlister said. The comments will be used to write a final plan, which will go to Gov. Eric Holcomb by Aug. 15 for review. The plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education by Sept. 18.
For more about Indiana's plan for meeting requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, go to www.doe.in.gov/essa.