Senator’s proposal would give schools flexibility to change calendar

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An Indiana state senator wants to reward schools that continually achieve high standards of excellence by offering more flexibility in terms of curriculum and class time.

State Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel) said Senate Bill 189 would give high-achieving schools some freedom from state education requirements.

According to Delph, administrators would have more leeway to develop curriculum and guidelines for teacher and staff evaluations. Schools would be able to create their own plans for dealing with gifted students and implement plans for career and technical training.

In perhaps the most significant break from state requirements, certified schools would be able to organize their class time based on instructional minutes instead of the state-mandated 180-day school calendar. Schools could mandate a three- or four-day school week, for example, or set a 10-hour school day.

Delph said the state has focused on underperforming districts in the past and wanted to put the spotlight on districts that excel.

Schools would still be subject to other Indiana educational statutes, including guidelines for special education, contract/salary regulations and administrative procedures.

Delph said input from Carmel Clay School Board member Andy Klein and outgoing Carmel Clay Superintendent Dr. Jeff Swensson helped shape the legislation. The senator had previously included the proposed reforms in an education bill that would’ve returned to single-class basketball and required schools to start after Labor Day. That bill didn’t pass, but Delph is proposing the achievement reforms in a standalone bill.

School performance levels would be based on the following criteria:

  • At least 25 percent of students graduating each year must earn a 3, 4 or 5 on at least one Advanced Placement test or graduate with a technical honors diploma.
  • A district-wide graduation rate of at least 90 percent.
  • The composite SAT scores of the district’s graduates must be higher than the state-wide average SAT scores.

Once districts are certified, they would have to maintain certain annual benchmarks:

  • Participation in performance-based measures determined by the Indiana Department of Education and the district.
  • For a high school, at least 85 percent of students must achieve a passing score on end of course assessments in Algebra I, English 10 or both Algebra I and English 10.
  • For a middle school, at least 85 percent of students in grades 6, 7 and 8 must achieve a passing score on ISTEP assessments in English, mathematics or both English and mathematics.
  • For an elementary school, at least 85 percent of students in grades 3, 4 and 5 must achieve a passing score on ISTEP assessments in English, mathematics or both English and mathematics. At least 85 percent of students in grade 3 must pass the I-READ assessment.

“Such performance standards would help ensure our students are fully prepared to accomplish their goals,” Delph said. “They would create a system where we’re challenging our schools to focus on methods that maximize student success beyond the classroom. In the long-run, our children would be better positioned to be competitive in this global economy.”

Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), chairman of the Senate’s Education and Career Advancement Committee, and Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), Senate Majority Floor Leader, co-authored the bill.

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