Exempting Voucher Schools from ISTEP and Reporting Requirements

Eric Weddle, reporting for the Indy Star (h/t @kdemerly), has a story about SB 322 introduced by Senator Schneider.

Rather than requiring the ISTEP test, voucher schools could administer the ISTEP or “a nationally norm referenced test approved by [the State Board of Education].” Additionally, voucher schools would not be required to report the results of those tests.

The bill would also limit the amount of data schools receiving vouchers would be required to report to the state department of education.

The proposal comes to the fore just days after an Indiana Department of Education report showed the number of students using public-money vouchers to attend private schools more than doubled this year to 19,809 at a cost of nearly $80 million.
. . .
[Per the Indiana State Teachers Association]: “Not lost on anyone in this proposal is that once private schools would no longer be required to administer the ISTEP test to its students, these schools would also no longer receive a letter grade for their school’s performance,” the post said.

I’m not a great fan of the ISTEP or incessant testing of our kids, but if we’re going to be diverting a bunch of money from traditional schools to voucher schools, we need to have apples-to-apples comparisons to know whether we’re spending that money wisely. That means playing by the same rules. What data we do have from the last 20 years of vouchers in the country suggests that voucher schools don’t perform notably better than traditional schools and, often times, perform worse.

Updated Also relevant, see State Impact on the amount of voucher money in Indiana and where it is flowing.

“Indiana’s Choice Scholarships — in terms of purchasing power — are more expansive than other, similar types of voucher program operating in Washington, D.C., Ohio and Louisiana currently,” says Nelson, who researches the economics of education. “They’re less expansive than other programs operating in Colorado, North Carolina and Milwaukee.”

But what really separates Indiana’s program is which schools and students can participate — the number of vouchers has doubled in each of the past two years. Nelson says that’s a problem because a significant amount of money is flowing towards low-rated schools.

“I find it highly problematic that the school in Indiana with the highest dollar amount in Choice Scholarships is Ambassador Christian Academy, and that school was rated an F,” she says. “We need some sort of accountability process in place where schools that are rated F or just poorly overall do not end up receiving huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to essentially reallocate students to very low-performing schools.”


  1. HoosierOne says

    We have the same data from the last few years of voucher/ charter schools and they perform abysmally. In fact of the 25 lowest schools, almost all are charters. But of course, we don’t want to admit that – so instead of changing the course, we just fudge the facts. Isn’t that what the GOP has been trying to do in most cases – voting, health care, taxes, public education.. In fact the other insidious bill will take all the student data – with privacy etc, from the DOE and give it over to the CECI (created by the governor to take the place of the DOE) – which means that can all be compromised and fudged more easily.

    • Freedom says

      While charter schools do rightfully draw suspicion, the religious schools vastly outperform the public schools.

      We simply don’t trust the public education lobby, and we’ve had enough of their 40 years of war on the American intellect and their soft degrees, soft curriculum and hard-Left departure from teaching real subjects. We have to try an alternative. if charter schools aren’t it, let’s offer the students the religious schools.

  2. Stuart says

    If you need some standard for comparison, you compare apples with apples. The problems with ISTEP and the whole multiple choice superficial content notwithstanding, if they use different instruments, it’s more difficult to compare schools. and harder to define “accountability”. Wasn’t that how all this hooha began? Now they have the goodies, they now want to be “free” from judgment.

    All of this amounts to state neglect of children, flowing from refusal to insure that children are actually receiving an education that will help them become citizens in a democracy. This is, after all, the responsibility of the state. We know that many (at least four) of these voucher schools refuse to teach standard science, replacing “creationism” as ersatz science, and now it’s “just give me the money”. It’s not about children. If the legislature lets this pass, they might as well just admit it. It’s all about fact-free ideology.

    • steelydanfan says

      refusal to insure that children are actually receiving an education that will help them become citizens in a democracy.

      I think that’s the whole point. Buying into the GOP’s program requires that you either be one of the beneficiaries of its destruction or fail to think about things. The former would diminish what those already in charge get, so they’re trying to ensure the latter.

  3. Steve Smith says

    We need to remember the purpose of this, which is a simple fact. Charter schools were designed to re-route public money into private hands. It’s just that simple. You are now seeing the fruits of it. We are on step 6.

    The program was sold to us, but the 9 Easy Steps were not explained:
    Step 1. Preach that public schools are not doing the job.
    Step 2. Cut public spending for public schools.
    Step 3. Institute testing that is guaranteed to show public schools are not doing the job.
    Step 4. Convince the public that private schools can do better.
    Step 5. Shift huge amounts of tax revenue to ‘private charter schools’.
    Step 6. Remove all testing of charter school students.
    Step 7. Let private companies milk the tax payers until there is nothing left.
    Step 8. Let Private charter schools’ owners load up the moving vans in the middle of the night and abscond with what is valuable, leaving the ashes of a good school system to be gathered up by a gullible public.
    Step 9. Start over, financially broken, with an under-educated populace, more like the South than we’ve ever been.

    • Dave Z says

      You make it sound like charter schools are like the Baltimore Colts….too soon?

      At this point, has it escaped anyone that Pence is using the governorship to cement his status in the GOP for his run at the Presidency in 2016? This is just another way for him to say, “look, I’ve fixed our education system….without the person who was specifically elected to do so’s help!”

      • Freedom says

        If Pence goes to war with teacher qualifications, allowing the best and brightest of all college graduates, from all majors, to become teachers and not just ed school grads, he’ll have done a great thing, and he’d have my vote.

        • Stuart says

          If you follow all the events, you see that these “best and brightest” may not be so hot, filling positions left by people who will find states that are more welcoming. At least that is the historical pattern. Those who are talented will leave early (within three years), contributing to the instability. If people think that teachers were not paid well in the past, take a look at the current scene. Narrow, ideologically-driven schemes are being driven by politicians who don’t understand children, curriculum or how schools need to be structured. This is in the process of not ending well.

          • Freedom says

            “If people think that teachers were not paid well in the past,..”

            Nobody says this, quite the reverse. With unemployment over 18%, public school teachers are well ensconced.

                • Carlito Brgante says

                  The official unemployment rate is 7%. It is calculated in the same manner as it has generally been calculated for the last several years. I do remember when it was 18%, however, in 1981 and 1982.

                • Freedom says

                  Please research prior to speaking.

                  37% of the country is unemployed. Of the 63% employed, 30-50% are underemployed.


                  What percentage of Americans have a job they enjoy and find rewarding? 5%? 7%? It’s tough to make a life in America. The depression is unrelenting.

                  The best jobs are in government. Fueled by runaway government spending of fiat dollars, D.C. is a boomtown, with government salaries that are double or triple private-sector salaries.


                • steelydanfan says

                  Oh, so you’re using a stupid measurement that’s never used in reality because it’s been shown to have no real correlation whatsoever with the general subjective experience?

                  And what’s worse, you’re not even using that stupid measurement right.

                  “63% of working-age Americans are in the labor force” means that 63% of working-age Americans have or are actively seeking but do not currently have a “job”. This is more commonly known as the “labor force participation rate.”

                  Which means that yes, actually less than 63% of working-age Americans are actually employed. With an unemployment rate of 7%, that means that roughly 58.6% actually are employed (.63 times .93).

                  Here’s the thing, though: you’re telling us nothing new. You’re just telling us something that’s empirically been shown to be mostly meaningless?


                  Because losses in labor force participation rate are made up for by gains in productivity, such that the actual total wealth available to the person (as measured by per-capita GDP) is now at an all-time high, despite labor force participation being at or close to its lowest point since 1978.

                  More people working but less wealth per-capita is inferior to fewer people working but more wealth per-capita. This is what technology is supposed to do: give us more leisure time, so that we can work less.

                  The problem isn’t that fewer people are working, per se. The problem is that thanks to authoritarian freedom-haters such as yourself, the US is still organized around this absurd, insane, backwards, and asinine notion that one’s access to wealth should somehow be tied to one’s participation in economic production when in fact the two have no morally-defensible relation to one another.

                  The need, then, is to reorganize society: instead a little over half of (adult) society doing all the work and the wealth being concentrated among even fewer, we spread the work around so that we’re all doing an equal share (which, for those of us that are working full-time, would mean we’re doing less than we currently are now) and we each receive an equal share of the total social wealth, not because of our role in production but because we exist.

            • Freedom says

              You’re the same guy who said that Communists aren’t Liberals. When all Liberals do is lie, distort, twist and avoid reality for political gain, they have no chance of being a party anyone takes seriously.

              • steelydanfan says

                You’re the same guy who said that Communists aren’t Liberals.

                That’s because we’re not.

                Given the sheer abundance of attacks on “liberalism” in Communist rhetoric, that should be obvious to anyone who actually knows what he or she is talking about.

                But, of course, for you not having the slightest clue what you’re talking about is a badge of pride, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

        • Joe says

          As Stuart said, you have to pay to get the best. Make teaching a profession that pays like a lawyer or doctor and you will get better candidates.

          • Freedom says

            Let’s try the cheaper option, first. Merely open the classroom to graduates of all degrees, instead of preserving a guild for teachers.

            • Hayden says

              Currently anyone can take a test to teach. I have worked with several of your best and brightest who fail to understand child development and have left the profession.

              • Freedom says

                Not true. An English major can’t walk in, ace the test, and be handed a fifth-grade classroom. The ed schools have it rigged so that they get greased by every would-be teacher.

                • Stuart says

                  You wouldn’t have any data to support this grand conspiracy, would you? Or are you making things up again and thinking that people are so naive that they will actually believe your notions?

            • says

              I think you need to reward people financially. Especially since if they can’t hack it, they need to get tossed out on their rear, and quickly.

              Besides, far more enjoyable to watch the debate on teacher unions when they fight an effort to pay teachers six figures.

              You get what you pay for. Either you pay up front for education or you pay on the back end for welfare and prisons.

        • Dave Z says

          I assume he already has your vote, Freedom. The problem with your theory about the “best and brightest,” in it’s most innocent form, is that folks who go to college to become teachers are trained to be teachers. It’s not as easy as it looks or seems to those of us who don’t do it day in or day out. Like any profession, it takes years to understand the nuances of reaching children’s minds, more years to even get good at it, and some say (which I agree with) you never master it. It’s a tough gig made even tougher in today’s society that blames teachers for everything, makes them fill out paperwork like they were secretaries with nothing else to do, and victimizes them for not having the resources needed to teach.

          I challenge you, Freedom, so spend one week teaching. Day in and day out. I’d bet you’d have a whole new respect even after an afternoon.

    • gizmomathboy says

      While I am a supporter of charter schools, I think having them be run by for-profit organizations is a bad idea.

      However, in Indiana almost all charter schools are for-profits which is sad.

      • Freedom says

        Not-for-profits are just as sleazy. Instead of taking the money out of the company as profits, they take it out as salaries. “Not-for-profit” heads frequently make far more than private-sector chiefs. Roger Goodell of the NFL makes 29.5 million.

        Organizations run as charities have a bit more financial discipline.

  4. Freedom says

    “if we’re going to be diverting a bunch of money from traditional schools to voucher schools…”

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, sport. You’ve got it all backwards. Private schools are the “traditional schools,” and a household’s money for schooling is always considered as going to private schools, first, to public schools as an option of last resort.

    It is the public schools that are the diversion of proper educational funding, and vouchers let the real schools again have access to parents’ primary choice for their educational dollars.

    • curious says

      Ok, so here is a basis for saying that public schools are the “traditional school” here in Indiana: 1851 Indiana Constitution, Article 8, Section 1, “Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”

      So what is your basis for saying that “private schools” are the “traditional school” in Indiana.

  5. says

    At this point, the Indiana GOP is just trolling, because it’s not even trying anymore to make anything sound like it’s for the greater good, or for fiscal responsibility for that matter. Like the vote on drug-testing welfare recipients. The Florida law (which didn’t catch anybody) has just been laughed out of a federal court. Then there’s not accepting Medicaid money, which is just a case of being jerks. Whatever happens with HJR3, that is inevitably going to be nullified. Even this bill — is there a case to be made that any school accepting state funds, which include voucher funds, must be set to state educational standards? Even if there isn’t a case, would legislators be killing what they love by scaring off parents who will get no data at all about the school? Of course, they’re not worried about that, because the whole purpose of these laws is undermining teachers unions, and propping up private school (especially religious school) enrollment, which is declining (says the guy who pulled his kids out of Catholic school and into public schools).


    • Stuart says

      Thanks, exhoosier, for the paper. I’ve been told by some friends, in a position to know, the Catholic schools are declining in number, which is not good news. We need excellence everywhere, and it’s sad to see this happen. I’m afraid that many of the newest private schools are being started by snake oil salesmen who smell the money and their ignorant environments are being sold to naive consumers–at State expense, mind you. As it has been point out elsewhere (Sheila Kennedy), these “schools” are most vulnerable to going belly up. As usual, the kids who need a stable, consistent and challenging environment are cheated.

      And speaking of snake oil salesmen, one of the biggest voucher recipients is the Ambassador Christian Academy (mentioned earlier) which teaches ersatz “creationism science” to the very kids who need disciplined academic excellence. So much for throwing the schools out to the highest bidder. Reality doesn’t match ideology.

  6. says

    Pence don’t stand a chance in hell for the Republican nomination, he’s trying to become the VP nominee. Not supporting gay marriage will shoot him down like a fat goose that can’t fly in a swamp full of hunters!

  7. says

    Lastly is comes down to teachers and parents on how well your kids learns. These are the most important facts when it comes to schools educating kids. Money and good administrators are just the icing on the cake.

  8. Stuart says

    SB 322 has been amended, so that test substitution for ISTEP is no longer included, but it still provides that “information that is not necessary to determine the school’s eligibility” may not be collected. Not sure what that means in terms of implications.


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