SUPERINTENDENT’S CORNER: New state laws prompt changes in local schools

By LAURA HAMMACK, guest columnist

July 1 was an important day for school districts across the state, as it marked the occasion when a variety of actions conducted at the Statehouse in the last legislative cycle took effect.

For a session that was forecast to be moderate in regards to education agendas, the actions were substantial and translated into direct impact at the local level.

First, the ISTEP+ test was replaced by a new test, ILEARN (Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network). Students in grades 3 to 8 will take this assessment online beginning in the 2018-19 school year. Subjects that will be assessed include mathematics, English/language arts, science (grades 4 and 6) and social studies (grade 5).

End-of-course assessments will be offered in Algebra I, English 10 and Biology I following the completion of the defined course.

The Indiana Department of Education will be working to identify an outside vendor to administer this assessment.

For the school year 2017-18, students across the state will engage in the traditional ISTEP+ assessment.

All school corporations are required to adopt a policy intended to increase child suicide awareness and prevention. Such policies must address requirements such as counseling services, availability of referral information for crisis intervention, increasing awareness of the relationship between suicide and drug/alcohol abuse, training on warning signs that may evidence that a child is considering suicide, and the development of a plan to assist survivors of attempted to suicide and to assist children and school corporation staff in coping with attempted suicide or death of a student or school employee. We will be sure to draft policy and develop programming that supports all of these stipulations.

High schools across the state are now required to add two courses to the curriculum that must be offered at least once every school year. Students are not required to take these elective courses; however, high schools are required to offer them.

The first required course is Indiana Studies. Indiana Studies is an integrated course that compares and contrasts state and national developments in the areas of politics, economics, history and culture. The course uses Indiana history as a basis for understanding current policies, practices and state legislative procedures.

The second required course is Ethnic Studies. Ethnic Studies provides opportunities to broaden students’ perspectives concerning lifestyles and cultural patterns of ethnic groups in the United States. This course will either focus on a particular ethnic group or groups, or use a comparative approach to the study of patterns of cultural development, immigration and assimilation, as well as the contributions of specific ethnic or cultural groups. These courses will count as an elective for all diplomas.

You might remember that Sen. Eric Koch, R-Columbus, and I were working on legislation via Senate Bill 30 to increase awareness of school districts regarding knowledge of students living in a public school district but are attending a private school using a voucher.

We were pleased to see that the governor signed this legislation and it has become law. Koch championed this bill for us, and I am looking forward to using this critical data to better inform our strategies regarding the recruitment and retention of boys and girls in Brown County Schools. We are so grateful to Koch for his ongoing support of our school district.

The Indiana General Assembly also passed legislation expanding access to pre-kindergarten funding for a sum total of 15 counties. The pre-kindergarten pilot, On My Way Pre-K, is an income-based scholarship for 4-year-olds. Pre-kindergarten providers must be rated as high quality at level 3 or 4, and enrolled in Indiana’s quality rating and improvement system, Paths to QUALITY, in order to participate in On My Way Pre-K.

While Brown County was not selected as one of the participating counties in this expansion, we are committed to becoming certified in the Paths to QUALITY program this year and will continue to provide high-quality early intervention to our boys and girls who are desperate for this support.

The Indiana Department of Education has done an excellent job with unveiling legislative requirements to school districts via Dr. Jennifer McCormick’s weekly newsletter.

Brown County Schools is prepared to be responsive to new legislation and will be vigilant in our execution. We will share updates and policy recommendations through board action and I will better unpack new legislation through this platform.

Should the community have any questions regarding recent actions taken by the General Assembly, please feel free to contact me.

Laura Hammack is superintendent of Brown County schools. She can be reached at 812-988-6601 or lhammack@browncountyschools.com.