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Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, declares his support for House Bill 1001 to the rest of the House. Photo by Thomas Samuel, TheStatehouseFile.com

Bills that would protect teachers from being evaluated on their students’ standardized test results, as well as temporarily free school districts from being graded on them, are flying through the legislature.

On Monday, at the start of the second week of this year’s legislative session, both the House and Senate unanimously passed bills to ease teacher and school districts’ fears. Poor results statewide on the new ILEARN standardized exam could have meant poor evaluations for teachers and poor grades for the schools.

Those concerns were among the issues that brought an estimated 15,000 educators and supporters to the Statehouse for the legislature’s organizational meeting in November.

The House unanimously passed House Bill 1001, which prevents the school districts from being downgraded due to the new test results for two years, and House Bill 1002, which decouples teacher evaluations from the tests. The bills now move to the Senate, which on Monday unanimously passed Senate Bill 2, its version which combines both school district performance and teacher evaluations in a single bill.

Unlike the House, though, the Senate version only shields teachers from having their jobs and pay be impacted by the test results for two years.

State Rep. Dale DeVon, the Granger Republican who authored HB 1001, told his colleagues that while it’s a “simple bill… it’s also one of the most important bills.”

State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary and a co-sponsor of both House bills, assured lawmakers that “there is still accountability in schools” even if these become law, and noted administrators are still required to visit each classroom at least four times a year to evaluate teachers.

State Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said the only fault he had with HB 1002 was that it wasn’t passed years ago.

“Passage will end some of the false precedents that we’ve heard about teacher reform,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think there is a test that can fairly correlate student scores with how well a teacher is doing his or her job.

State Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Centerville and author of SB 2, said the two-year grace period shielding schools and teachers from being judged on the new ILEARN test “gives everybody an opportunity to have a couple years reprieve, to determine the style of test, the rigor of the test, and hopefully the teachers will understand better and the students will learn more and come 2021 things will be better.”

“Transitioning from one test to another is not an easy task, and I’m pleased to have voted today in support of our hardworking teachers and students,” said state Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute. “Maintaining a thriving learning environment is critical for Hoosier communities, and we must make sure our schools have time to adapt to the new ILEARN exam.”

That bill now moves to the House for debate.

Jesse Crebbe and Kiara Calloway are reporters with TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.

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