Superintendent of Public Intruction Jennifer McCormick talks about graduation rates, the teacher shortage, replacement of the No Child Left Behind Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Indiana Department of Educations for areas of academic focus during the Indiana Retired Teachers Association luncheon Friday in Anderson. Staff photo by Don Knight
McCormick said Indiana was one of two states affected by the change in the graduation rate formula.
“When you’re trying to attract businesses, you don’t want to go from the top to the bottom,” she said.
Under new formula, only Core 40 and higher diplomas will be counted, McCormick said.
“We set ourselves up to be a rigorous state, but we shot ourselves in the foot,” she said.
The change also potentially can affect federal funding for districts, McCormick said.
“Yes, it could have a fiscal impact on your districts,” she said.
Vickie Riggins, a retired Anderson Community Schools reading specialist, said she was concerned about the state’s teacher shortage. She blamed it on low teacher pay and increasing accountability.
“I often have been offended by the way things are tied to testing,” said Riggins, who started teaching in the 1970s.
McCormick responded that the shortage is real.
“Sometimes when you cut the art teacher, you cut the art program,” the former Yorktown superintendent said.
McCormick, who oversees a $8 billion budget, said she has been unable to persuade the Legislature that teacher salaries are a large reason why young people aren’t planning careers in education and why veteran teachers leave for other opportunities. Sometimes, she said, they are leaving ACS for Frankton-Lapel because they know they will get a raise.
Part of the problem, she said, is that legislators aren’t hearing from the teachers themselves. However, she plans to survey teachers in the near future about whether they plan to leave or have left the profession and why.
As ESSA is phased in, McCormick said, it’s supposed to lead to more flexibility at the state level.
“It’s going to change our accountability. It’s going to change our funding. It’s going to change how we do things,” she said.
McCormick said her administration is focused on four academic areas: science, technology, engineering and math; career technical education; reading and courses for college credit.
However, the college classes are proving problematic because of a shortage of qualified teachers, she said. The state has 2,000 teachers offering such classes that must be properly certified by 2020.
“That is a huge economic advantage for our students,” she said. “It is not an option that students don’t have that option any longer.”