Behning: Learning from schools in our community

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, March 24, 2017 8:43 am

Knowing what is happening in our schools is vital to my role as chair of the House Committee on Education. One way I do this is by visiting schools in our community and observing classrooms across the state. Seeing how Hoosier students learn and educators teach gives me an insider’s look at how our schools are operating and how policies impact the classroom.

Last week, I was able to join students and their teachers to witness firsthand the daily operations of Tindley Renaissance Academy, an innovative school serving the Indianapolis community. The education policies enacted by the Indiana General Assembly directly impact students and teachers, which is why visiting schools like Tindley is so important.

While there, I was able to observe classrooms and interact with students of all grade levels. I met Charles, a third grader who has aspirations to be president one day. I was happy to meet several eager and ambitious students who were ready to learn and discuss their goals for the future. Many of them already knew which college they hope to attend. I even got to help students piece together a human skeleton during a science lesson.

After observing classrooms and working with students, I sat down with students, parents and educators to discuss House Bill 1003, my legislation that would effectively replace ISTEP with I-LEARN (Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network) in 2018. It was great to hear the thoughts and questions from the students taking the tests. At the same time, I was able to answer parents’ and teachers’ questions. One of the main concerns was how any new test would provide feedback and help students grow academically. It is my goal that any new test would provide quicker feedback with specific areas of improvement, so that students, parents and educators can focus on the skills that need the most improvement. Under my proposal, the new exam would be administered during a single, statewide testing window toward the end of the school year. Hoosier educators would also be able to grade portions of the test, which is currently facilitated by the testing vendor. The Senate Committee on Education and Career Development is currently considering this legislation.  

This premise of the I-LEARN legislation comes from a 23-member panel of educators and policymakers who met in 2016 to give their recommendations on what the next generation of assessments should look like. Eddie Rangel, the principal of Tindley and a Teach Plus Fellowship alum, sat on the panel and offered valuable input on the subject.

The visit at Tindley was organized in part with the teacher leadership organization Teach Plus. Through Teach Plus, educators are recruited and trained to guide change and innovation in classrooms around the country. Teachers trained by Teach Plus are placed in their schools as leaders on important policies and practices that positively affect the success of students. One of the teachers at Tindley serves as a mentor to her colleagues and has a 100-percent pass rate on the current ISTEP exam.

I appreciate the passion of all educators to move students forward and their dedication to finding innovative teaching approaches. Like Teach Plus, I want to see all schools drive learning in every classroom, helping students reach their full potential by exposing them to unique opportunities. I will continue to make it a priority to visit schools throughout the state, especially schools in our community. If you are interested in setting up a school visit, contact my office at h91@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9643.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

Behning serves as the chair of the House Committee on Education.

A high-resolution photo of Behning can be downloaded by clicking here