Indiana Chamber Opposes Teacher Evaluations Bill

The Indiana Chamber opposes SB 35, which provides that a school corporation may use objective measures of student achievement as part of a teacher evaluation plan. (Current law provides that the use of an objective measure of student achievement is required as part of a teacher evaluation plan.)

While there are potentially some issues with teacher evaluations and those issues should be addressed at a more comprehensive level, it is a longstanding Chamber policy that teacher evaluations are extremely important and that student objective measures should be included in the evaluation process.

Note that last year, HEA 1395 (which did decouple the test results from the evaluations for one year) passed with the Chamber’s qualified support. This is because we felt that the administration of the ISTEP test – not the exam itself – was flawed. There is already local control when determining how much student objective measures will be attributed toward teacher evaluations and what objectives should be included in addition to the statewide assessment.

In addition, while many complain about including student objective measures in evaluations, it does not seem to have a negative impact in effectiveness ratings for teachers (98% were rated effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations).

The bill was heard in the Senate Education Committee last Wednesday and held until this week for amendment and vote.

Concerns Over Education Matters Bill

The Indiana Chamber opposes, in part, SB 108, which eliminates the requirement that the Department of Education must publish a model compensation plan. It also:

  • Eliminates a requirement that each school corporation shall submit its local compensation plan to the department
  • Eliminates a requirement that the department must publish the local compensation plans on the department’s web site
  • Removes requirements that the: (1) department shall report any noncompliance of a school that fails to submit its compensation plan; and (2) State Board of Education shall take appropriate action to ensure compliance
  • Makes changes to the time frame, from four to six years, in which the State Board may take over a failing school
  • Provides that a principal or superintendent, or the principal’s or superintendent’s designee, may recommend an individual to participate in the Indiana high school equivalency diploma program

The Indiana Chamber testified against the provision concerning failing school interventions. We feel strongly that the trigger threshold of State Board of Education intervention should be kept at the current rate of four years instead of the drafted language of six years. It is important to keep our schools strong and accountable for our students, and six years is simply waiting too long to act regarding an underperforming school; our students deserve better.

The bill was heard in the Senate Education Committee last Wednesday and held until this week for amendment and vote.

Indiana Chamber Comments on Governor-Elect Holcomb’s 2017 Legislative Agenda

Indiana Chamber executives comment on Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb’s legislative agenda announced today.

Mark Lawrance, Indiana Chamber vice president of engagement and innovation policy:

“His policy priorities match the most pressing needs for employers and residents. Whether that’s backing a long-term commitment to fund the state’s transportation infrastructure or taking steps to address our population’s drug crisis.

“We were pleased to hear that the Holcomb administration will continue the push to make the innovation sector a major part of the state’s identity. Investing in technology companies is so vital because these businesses complement our existing industry strengths in agriculture, logistics and manufacturing. In many ways, innovation has and is transforming those areas. There’s no doubt Indiana can become a highly recognized technology hub, and the state supporting the tech sector’s growth is key to making that a reality.”

Caryl Auslander, Indiana Chamber vice president of education and workforce development:

“His broad-based approach to education and workforce development is essential to ensuring students are on the right path from an early age, adults are able to find gainful employment and businesses can fill positions with local talent. We know financial considerations are always part of the equation, but the General Assembly needs to do all it can to fund many of these critical education initiatives. And that should start with an expansion of the pre-K program for disadvantaged youngsters.

“The Indiana Chamber has long supported making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position (by the governor). The governor is viewed as the ultimate leader regarding the state’s education policy. In years past, leaders in both parties have agreed on this issue – but the timing wasn’t right politically. We hope it is now.”

Latest on ISTEP and ‘A-F’ School Grades

The ISTEP Alternatives Panel has made its final recommendations on how to replace ISTEP, which was legislatively determined to sunset in the fall of 2017 after scoring, technical and mismanagement issues plagued the exam the past two years.

These recommendations include: students in grades 3-8 to take one English and math exam at the end of the school year, and 10th grade students to take English, Algebra 1 and biology at the end of the school year. The tests will be taken once and not split into two testing times in the winter and spring.

One of the most important recommendations was to recognize that national testing experts advised that it takes a minimum of two years to fully implement a new testing system throughout the state. So it is very likely that we will see legislation during the upcoming 2017 legislative session to undo the sunset provision.

The recommendations received wide support from 21 of the 23 members of the panel, made up by a majority of educators. The two “no” votes were by Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Ayanna Wilson Coles, a Pike Township educator appointed by Ritz. These recommendations now go to the Legislature, which can choose to use them during the 2017 legislative session. The Indiana Chamber strongly advocated last year
to have a business representative appointed to the panel, and we would like to thank our board member, Marilyn Moran-Townsend of Fort Wayne, for all of her work and dedication to the panel and helping lead the collaborative effort that resulted in the recommendations.

This week, the State Board of Education released school A-F grades which, as anticipated, were lower than in previous years. And while expected, it is important to note that it is very difficult to compare this year’s scores to the scores in 2015 for two important reasons. First, last year, the Legislature (with the Indiana Chamber’s support) decided to protect schools from the lower ISTEP scores due to the test mismanagement and scoring
issues. This “hold harmless” provision stated that 2015 grades were changed only if they improved from 2014; otherwise schools were able to hold onto the higher grade. So the 2016 scores released this week are the actual first show of true impact of the more rigorous assessment based on the newer and more-challenging college and career ready standards. Second, this year the State Board of Education determined school grades
based on a new formula that equally weighs growth and proficiency.

While there has already been significant discussion on whether to “hold-harmless” for this year’s ISTEP exam, the U.S. Department of Education has already stated that such a provision would not be allowed. The Indiana Chamber will continue to push legislators on the importance of assessments AND accountability – for teachers, schools and students in the 2017 legislative session and beyond.

Ball State: New Clinical Trials Examine How Exercise Helps Us Down to Our Molecules

Todd Trappe (left) and Scott Trappe (right) work on a research project at Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory.

Ball State University will partner with two other major research institutions as part of a national project to uncover how exercise changes the body on a molecular level, which could lead to people engaging in more targeted and optimized activities.

Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) will form one clinical trial site with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Exercise Medicine and the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes in Orlando, Florida. Their work is part of the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans program (MoTrPac), which will be financed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund.

The three partners will share a projected $6.6 million over six years, 2017-23, as part of a $170 million NIH investment for the largest, most complex and highly coordinated human exercise physiology training study in the field’s history.

“The NIH initiative is a moonshot opportunity for the exercise community, and the Human Performance Laboratory is honored to be part of the team,” said Scott Trappe, the John and Janice Fisher Endowed Chair of Exercise Science and director of the Human Performance Laboratory in Ball State’s newly formed College of Health. “This is a new frontier that will move the field forward to better understand the health benefits of exercise.”

Under the $170 million project, 19 grants will support researchers working around the country, including seven clinical trial sites and several analytical sites to collect samples from people of different races, ethnic groups, sex, ages and fitness levels.

“We have long understood that exercising is beneficial to our overall health; however, we still do not understand why,” NIH director Francis S. Collins said in a statement. “The development of a so-called molecular map of circulating signals produced by physical activity will allow us to discover, at a fundamental level, how physical activity affects our health.

Under the national research initiative, researchers will partner to develop plans to recruit people for clinical trials, identify how to analyze tissue samples and select animal models to best replicate human studies.

Investigators across the country will recruit a total of about 3,000 healthy men and women of different fitness levels, ages, races and ethnicities. Each clinical site will enroll and study 450 to 500 participants. Researchers will collect blood, urine and tissue samples from the volunteers, who will perform resistance or aerobic exercises as part of the national study.

During the first year, clinical site teams will finalize plans and responsibilities. Trappe said HPL will quickly ramp up operations, including adding more researchers and post-doctoral students, to begin work in 2017. He will be a co-director of the test site; Todd Trappe, a Ball State exercise science professor, will be a co-principal investigator for the site.

Toby Chambers, a first-year doctoral student in Ball State’s human bioenergetics program, believes the NIH project underscores the national reputations Ball State and HPL have developed.

“As a doctoral student in the Human Performance Laboratory, I am really excited about the learning opportunities that will result from the research team’s involvement,” he said. “The unique opportunities this presents to the research team are why individuals, like myself, continue to be attracted to the HPL at Ball State.”

Indiana Chamber, Ball State Announce Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Index for Hoosier Communities

An old proverb, first printed in 1639, says: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” In today’s state and national economies, the assertion is that the healthier the residents are, the wealthier and wiser they and the broader community will also be.

The Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) created the Healthy, Wealthy, Wise Index for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, its Foundation and the Wellness Council of Indiana to emphasize the critical importance of the health factor. The Index will serve as a valuable measuring tool for the Wellness Council’s Indiana Healthy Community initiative.

The Wellness Council of Indiana is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indiana Chamber.

“Health is a key success factor to learning and wealth,” says Wellness Council of Indiana Executive Director Chuck Gillespie. “Community leaders and business decision makers need to understand why ‘healthy’ must be a big priority in order to ensure the vitality of their communities and workplaces.”

Thirty indicators – 15 health, six wealth and nine wise – were selected to establish the three indices. Results among all 92 counties and, separately, the 50 states are divided into quartiles, with those in the fourth quartile having the strongest performance.

“Our research also found there are major policy implications,” states Michael Hicks, the George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Economics in the Miller College of Business and director of CBER. “There is a huge disparity in health and health care costs associated with preventable diseases in Indiana, especially across rural and urban settings. With this information, local governments can partner with businesses and non-profits to figure out how wellness can be more effectively spread throughout our communities.”

The Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 (www.indianachamber.com/2025) economic development action plan for the state includes four drivers, with three health-related goals under the Attractive Business Climate section (along with the direct correlation of the Wise index to the plan’s goals under Outstanding Talent). While the state has fared well in tax, regulatory and other areas in enhancing its business climate, the unhealthy state of the population is a costly and dangerous outlier.

The Indiana Chamber and allies have formed the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana to tackle health care challenges, with an initial legislative focus on reducing smoking. Nearly one-quarter of the adult population in Indiana smokes at an annual cost of $6 billion in additional health care expenditures and lost productivity.

“The Wellness Council has focused on creating and maintaining well workplaces throughout its history,” Gillespie shares. “The Indiana Healthy Community initiative is an important step to embracing and working toward community-wide health improvements. Healthy citizens are essential to Hoosiers being prepared to learn and work at their highest capabilities. Leaders are encouraged to use these findings in assessing the current status of their communities.”

Srikant Devaraj, CBER research assistant professor, adds, “This research found that there is a strong correlation between the built environment – the man-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity – and the places where people are moving, implying that households put more value on the recreational amenities. Infrastructure related to traditional wellness activities, such as trails, playgrounds, parks and open green space matters more than ever in where people and subsequently businesses relocate.”

Counties that score highly in all three indices include Bartholomew, Dearborn, Dubois, Kosciusko and those surrounding Indianapolis. As suggested by earlier research, rural areas do not fare as well as urban settings. There are examples of high and low performers in close proximity to each other. Nationally, success is varied with Indiana having a below median health index and above median wealthy and wise results.

The Healthy, Wealthy, Wise Index is available at www.wellnessindiana.org, www.readyindiana.org and www.bsu.edu/cber/publications. The Ball State site includes full index scores for each county and state.

To be considered an Indiana Healthy Community, communities must apply to the Wellness Council of Indiana and meet eight key components, including working with various community leaders, getting citizens involved, analyzing political atmospheres and ensuring environments are best for making healthy choices. Part of the requirements include having a certain number of businesses certified as AchieveWELL companies, a Wellness Council designation for individual organizations

Locations interested in becoming Indiana Healthy Communities can visit the Wellness Council web site for more information and to apply.

Indiana Chamber Unveils Top Legislative Priorities for 2017

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Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (right) speaks during Monday’s Indiana Chamber Legislative Preview. He was joined during the panel discussion by Senate President Pro Tem David Long, as well as House Speaker Brian Bosma and Minority Leader Scott Pelath. Our VP Caryl Auslander moderated.

Long-term transportation infrastructure funding, expansion of state-funded preschool to children from low-income families and strategies to reduce the state’s smoking rate are among the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s top priorities for the 2017 session.

These objectives were announced at the organization’s annual legislative preview in Indianapolis today. The event sponsor was Ice Miller LLP.

“Based on studies, reports and simply travelling across the state, it’s pretty apparent that what we desperately need is a long-term, sustainable, transportation infrastructure funding plan,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

He believes whatever strategies are ultimately settled on to fund the state’s road and bridges, two factors must be taken into consideration.

“We need to completely fund both maintenance needs and important new projects, and ensure that every user pays their fair share.”

Specific funding strategies the Indiana Chamber could support include: indexing the fuel excise taxes/fees to inflation; raising fuel excise taxes/fees; charging fees for alternative-fuel vehicles (which aren’t subject to the regular fuel tax); tolling a major interstate; and dedicating all of the sales taxes on fuel to infrastructure (the current model allots a penny with the other six cents going to the state’s general fund).

Brinegar notes that the Indiana Chamber would support replacing any revenue lost to the general fund with another revenue source so that the general fund is left whole.

Education is also high on the organization’s agenda.

“We are encouraged that virtually everyone involved sees the need to increase state-funded preschool,” Brinegar begins. “The Indiana Chamber will be advocating that disadvantaged youngsters take priority for the state’s limited dollars.

“We want to see legislators focus on fiscal responsibility, ensure preschool programs are of high quality and adopt a mixed delivery model that includes public schools, Head Start programs, licensed family and center-based childcare, as well as community-based organizations. All of those things are vitally important.”

The Indiana Chamber is part of the All IN 4 Pre-K coalition.

Separately, the Indiana Chamber is supporting suitable testing for students and accountability measures for all involved in the education process.

“Clearly there have been issues with ISTEP testing and the communication of result expectations based on the state’s new college and career-ready standards,” Brinegar says. “But the fundamental importance of measuring students, teachers and schools remains. That’s how we can predict student progress, rate teacher effectiveness and compare and contrast school performance relative to state and national peers.”

Indiana ranks 44th in the nation for highest percentage of smokers. Brinegar stresses that the increased health care costs associated with this level of smoking has the attention of employers.

“These workers are less healthy, have higher insurance premiums and miss more days on the job – and some are not able to work at all.”

The Indiana Chamber, a member of the new Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, is backing a comprehensive approach to reducing the state’s smoking rate. The proposal includes: raising the price of cigarettes via a tax increase; funding a more robust smoking cessation program; increasing the smoking age from 18 to 21; and repealing special privileges for smokers (that prohibit employers from asking possible new hires if they smoke).

“Right now, Indiana is spending substantially more on smokers with health issues who are on Medicaid than it is taking in via cigarette tax revenues. For every pack sold and taxed at 99.5 cents, the state spends at least $15.90 in related health care costs,” Brinegar states. “Obviously that’s not a sustainable tradeoff and needs the state’s attention.”

In the summer, the Indiana Chamber more closely aligned with the state’s technology industry, forming the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council to facilitate better communication and coordination among interested parties.

According to Brinegar, a key focus is public policy so technology leaders can present a strong, unified voice at the Statehouse. Out of the gate, the goal is to “make technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity.”

Brinegar says: “Indiana is already fostering an impressive entrepreneurial spirit and becoming a technology hub in the Midwest. But we need to better support our technology successes and build on them. After all, our technology efforts now provide tremendous support to the agriculture, logistics and manufacturing sectors in the state – three of our main cogs.”

The Technology and Innovation Policy Summit on December 15 will unveil all the council’s legislative goals.

A complete rundown of the Indiana Chamber’s 2017 key legislative initiatives (top priorities and additional areas of focus) is available at www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

Also at the legislative preview event, five state legislators were honored as Indiana Chamber Small Business Champions “for their hard work and dedication to improving Indiana’s small business climate.” This award is based on voting and advocacy during the past legislative session.

The 2016 Small Business Champions are: Sen. Travis Holdman from Markle, District #19; Sen. Tim Lanane from Anderson, District #25; Rep. Matt Lehman from Berne, District #79; Rep. Karlee Macer from Indianapolis, District# 92; and Rep. Ed Soliday from Valparaiso, District #4.

Recap of the Indiana Chamber’s Top 8 legislative priorities:

  • Support establishing a long-term sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, bridges, etc.
  • Support the expansion of publicly-funded preschool initiatives for children from low income families
  • Support suitable testing for students and accountability for all involved in the education process
  • Support comprehensive approach to decreasing the state’s smoking rate
  • Support a statewide water policy to assure future resources and our economic prosperity
  • Support making technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity
  • Support maintaining and enhancing our attractive tax climate
  • Support a work share program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns

New Award to Recognize School-Business Partnership

????????????????????????????????????????????Collaborative efforts between educators and employers are viewed as essential to ultimate student success. The Indiana Chamber Foundation has established the School Counseling-Business Partnership Award to recognize such initiatives.

Applicants should demonstrate a high school counseling-employer partnership that has assisted students through work-and-learn experiences, career coaching or others methods of helping students’ professional growth. The winning high school counseling office will receive a $1,000 college scholarship to be given to a student of its choice who has demonstrated exceptional progress as a result of the partnership.

The School Counseling-Business Partnership Award will be presented at the 11th annual IMPACT awards hosted by Indiana INTERNnet on February 8, 2017. Nominations are due December 1.

Learn more by reading Ready Indiana’s release or contact Shelley Huffman at shuffman@indianachamber.com.

Important New Teacher Scholarship Now Available

A program the Indiana Chamber advocated for to assist with the potential teacher shortages is now accepting applications.

The Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship allows the Commission for Higher Education to award college scholarships for up to 200 of the best and brightest future teachers. These students must have graduated in the top 20% of their class and receive the top 20th percentile scores on the SAT/ACT exams.

To continue earning the scholarship in college, students must earn a 3.0 cumulative GPA and complete at least 30 credit hours per year. Current college students are also eligible for the scholarship, but priority will be given to high school students.

Upon graduation, scholarship recipients have the requirement to teach in Indiana for five consecutive years.

The Pence administration set up the program in House Bill 1002 and the Legislature appropriated $10 million in House Bill 1001, authored by House Speaker Brian Bosma.

The Indiana Chamber believes that this legislation is a great first step in recruiting outstanding teachers into the field as well as helping to raise the profession. Excellent teachers lead to strong students, which will eventually lead to talented employees and business leaders.

Visit www.LearnMoreIndiana.org/NextTeacher for more information on the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship and to apply.

The Commission for Higher Education will review applications and notify students selected to receive a scholarship by April 15, 2017.

Chamber Partners With Lilly Endowment on Counseling Initiative

36107229With so much uncertainty plaguing our country, it’s a welcome relief when everyone in Indiana can play a role in an important initiative. That initiative is critical – including making sure our young people are ready for college or a career after completing their secondary education.

The effort to provide promising futures for all received a major boost with the September 30 announcement of an up to $30 million Comprehensive Counseling Initiative from the Lilly Endowment. The Indiana Chamber, through the work of its Foundation, is proud to be a partner with other organizations in assisting educators and engaging employers in this critical work.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation has supported a series of studies over the past three years to identify best practices and counseling models. Now, this new initiative will make financial resources available to help schools best meet the needs of their students.

Employers have a crucial role to play. The Indiana Chamber, with 24,000 members and investors, is in the best position to build upon the educator-employer connections that have begun to occur with more frequency in our state.

Our organization’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan calls for at least 90% of Indiana students who graduate from high school being ready for college and/or career training. With the Endowment’s Comprehensive Counseling Initiative, talented and dedicated education professionals in place and employers prepared to play an active role in meeting future workforce needs, we are ready to work toward that goal and beyond.

Learn more about Indiana Chamber Foundation research at www.readyindiana.org and the Endowment initiative at www.lillyendowment.org/ed_ci.html.