The Indiana Department of Education released new guidance to help local school officials get up to date with recently-passed legislation. (Getty Images)
Indiana education officials outlined its new statewide curriculum and cautioned schools from purchasing updated curricular materials — for now — as part of a response to numerous education-related measures adopted during the most recent legislative session.
The new legislative guidance released this month by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) is meant to help schools navigate new requirements and funding changes laid out in the next state budget and roughly a dozen other bills.
Some of the changes take effect at the start of the next fiscal year — on July 1 — while others apply to the upcoming 2023-24 school year. State education officials already moved forward with a plan that “streamlines” K-12 education standards and makes it easier for teachers to craft individualized lesson plans.
An additional, long-term review of certain statewide curriculum won’t take effect until 2024.
“We have a significant amount of law that was passed … and with that law comes a lot of guidance that team members (at IDOE) are preparing,” said Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner earlier this month. “When we build that out, we always have best possible implementation for schools, and ultimately kids, in mind.”
Here’s a look at what IDOE has outlined for local schools and educators.
Science of reading
A GOP-led effort will require schools to use “science of reading” curricula approved by IDOE by the 2024-25 academic year. HEA 1558 codifies a statewide definition of the science of reading.
The phonics-based literacy approach incorporates phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Education experts say it gives students the skills to “decode” any word they don’t recognize.
The legislation also requires collegiate educator preparation programs to embed the science of reading into their curriculum and prepare future educators to receive a literacy endorsement.
Beginning July 1, 2024, IDOE will conduct a “landscape analysis” to understand where Indiana’s educator preparation programs are in the implementation of new science of reading curriculum requirements. IDOE will also work with the state’s educator preparation programs to ensure that future educators are prepared to teach foundational literacy instruction.
A process is additionally underway to provide current Indiana educators the ability to obtain a literacy endorsement. Teachers who obtain the endorsement will also receive a pay differentiation, though a dollar amount has not yet been set.
Starting this summer, education officials will begin a “curricular material review process” to ensure that schools’ curricular materials align with new, streamlined state standards focused on the science of reading. Then, beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, HEA 1558 requires local governing bodies to adopt reading curriculum and textbooks aligned to the science of reading during their next local adoption cycle.
The science of reading shift will be paid for from a $111 million fund created late last year by the state and the Lilly Endowment, which donated $60 million to K-12 science of reading efforts and $25 million to teacher preparation programs. Legislators chipped in $26 million from the state’s allotment of federal COVID relief dollars.
Additionally, Indiana’s next biennial budget adds up to $20 million in each of the next two years for the education department’s efforts on science of reading.
Individual school districts can also apply for grants from the department for literacy coaches, textbooks and lessons, teacher and administrator training or giving students extra reading help through tutoring and summer programs. Details for those grants are still being hashed out, according to IDOE.
In June 2023, the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE) also approved streamlined, prioritized K-12 Academic Standards in mathematics, as well as science and computer science, as required by HEA 1251, which passed in 2022.
This summer, IDOE will further review curricular materials for STEM courses — similar to department efforts for other subject areas.
Once that’s complete, IDOE is required to publish a list of high-quality curricular materials in specific content areas — including for STEM — to guide schools as they adopt new teaching plans and textbooks.
Among other STEM-related changes that passed earlier this year, HEA 1590 expands grant funding eligibility for the Next Level Computer Science Fund to allow state-accredited schools to apply, in addition to third-party vendors. The fund was established to implement professional development programs for educators to teach computer science.
Established by HEA 1382, the Robotics Competition Program Grant will provide Indiana students with more high-quality STEM programming by encouraging greater participation in robotics competitions.
IDOE’s Office of Teaching and Learning is actively developing grant processes and guidelines and, once finalized, application information will be sent out to schools, according to the new guidance.
Dyslexia screenings will be required for all students from kindergarten through second grade.
To alleviate the previously unfunded mandate on Indiana schools, HEA 1590 provides for paid universal dyslexia screeners.
The universal screener is an assessment for understanding students’ literacy performance — both strengths and areas of concern. Screeners focus on specific areas and are typically brief, but determine those students who are “at some risk” or “at risk,” according to IDOE.
The estimated allocation per student, per assessment, for the 2023-2024 school year is $6.64. Approval from the SBOE is required annually prior to distribution, however.
Textbooks and curricular materials
As part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s 2023 legislative agenda, the General Assembly allocated $160 million to eliminate textbook and curricular fees for Hoosier kids.
The state’s next biennial budget prohibits Indiana schools from charging students for curricular materials.
Even so, some school officials say Indiana’s new budget does not provide enough funding to cover all textbook and curriculum costs. And while the next spending plan stops schools from billing students for curricular materials, it does not address other fees. For now, IDOE officials are telling schools to direct questions regarding the ability to charge other fees to the school corporation’s legal counsel.
IDOE has also cautioned schools not to purchase or execute “new, long-term contracts” affecting textbooks until the department’s curricular review is completed in early 2024.
Additionally, no later than July 15 — and by each July 15 annually thereafter — Indiana school corporations and charter schools must post the following on their website:
- Name and publisher of the school corporation/charter school’s adopted reading and writing curriculum by grade level;
- Information on remedial programs provided by the school corporation/charter school by grade level; and
- Contact information for an administrative contact for any questions.
State education officials with the SBOE, IDOE and Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) are quickly putting in motion statewide career-centered education and training programs laid out in HEA 1002, a massive bill that at its core seeks to expand work-based learning in Indiana high schools, such as apprenticeships and internships.
Much of that includes the implementation of new high school diploma requirements that are more “flexible and relevant to students, employers, and communities,” as well as improving access to high-quality work-based learning opportunities and increasing the number of postsecondary credentials earned by students before they graduate from high school.
IDOE will soon begin the process of determining the courses and course sequences required for high school graduation. An update on that work is expected before the SBOE this fall.
Guidance for schools about Career Scholarship Accounts, the Teacher Higher Education and Industry Collaboration Grant Program and Fund and other career coaching and meeting requirements are still pending, according to IDOE.
HEA 1591 requires SBOE to issue a “null” or “no letter grade” for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years.
In lieu of issuing letter grades — and in an effort to provide additional transparency in school performance — the new law now requires IDOE to develop a “report card” for public and state accredited non-public schools to post on their websites by Oct. 15. The report card will provide key data points meant to help inform parents and community members about the state of their local schools.
Lawmakers set a 9% cap on the number of students who can graduate from a school with a waiver during the 2023-2024 school year. After that, the cap drops to 6% in the following academic year, and down to 3% for each school year after June 30, 2025.
New grants and other funding
IDOE’s Student Learning Recovery Grant program that was established by lawmakers in 2021 as a way to accelerate student learning in light of COVID-19 learning disruptions initially received $150 million in state funds. Up to $35 million in additional funding was allocated to the program in the 2024-2025 biennial state budget.
The new state budget also includes an increase in funding for the state’s growing English learner population.
Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, funding for the Non-English Speaking Program (NESP) will no longer be distributed via grants to schools through an application process, but rather through monthly tuition support distributions beginning in December 2023.
That means IDOE can provide full reimbursement for expenses related to EL student education. Funding will be allocated on a per-pupil basis in accordance with each school district’s reported EL student count.
Other guidance and updates to come
Resources for these education matters are still to come, according to Indiana education officials:
- Guidelines regarding third-party vendors for analysis, evaluations or surveys in schools (HEA 1447). Another provision in the law prohibits materials deemed obscene or harmful to minors in school libraries.
- School corporation expenditure requirements to encourage increases in teacher salaries and compensation (HEA 1591)
- Utilizing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to meet graduation pathway requirements (HEA 1635)
- Sudden cardiac arrest training, including AED requirements (SEA 369)
- Launch of Dolly Parton Imagination Library statewide (HEA 1001), led by the Indiana State Library
- Changes to charter school operations funding (HEA 1001 and SEA 391), led by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance
- Career coaching and meeting requirements (HEA 1002), led by CHE
- 21st Century Scholars auto enrollment (HEA 1449), led by CHE
- Increases to the Secured School Safety Grant (HEA 1492), led by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security
- FAFSA requirement for high school seniors (SEA 167), led by CHE
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