At a time of general wariness across the country regarding the use of standardized tests in schools (54 percent of respondents to a 2015 national survey said they are “not helpful”), Indiana lawmakers have tried to deal with a particular problem in their state.
“It came to a point where the ISTEP had become like the Ford Edsel,” Indiana Rep. Bob Behning says.
ISTEP+ is Indiana’s statewide assessment system, and over the past few years, its unpopularity grew amid reports of long delays in getting results, software glitches, scoring errors, and concerns about the amount of classroom time being spent on the test.
Last year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill ensuring that ISTEP+ would indeed go the way of the Edsel. This year, under a bill signed into law in April (HB 1003), lawmakers set parameters for a new assessment system, which will be known as I-LEARN and take effect during the 2018-19 school year.
Take a look at the longer-term trends in maternal mortality rates, and you see one of the great success stories in modern-day public health: In 1900, for every 1,000 live births, up to nine women were dying of pregnancy-related complications; a century later, that rate had declined by almost 99 percent.
But the story told by more recent data is less clear, and more troubling.
According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the number of reported pregnancy-related deaths increased between 1987 and 2013 — from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births to 17.3 in 2013. Better reporting (for example, the addition of a pregnancy check box on state death certificates) is one explanation for the increase. Another reason, though, may be that pregnancy-related deaths are actually on the rise. The CDC notes, for example, that more pregnant women have conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and chronic heart disease that may put them at a higher risk of complications.
A new law in Kansas will bar “do not resuscitate” or similar physician’s orders for unemancipated minors unless at least one parent or guardian has been told of the intent to issue such an order. SB 85 requires that parental notice be given orally and in writing, and prohibits a DNR or similar orders if there is a refusal of consent. Also under this measure, the minor’s medical record must include information about the DNR order and the nature of efforts to contact both parents.
State legislators in the Midwest are exploring a range of policy options this year that would give students greater access to computer-related courses while also providing instructors more tools for teaching in these subject areas.
These proposals mostly steer away from state mandates and focus instead on incentives for schools and more choices for students. Iowa’s SF 274, for example (passed by the Senate in March), would create a new state-level incentive fund to help schools build instructional expertise among their teachers.
Only a few months after celebrating key congressional victories at the end of 2016, Great Lakes advocates are now fighting to prevent a complete elimination of funding for a federal program that has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that protect habitat, stop the spread of invasive species and clean up “Areas of Concern.”
President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for an end to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It says “specific regional efforts,” such as those related to the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, should instead be the responsibility of state and local entities.