Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

More Indiana Students Could Receive Free Breakfast

School districts in Indiana can apply to receive meals through a national non-profit, Breakfast in the Classroom.

School districts in Indiana can apply to receive meals through a national non-profit, Breakfast in the Classroom.

Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, a non-profit which provides free breakfast for children in high need districts around the country, announced this week they are expanding into Indiana.

Breakfast in the Classroom is a separate service from the federal free/reduced meal program. As their name suggests, students eat the meal together in their classroom, while the teacher takes attendance, collects homework or completes other morning tasks.

The program does not stay in districts long-term, but provides breakfast for one school year in a way to encourage students who qualify to get breakfast through the free/reduced meal program to do so.

The Walmart Foundation funds the program, and a variety of education organizations work with the organization. They include Food Research and Action Center, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the School Nutrition Foundation. Continue Reading

Pre-K Pilot Beginning Soon, A Tight Timeline For Some Counties

The pre-k pilot program will launch in four counties in January, a quick turnaround since counties found out about their selection in July.

Sonia Hooda / Flickr

The pre-k pilot program will launch in four counties in January, a quick turnaround since counties found out about their selection in July.

After becoming law back in March, the state’s pre-k pilot, On My Way Pre-K, will soon become a reality. Four of the five counties are poised to launch in January, and applications for providers and families wanting to participate are now available.

The five counties selected to participate in the program weren’t announced until the end of July, leaving organizers in those counties five months to fundraise, select eligible providers and work on recruiting eligible children.

In the counties’ original applications, they outlined their short-term capacity for preschool students: how many spots are available, how many potential providers, possible sources of fundraising, etc. So not to say they started the process from scratch back in July, but five months before launch means things have moved quickly in many places. Continue Reading

Applications For Pre-K Pilot Now Available For Parents

The Indiana Charter School Board decides Tuesday whether or not to add a classical charter school to Monroe County schools.

pedro reyes alejandre / Flickr

Applications for the pre-k pilot program are available to families.

Applications for On My Way Pre-K, the state’s pre-k pilot program, are now available for low-income families wishing to enroll their children.

The applications are only available to families in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties, where the program will launch in January. Applications for Jackson County families will be available later.

The application asks for basic information about the family including proof of address, number of family members, and proof of income. To be eligible for the program, families must earn an income falling below 127 percent of the poverty line – around 30,000 dollars a year for a family of four.

Children must turn four by the time they enroll in pre-k classes in August. If there are more applicants than spots available at participating preschool programs, applicants will be selected through a lottery.

Applications are due December 15.

Homework Not Just For Kids When It Comes To Family Engagement

Brittany McKee helps her sons Gage and Jayce Meza complete the craft that's part of the parent engagement night at Edgewood Primary School in Ellettesville.

Bill Shaw/WTIU News

Brittany McKee helps her sons Gage and Jayce Meza complete the craft as part of the parent engagement night at Edgewood Primary School in Ellettsville.

Indiana is in the midst of a transition year when it comes to education: new academic standards, an ISTEP+ test that is not yet written and a new pre-k pilot program launching in four counties in January. All of these changes create challenges for kids ages three to 18 – but despite the differences of each area, there is one thing everyone says will help solve the issues at hand: family engagement.

Family Engagement In Action

On a recent weeknight at Edgewood Primary School in Ellettsville, parents and grandparents stream into the lunchroom with their kindergarten through second grade children. Tonight’s event is a literacy-based craft night, and students are signing up for which teacher they want to read them a book. Teachers will read to the children, showcasing techniques they use in the classroom parents can replicate at home.

Jill Ferguson oversees family engagement for Richland-Bean Blossom schools and gives instructions to families before they scatter to different classrooms for the reading activities.

“Parents, I ask you, please get in there,” she says into a microphone. “Listen to how the teachers present the story, maybe it’s something you could do at home.” Continue Reading

State Board Will Consider Format Options For Turnaround Schools

As 2014 comes to a close, school leaders and teachers have a lot to think about as they move into the second semester of the school year – how can we keep moving forward? What can we improve?

Washington High School in Indianapolis is one of the failing schools members of the Committee on School Turnaround are trying to help.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Washington High School in Indianapolis is one of the failing schools members of the Committee on School Turnaround are trying to help.

In particular, the nine state schools considered ‘failing’ will be looking to take any positive steps that they can. And the State Board of Education‘s Committee on School Turnaround is looking for ways to help.

The panel met Monday for the final time this fall to review state intervention tactics at those nine schools and discuss potential changes. They’ll present their recommendations to the full state board at its Dec. 3 meeting.

To date, the state has established nine turnaround academies under one of three models:

  • Lead Partner: An external partner contracted by the state works with the school corporation in a limited capacity to operate certain aspects of the school.
  • Turnaround School Operator (TSO): An external partner contracted by the state operates the school independently, similar to a charter school. The school corporation continues to provide some operational services.
  • Transformation Zone: The school corporation develops its own turnaround plan, operating under varying degrees of state oversight. The school corporation can, but is not required to, work with an external partner contracted by the state as a turnaround operator.

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Chamber of Commerce Pushes For Appointed State Superintendent

Another day, another discussion of power among state education leaders.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to reporters outside the State Board of Education meeting in July, when she engaged with board members about her duties as board chair.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to reporters outside the State Board of Education meeting in July, when she engaged with board members about her duties as board chair.

Leadership of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says one of the group’s top legislative priorities for the 2015 session is pushing to make the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction appointed beginning in 2016.

Currently, Indiana is one of 12 states with an elected superintendent, according to the National Association of School Boards of Education. Members of the State Board of Education are appointed by the governor.

Chamber president Kevin Brinegar says he believes the superintendent, the head of the Department of Education, should be appointed similar to the heads of all other state agencies– a consistent position of the Chamber.

“This will be my 34th session, and for most of that time we’ve had the superintendent and the governor not on the same page with respect to major issues,” Brinegar says. “Often that’s because they’ve been of a different party, and in some cases they’ve even been of the same party but the governor didn’t appoint that person. We need consistency and one agenda for education that voters can assess and determine whether they like it or they don’t like it in the next election.”

Brinegar says the Chamber plans to speak up “louder this session than ever before” with respect to proposed legislation in favor of appointing the position. If such legislation is unable to pass, he says the Chamber advocates that members of the state board be allowed to select the chair of that body.

The state Constitution requires there be a State Superintendent, but leaves the method of selection up to legislators. Since it’s written into state law, reformers would need to push for an amendment to make the position appointed by the governor.

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The ‘Virtual Option’: Schools Prepare For Potential Snow Days

With winter weather on its way, school officials in Indiana are surely preparing for whatever Mother Nature has to throw their way (remember last year?)

Rather than make up snow days after the fact, the IDOE offers districs the option to provide virtual instruction while students are home from school.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Rather than make up snow days after the fact, the IDOE offers districs the option to provide virtual instruction while students are home from school.

One district sounds like they’ve got it all figured out. In the event of a snow day or other weather-related closing, students in the Twin Lakes School Corporation in Monticello will be able to complete their classwork online.

School officials announced on the district’s Facebook page earlier this week that the Indiana Department of Education approved its application to hold “eLearning Days” to replace traditional snow make-up days:

In the event of a cancellation, students will receive eLearning materials and will access their learning resources through the school’s website,tlschools.com, and through TLCampus, tlcampus.com. Teachers and technology staff will be available throughout eLearning days to assist students with questions.

In order to accommodate anyone experiencing technical difficulties during an eLearning day, classwork will be due two days after classes resume on the normal schedule.

School closings occurring after December 8 may be used as eLearning days.

The Department of Education implemented this virtual option during the polar vortex of the 2013-14 school year, and about 40 schools took advantage. According to the IDOE website, the option can be used in two ways: on a make-up day (to provide for students that might have difficulty learning outside of the building, i.e. internet access or special need accommodations), or on an inclement weather day.

Districts may only exercise the latter if special considerations for all students can be addressed and met away from the building.

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Higher Education Commission Joins Discussion On Sexual Assault

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education is taking steps to address sexual assault on college campuses, and held a special meeting Thursday to discuss the issue.

One in five females on Indiana's college campuses is raped or sexually assaulted by the time she graduates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

SIUE / Flickr

One in five females on Indiana's college campuses is raped or sexually assaulted by the time she graduates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers pointed out that the group spends a lot of time talking about academic quality at the state’s public and private universities, and that discussion has expanded to include quality of life for students.

Lubbers says if the goal is for students to be successful, a lack of safety could be a barrier to achieving that goal.

“We think this [needs] an all-hands-on-deck approach, and as the coordinating body for higher education in the state, the commission has an obligation to do that,” Lubbers says.

A report by Southern Indiana’s News and Tribune pinpoints why the Commission decided to call the meeting:

Prompting the commission’s interest are increasing numbers of sexual assaults reported on the state’s campuses. That includes IU-Bloomington, which has been under review by the U.S. Department of Education for possible violations of federal law in how it handles sexual violence.

Adding impetus, Indiana University-Bloomington police charged three men in connection with an off-campus attack last Sunday.

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Indiana Student Debt 16th Highest In The Country

Indiana's 2013 college graduates have an average debt of $28,466, the 16th highest in the country.

Christopher Penn (flickr)

Indiana's 2013 college graduates have an average debt of $28,466, the 16th highest in the country.

Indiana’s 2013 college graduates left school with an average of $28,466, according to a report released Thursday by the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success.

That makes Indiana the state with the 16th highest amount of average student debt, the same ranking from the graduating class of 2012.

The annual report looks at cumulative debt of college graduates from four year universities. The report looked at graduates of both public and private universities and found 69 percent of graduates nationwide have some amount of student debt.

One thing to note about Indiana’s student debt statistics is the 2013 average amount, $28,466, is slightly higher than 2012 graduates who left school with an average of $27,866. While the amount of debt is higher, the percent of students carrying the debt is down to 62 percent from 64 percent in 2012. Meaning less students are leaving college with debt, but those who do have more of it.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute was singled out in the report as one of the private non-profit universities with some of the highest debt. The report did not cite specific numbers but it ranked Rose-Hulman in a category of schools with average student debts between $41,750 and $71,350.

FSSA Accepting Provider Applications For “On My Way Pre-K” Pilot

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration announced Wednesday it is accepting applications from preschool providers that want to participate in the state’s pre-k pilot program.

Only providers located in the five selected counties are eligible to apply.

The Family and Social Services Administration has announced a new, official name for the state's pre-k pilot program: "On My Way Pre-K."

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

The Family and Social Services Administration has announced a new, official name for the state's pre-k pilot program: "On My Way Pre-K."

The FSSA also announced a new name for Indiana’s first state-funded pre-kindergarten program: “On My Way Pre-K.”

In order to participate, providers must qualify as a level 3 or 4 institution on the state’s Paths to QUALITY ranking system, as well as sign an agreement requiring them to follow minimum attendance guidelines and administer required kindergarten readiness assessments at least twice throughout the year.   

A full list of requirements, as well as application materials and other forms are now posted to the official On My Way Pre-K website.

FSSA Director of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning Melanie Brizzi says her department is excited to begin this stage of the operation.

“Beginning to enroll early learning providers in On My Way Pre-K marks a significant milestone in our mission to provide high-quality early education for lower-income students in Indiana,” Brizzi said in a statement. “We look forward to engaging as many programs as possible to help us open the doors to new learning opportunities for Hoosier children.”

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