Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Adult High School In Kokomo Gives New Meaning To ‘Back To School’

Mattie Grimes dropped out of high school. She’s now 31-years-old and a single mom, but she hasn’t lost sight of her career aspirations.

The Excel Center in Kokomo serves over 300 adult students seeking their high school diploma.

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

The Excel Center in Kokomo serves over 300 adult students seeking their high school diploma.

“I want to work in a factory,” Grimes says. “I don’t like working fast food.”

She’s also realistic about her goal.

“Factories will not hire you unless you have a high school diploma,” says Grimes. “So if that’s something that I want to do, I gotta have what I gotta have.”

Two-thirds of employers say a diploma is the least people like Grimes need to have, according to a recent survey by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Nearly 40 percent of employers say they have left jobs unfilled because they could not find qualified applicants.

Many adults choose to expedite their move into the workforce by taking the General Educational Development, or GED test. But some experts argue earning a high school diploma might better prepare students for the challenges of college and the workforce.

So, some students, like Grimes, are going back to school. Continue Reading

State Ethics Commission Accepts Bennett’s Settlement

Tony Bennett will pay a $5,000 fine after the Inspector General ruled he did violated one ethics code during his time in office.

Carolyn Harless/WFIU

Tony Bennett will pay a $5,000 fine after the Inspector General ruled he did violated one ethics code during his time in office.

The State Ethics Commission Thursday approved a settlement regarding former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s ethics violation of using state resources during his 2012 re-election campaign. Bennett agreed to pay a $5,000 fine as a consequence of the violation.

Inspector General David Thomas’ report dismissed the other accusation that Bennett altered the states A-F formula to raise the grade of Christel House Academy from a C to an A, to benefit the school’s founder, a financial supporter of Bennett’s political campaign.

Thomas writes in the report the reasoning for dismissing the A-F accusation:  Continue Reading

A Struggle Of Power At The SBOE Meeting Over Who Does What

Members of the State Board of Education speaking during July's meeting.

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

Members of the State Board of Education speaking during July's meeting.

Conflict between state superintendent Glenda Ritz and members of the State Board of Education could be its own agenda item at board meetings, after almost two years of conflict between them.

Wednesday’s meeting, which included three resolutions many say aimed to strip Ritz of her power as chair of the board, was no different.

The three resolutions looked at different issues, but all centered around who can do what during meetings.

Disputes over the NCLB waiver process

The most explosive argument came during the discussion around one resolution that involved the board more in future decisions around the No Child Left Behind waiver. This has been a point of contention between many board members, most vocally Brad Oliver, who say Ritz and the Department of Education did not include the board in all aspects of writing the waiver extension.

Ritz said it is not the board’s responsibility to have an active role in things like the waiver since they are supposed to plan education policy. In a long statement where she addressed every point on the resolution, Ritz said the board was aware of the IDOE’s steps to keep the waiver all along the way.  Continue Reading

Former Schools Chiefs Tony Bennett Guilty Of Ethics Violation

A settlement regarding Tony Bennett's ethics violation will be released Thursday.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A settlement regarding Tony Bennett's ethics violation will be released Thursday.

Indiana Inspector General David Thomas concluded in a report obtained by Politico that former state superintendent Tony Bennett is guilty of an ethics violation regarding the use of government resources during his 2012 re-election campaign.

Stephanie Simon of Politico writes Bennett is found not guilty of the other accused ethics violation:

But Thomas cleared Bennett of allegations that he engaged in misconduct when he ordered staff to rework a school grading formula after a charter school founded by a major Republican donor received an unexpectedly low grade.

Bennett has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for the ethics violation. The Ethics Commission will consider the proposed settlement tomorrow.

The official hearing regarding the settlement begins Thursday at 10 a.m.

Takeover School Asks SBOE For Money To Operate, Facing Closure

Tindley Accelerated Schools (also known as EdPower), the Indianapolis based non-profit that oversees five charter schools in the city, petitioned the State Board of Education today for more money to operate Arlington Community High School. Tindley took over the failing school in 2012, claiming they receive less funding in federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) than previous years.  Marcus Robinson, Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of EdPower, testified before the board saying solutions need to be made to keep Arlington operational.  "We've come not for a paycheck but for a partnership," Robinson said.  If they cannot afford to keep the school open, Indianapolis Public Schools would most likely take over ownership of Arlington.

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

Marcus Robinson, CEO of Tindley Schools, appeals to the State Board of Education to keep Arlington High School Operational. The board heard Robinson's testimony at Wednesday's meeting.

EdPower (also known as Tindley Schools), the Indianapolis based non-profit that oversees five charter schools in the city, petitioned the State Board of Education Wednesday for more money to operate Arlington Community High School for the 2014-2015 school year.

EdPower took over the failing school in 2012, and claim they receive less funding in federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) this year compared to previous years.

SIG money comes from the federal government but the State Board of Education decides which schools in Indiana receive the grants. Continue Reading

Tensions Rev Up Ahead Of State Board Of Education Meeting

State Board of Education members Gordon Hendry, Dan Elsener, Cari Whicker and Brad Oliver listen to a presentation during the October meeting.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

State Board of Education members Gordon Hendry, Dan Elsener, Cari Whicker and Brad Oliver listen to a presentation during the October meeting.

The State Board of Education meeting Wednesday will follow a full agenda focusing on assessments, timelines for various tests and updates on major education initiatives, including the new pre-k pilot program.

The board is also considering two resolutions that seek to involve the board more in important decisions, rather than leaving those to state superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education.

As we reported yesterday, one resolutions would amend the board’s meeting procedures. The suggested changes would allow the entire board to have a say regarding when a meeting is planned, it would update the appeals procedures and alter how the board is required to solve disputes among its members (something we’ve been seeing a lot of the past year). Continue Reading

State Board Requests Changes To Meeting Procedures

State Board of Education member Brad Oliver and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during a January 2014 meeting.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State Board of Education member Brad Oliver and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during a January 2014 meeting.

State Board of Education members drafted a resolution they will present at Wednesday’s regularly scheduled meeting that requests the creation of an Ad Hoc committee to make amendments to state meeting procedures.

This comes after months of disagreement between the State Board of Education and state superintendent Glenda Ritz who chairs the board, including fights over agenda items, delays in delivering information from the Department of Education to the board, and of course Ritz’s lawsuit against the board regarding Indiana’s Open Door Law.

The amendments look to address the issues at the center of these past disputes. One suggested amendment would give board members, alongside the Chair, control over designating meeting dates, times and locations. Another would extend appeals by board members to the Chair’s ruling to all actions and decision.

Another even addresses the issue of these disputes head on, laying out new procedures for when board members argue with one another or the state superintendent. The amendment says if a dispute happens, rather than the Chair having final word on what is right or wrong, the issue will go to the entire board for a vote.

Continue Reading

Ex-Superintendent Bennett Reaches Settlement In Ethics Complaint

A settlement regarding Tony Bennett's ethics violation will be released Thursday.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A settlement regarding Tony Bennett's ethics violation will be released Thursday.

Indiana Inspector General David Thomas reached a settlement with ex-state superintendent Tony Bennett, regarding the ethics complaint the IG filed against Bennett in November.

Bennett was accused of using state resources during his re-election campaign in 2012, when he lost to current superintendent Glenda Ritz.

The State Ethics Commission announced today they will consider the the settlement at a public meeting Thursday at 10 a.m.

Eric Weddle of the Indianapolis Star reports Bennett’s lawyer said the details of the settlement and a report of the allegations will be available after the public meeting Thursday.

Bennett served one term as state superintendent before losing to Ritz in the 2012 election. He then served as the Florida Commissioner of Education but resigned Aug.1, 2013 after allegations that he and his team changed the school letter grades in Indiana while he was still in office.

Preschool Pilot Program Gains Traction As Planning Begins

Teacher Janet Craig helps students identify colors during at pre-kindergarten camp at Maple Elementary in Avon, Ind.

Kyle Stokes

Teacher Janet Craig helps students identify colors during at pre-kindergarten camp at Maple Elementary in Avon, Ind.

The major planning stages of the state’s preschool pilot program are getting underway this month.

The program the General Assembly passed into law this past session does not go into affect until next summer, but this month the Family and Social Services Administration is announcing participating counties, a legislative summer study committee focusing on the program is holding its first meeting, and fundraising efforts are beginning.

The FSSA plans to select in mid-July the five counties selected to participate in the program, after 18 eligible counties submitted applications. Within the counties chosen, money will go straight to families with income at or below 127 percent of the federal poverty level (around $30,000 for a family of four). They then enroll their child in an already existing preschool program, whether its at public schools, charter schools, or child care facilities ranked a Level 3 or 4 on the Paths to Quality scale.

Continue Reading

$3 Million Granted For Technical Career Education Statewide

$3 million in grants will help expand technical education program in Indiana.

United States Marine Corps

$3 million in grants will help expand technical education program in Indiana.

Governor Mike Pence announced today that $3 million in grant funding, the first of $4.3 million, is available for the new Innovative Career and Technical Education (CTE) curricula.

The purpose of the grants is to provide more opportunities for technical training.

The money is going directly to local organizations around the state to provide more scholarship, internship and certification opportunities in these fields. State businesses provide $4 million in matching grants as well.  Continue Reading

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