Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Judge: Lawsuit Against SBOE Members Will Go Forward

State superintendent Glenda Ritz and the rest of the DOE are accepting public comment on their draft proposal to the keep the state's No Child Left Behind waiver.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz sued the State Board of Education last October, but the suit was thrown out. Now four private citizens who filed the same suit on her behalf are getting traction with the lawsuit.

A Marion County judge says a lawsuit against the State Board of Education from four private citizens will not be dismissed and will get a closer look in court.

Judge Cynthia Ayers ruled against the State Board’s request to dismiss the suit, saying proper discovery must be made before a ruling can be issued.

The Associated Press reports on the details of the suit:

At question is whether board members violated Indiana’s open meetings laws by circulating a letter seeking changes in who calculates the state’s “A-F” school grades.

The suit mirrors a challenge state Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz filed last year against board members. A Marion County judge dismissed that challenge on the grounds that she could not file a challenge without the approval of the state attorney general’s office.

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Indiana Child Care Expensive, But Quality Is Improving

Children at Emerson Elementary School in Seymour participate in the Kindergarten prep program.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Children at Emerson Elementary School in Seymour participate in the Kindergarten prep program.

Lately, we’ve been writing a lot about little kids – how the new pre-k pilot will enroll more of them into a quality education early on, why encouraging their education from birth helps them down the road, and now, the high cost of putting a child in day care.

According to a report released this month by the Hamilton Project, single mothers in Indiana spend 27 percent of their earnings on childcare, the second highest in the country. And the first report from the state’s Early Learning Advisory Committee, a group of early education stakeholders appointed by Governor Pence according to legislation passed in 2013, echoes these sentiments. According to the report released June 30, 67 percent of children in the state require child care, yet for many families one-third of their income is used to pay for the care.

Helping low-income families and single parents pay for childcare is one of ELAC’s goals going into the next year, but the state of child care in Indiana is not all negative. Continue Reading

How Indiana’s A-F School Rating System Could Change

We mentioned last week what former state superintendent Tony Bennett had to say about Indiana’s A-F school accountability system, now that he’s been cleared of charges of unfairly changing the system back when he was schools chief.

A-F accountability panel co-chairman Steve Yager listens as Claire Fiddian-Green and Steve Baker discuss their ideas about measuring student growth.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

A-F accountability panel co-chairman Steve Yager listens as Claire Fiddian-Green and Steve Baker discuss their ideas about measuring student growth.

Bennett called the system “confusing,” and he’s not the only one. Current policymakers think something should be done to correct that.

So, like many other things in Indiana’s education system these days, A-F policies are getting a makeover. A panel of policymakers from the state’s Department of Education and the governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation is in talks to tweak those policies, to make them clearer for schools and families.

The group released a timeline in June about where the state plans to move with the new system. Emphasizing student growth is a priority, according to Claire Fiddian-Green, special assistant for education innovation to Governor Mike Pence.

“Let’s measure how close a student is to being on target, or whether they’re above target, and if they’re below target, just how below target are they,” Fiddian-Green says.

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For Counties Not Chosen In Pre-K Pilot, Preschool Still A Priority

Most of the state will not get to participate in the new pre-k pilot program, but that isn't stopping them from increasing access to preschool.

Barnaby Wasson (flickr)

Most of the state will not participate in the new pre-k pilot program, but that isn't stopping them from increasing access to preschool.

Indiana is selecting five counties –Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh—to test its pre-k pilot program and see whether it should be expanded to the rest of the state. Only parents in those five counties will be eligible to receive state dollars to pay for preschool, but local leaders in counties that didn’t qualify for the program are still seeking ways to make early childhood education a priority.

What is the pilot program?

First off, we need to understand what the program is and how it works. 

The pre-k pilot program is a result of legislation the General Assembly passed this year. The program provides money to low-income families in the five counties selected to enroll their four-year-olds in a high quality preschools. In terms of this legislation, low-income is defined as making less than 127 percent of the federal poverty level. A high quality program is defined as meeting Level 3 or 4 on the state’s Paths To Quality ranking system.

Children will enroll in these programs, and the Family and Social Services Administration will conduct a longitudal study to see how preschool for these students affects their education in the long run. This is why the program is only available in limited areas right now.

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Higher Ed Commissioner Stresses Funding Needs To U.S. Senate

Indiana’s commissioner for higher education went before a U.S. Senate committee today, to stress the importance of funding higher education and explain the state’s plan to boost college degree attainment.

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers prepares for the December meeting.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers prepares for the December meeting.

The Commission for Higher Education, which oversees Indiana’s public universities, came out with a plan to tie a greater portion of state funding to a college’s academic performance in 2011. This performance funding formula is designed to give schools specific targets that fit the state’s policy goals.

Indiana Public Radio reports that the testimony was part of a two-hour hearing where senators heard from education leaders on state funding for education, loan repayment and college affordability:

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Bennett Speaks Out On A-F System Allegations

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks with media on his last day in office.

Dan Goldblatt / WFIU

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks with media on his last day in office.

After the state ethics committee found Tony Bennett not guilty of adjusting A-F letter grades two years ago in an unethical way, Bennett admits Indiana’s accountability system is confusing and contributed to the skepticism around those allegations.

The accusation against Bennett regarding the A-F system was that he changed the letter grade for Christel House Academy, a school he championed for, from a C to an A.

But as Andrew Ujifusa for Education Week reports Bennett admits the complicated way schools were scored added to notion he and his staff cheated. Continue Reading

For The Five Counties Selected To Host Pre-K Pilot, What’s Next?

Preschool.

Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images

The five selected counties will spend the next year recruiting families to the pilot program and helping providers expand their programs.

Governor Pence announced Tuesday the five counties selected to participate in the state’s new pre-k pilot program, so over the next year Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh Counties will recruit families, create capacity in existing preschool providers and secure private funding for the voucher-like program.

These five counties, as well as the 13 other finalists, submitted statements of readiness which outlined the need for state-funded pre-k in their area, as well as available resources and support if chosen for the program. These documents outlined the number of students who would qualify for the program, community engagement in early education, family engagement, provider capacity and a timeline of how they will make the program a reality.

Here at StateImpact we read documents so you don’t have to, so let’s take a look at each county’s plan to implement the program and what qualified them to be part of the pilot.

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Governor Pence Announces Counties Selected for Pre-K Pilot Program

Updated, 4:30 p.m.:

Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties will participate in Indiana’s pre-K pilot program aimed at preparing low-income four-year-olds for success in school.

Students play a bingo game to help improve their counting skills at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Students play a bingo game to help improve their counting skills at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Parents in those counties will now be eligible for state funds that they can use to send their children to a “quality” preschool–one that is either a Level 3 or 4 on the state’s Paths to QUALITY rating system.

“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Governor Pence in a statement. “The State looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”

Pence also recognized the 13 other finalists, thanking them for their commitment to Indiana’s children.

The program is on track for a full launch by July 2015.

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Report: Despite Persisting Poverty, Indiana Education Improves

New data shows Indiana children are making strides in education, despite persisting poverty.

Indiana ranks 29th in the nation in education, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Kristen (flickr)

Indiana ranks 29th in the nation in education, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Indiana 26th nationally in education, moving the state up from 34th last year.

The rankings are based on a few components. The first is improvement in scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the “nation’s report card.” Indiana saw an 11 percent increase in the number of students below proficient in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math.

Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, says the Indiana Department of Education deserves some credit for the upswing, especially in the wake of a sudden transition from the nationally crafted Common Core Standards to state-specific academic standards.

“[They have] done a wonderful job as the standards have changed with creating resource documents to help teachers find other tools and materials online that can be useful towards teaching these standards,” Stanczykiewicz says.

Despite gains, many students still lag behind academically. Nearly two-thirds of 4th graders still perform below the proficient level in reading; the same goes for 8th graders’ performance in math.

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