Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Q&A: What Will A Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Look Like?

Indiana’s youngest students are getting a lot of attention these days, perhaps most notably because of the state’s pre-k pilot program. The initiative will target kids from low-income families in five counties during the 2014-15 school year.

Legislators approved more than $10 million dollars for the pre-k pilot, and many say they hope to expand the program statewide. But that will depend on how successful the pilot is in improving student outcomes – and in order to determine success, the state needs data.

They’ll get some of that data from a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, a test that will be administered to students at each participating provider. The state’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) designed the assessment, which the State Board of Education approved just last week.

StateImpact sat down with ELAC member Dr. Megan Purcell, who is also a clinical assistant professor at Purdue University. She explains what the assessment will look like, and how it might differ from what is typically used to determine kindergarten readiness.

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Deadline Extension Reopens Debate Over $80 Million Pre-K Grant

Updated 4:46 p.m.: 

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz is urging Gov. Mike Pence to reconsider applying for federal money to support pre-k, due to a last-minute deadline extension by the U.S. Department of Education.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is urging Governor Mike Pence to reconsider applying for federal money to support pre-k.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is urging Governor Mike Pence to reconsider applying for federal money to support pre-k.

Gov. Pence pulled Indiana’s application for a Preschool Development Grant through the U.S. Department of Education last week, citing a desire to fund Indiana pre-k without federal intrusion.

The grant, aimed at states that have a great need for pre-K infrastructure, could provide up to $80 million in federal investment for early childhood education.

Indiana is one of only 16 states eligible to apply.

The original deadline to submit the grant application was Oct. 15. The U.S. Education Department, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, announced today that they have extended that deadline to Oct. 22.

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Indiana Supreme Court Will Look At Bus Fees For Parents

The Indiana Supreme Court will decide whether school districts can charge transportation fees.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Indiana Supreme Court will decide whether school districts can charge transportation fees.

The Indiana Supreme Court plans to hear a case about whether a school district can charge parents a transportation fee to bus kids to and from school.

The case, Lora Hoagland v. Franklin Township Community School Corp., centers around Franklin Township’s $475 transportation fee. A Marion Superior judge sided with the district, but the Court of Appeals reversed that decision, sending it to the state Supreme Court.

As we reported in a story about textbook fees, Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution is vague when it comes to school fees:

“It should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all.” Continue Reading

To Reduce Dropout Rate Among Latinos, Elkhart Has A Plan

Elkhart Community Schools got more involved with students to improve the graduation rate among Latino students.

Chris Moncus / Wikimedia

Elkhart Community Schools got more involved with students to improve the graduation rate among Latino students.

If you want to understand the high school dropout rate among Latinos in Indiana, Elkhart, Ind. is a good place to start.

Nationwide, the graduation rate for Latinos improved over the last five years, and Elkhart Community Schools is no exception. A few years ago, they saw one third of students dropping out, that number higher among Latino students. FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman highlighted the district in a piece about the economics of improved Latino graduation rates. Casselman says students typically drop out when there is an opportunity to work a well-paying job, but that is changing lately: Continue Reading

Governor Pence Explains Choice To Not Apply For Pre-K Grant

Gov. Mike Pence pulled the state's application for millions of dollars in federal funding for pre-k.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Gov. Mike Pence pulled the state's application for millions of dollars in federal funding for pre-k.

Gov. Mike Pence released a statement this afternoon defending his decision to not apply for a federal grant that could have given the state $80 million to develop preschool infrastructure for low-income three- and four-year-olds.

We reported yesterday that the governor stopped the application process, despite the work the Indiana Department of Education and other state agencies had already done to apply for the money.

The grant was only available to states with little or no state funded preschool for low-income children, making Indiana one of 16 eligible states.

In his statement, Pence said the state can meet Indiana’s pre-k needs without federal assistance.

It is important not to allow the lure of federal grant dollars to define our state’s mission and programs. More federal dollars do not necessarily equal success, especially when those dollars come with requirements and conditions that will not help—and may even hinder—running a successful program of our own making.

An important part of our pre-K pilot is the requirement that we study the program so we understand what works and what doesn’t. I do not believe it is wise policy to expand our pre-K pilot before we have a chance to study and learn from the program.

While accepting federal grant dollars can at times be justified to advance our state’s objectives, when it comes to early childhood education, I believe Indiana must develop our own pre-K program without federal intrusion. Continue Reading

Pence Halts Federal Pre-K Grant Application

Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation creating a state-funded preschool pilot program.

Brandon Smith / StateImpact Indiana

Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation creating a state-funded preschool pilot program.

Governor Mike Pence has halted the application for a federal preschool grant that could have provided the state with up to $80 million in early childhood education funding.

The Indianapolis Star is reporting that an email sent from Pence’s office to the Early Learning Advisory Committee explains his reasoning for pulling the application:

In Wednesday’s email, Early Learning Advisory Committee Chairman Kevin Bain, a Pence appointee, announced that the “administration has decided not to submit the federal pre-K grant application.”

He then posted a statement from the administration. “While accepting federal grant dollars can at times be justified to advance our state’s objectives,” it reads in part, “when it comes to early childhood education, I believe Indiana must develop our own pre-K program for disadvantaged children without federal intrusion.”

The deadline for the grant was October 14. A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education declined official comment but said the IDOE spent a lot of time on the grant application.

Senator Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the decision. “The Governor owes those of us who have labored hard to get our state on board and see the benefits of early childhood education more than just a statement,” Lanane said. “It seems imprudent that we reject $80 million because of fear of some speculative ‘pitfalls’ and ‘unproven objectives’ perceived attached to them. I fear this is a setback for the advancement of the welfare of the children of our state that we know will be improved by Indiana moving swiftly to implement early childhood education.”

The developmental grant, issued through the U.S. Department of Education, is available to states lacking pre-k infrastructure to serve more than 10 percent of the state’s preschool-aged population.

Only 16 states are eligible for this specific grant, including Indiana.

Pence has not publicly announced the state’s removal from the application process and calls to his office went unanswered. Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved a new, state-run pre-k pilot program, which is only available in five counties and will begin in most places January.

Gary Schools Get Nov. 10 Deadline To Pay Bus Company

The Gary Community School Corporation owes its busing company more than $2 million to keep services running. The company gave the school district until Nov. 10 to provide payment.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The Gary Community School Corporation owes its busing company more than $2 million to keep services running. The company gave the school district until Nov. 10 to provide payment.

The bus company that provides transportation services for students in the Gary Community School Corporation gave the district a Nov. 10 deadline to start payments on its almost $3 million debt.

Illinois Central Bus Co. CEO Steve Hemmerlein released a statement earlier this week saying the company told Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt if the district didn’t provide a payment plan the company will discontinue service Nov. 10.

Carmen McCollum of The Times of Northwest Indiana reports the company is worried about laying off employees if they don’t receive payment:

“ICSB cannot continue to pay for salaries, fuel and bus maintenance with no payment plan in place,” Hemmerlein said. “If bus service is discontinued, families of the 4,000-plus students will undergo significant hardship to transport their children to and from school, and the jobs of 100 drivers and staff will be eliminated.”

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State Republicans Say Education Will Be Priority In Next Session

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis

House Republicans announced their legislative priorities for the upcoming session on Tuesday, and education issues took center stage.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said the legislature wants to invest more in public school funding by “fixing” the funding formula.

“We have great disparity with some schools as low at $5500 per students in state and federal funds and some schools as high as $9,500 per pupil,” Bosma says.

To help close this gap, Bosma says he hopes to see the state’s economy grow by two percent over the next two years, because most of that would go toward education. Continue Reading

State Board Holds Off On Release Of 2014 A-F School Grades

The Indiana State Board of Education voted Wednesday to hold off on releasing 2014 A-F school accountability grades until their November 5 meeting.

The scores were sent out on an embargo Tuesday, but will now not be released for a few weeks.

Multiple board members expressed concern that data calculation errors for a handful of schools would compromise the integrity of the board.

“We’re being told that the comparative analysis is not done, we’re not ready,” said board member Brad Oliver. “I would rather have accurate data on November 5th than to just do this knowing we don’t have key pieces. These grades are going to be scrutinized by everybody. We’re trying to get it right.”

“It’s so important to them that we need to ensure that the data is accurate,” added board member David Freitas.

Prior to discussion of the timeline, the board heard appeals from three schools with atypical configurations. Those schools included Christel House Academy, Indiana Math and Science Academy and Carpe Diem.

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? Indiana’s ISTEP Will Push Kids

This spring, Indiana students will take a new version of the ISTEP.

biologycorner (flickr)

This spring, Indiana students will take a new version of the ISTEP.

There’s an old phrase, nothing’s sure in life except for death and taxes. We could probably make an argument for standardized tests as well (even Harry Potter took an annual exam in his mythical, made up school year).

These tests carry important consequences for teachers, schools and students, and in Indiana this year, students will take a new version of the state’s standardized test, the ISTEP+.

Simply put, the test will be harder. The content of the questions is the same, but the format will look different. For one, there won’t be as many multiple choice questions. Another change is that students will have to explain how they got to their answer.

Why are we changing the test?

When Indiana passed its own academic standards this spring, Michele Walker, Director of Assessment for the Indiana Department of Education, and her team were charged with creating a test to match the new standards.

An assessment matching the new standards was also a requirement to receive a No Child Left Behind waiver extension.

Walker says another change the IDOE wanted to make to the test, is adding a more focused writing prompt. Rather than asking students to write about something inconsequential like whether the cafeteria should add cake to the menu, students will be asked to read a passage and write a paragraph or essay on a related prompt, using the passage for evidence. Continue Reading

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