Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indiana Substitute Teacher Wins National Award

NPR’s education team profiles the recipient of the 2015 Substitute Teacher of the Year award, Josephine Brewington of Indiana.


One of the toughest jobs in education is the substitute teacher. The pay is low, schedules are unpredictable and respect can be hard to come by. But because the average teacher missed 11 days of school in 2012-2013, a sub like Josephine Brewington ends up playing a crucial role.

Read more at: www.npr.org

If Glenda Ritz Runs For Governor, What Are Her Chances?

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.

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. photo credit: Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

After telling reporters at the end of this year’s legislative session that she will consider a run for governor, it’s looking more and more likely that state superintendent Glenda Ritz will enter the race in the coming weeks.

After a session full of education issues, including a bill that originally aimed to remove Ritz from her role as chair of the State Board of Education, Ritz expressed frustration with Governor Pence.

“After viewing the outcome of this general session, it’s caused me to have pause and actually look at how I might want to reframe what I might want to do to move education forward,” Ritz said at that April press conference.

Before she ran for superintendent, Ritz worked as an elementary school librarian, and gained massive support from teachers unions. She famously received more votes than Pence, and that support has backed her throughout the conflicts between her and Pence.

Brian Howey, publisher of Howey Politics Indiana, writes that these same supporters are encouraging Ritz to pursue the nomination for governor:

Sources tell me Ritz is finding a wide array of encouragement to challenge Pence. The school of thought here – pun intended – is that Ritz is the best candidate to accentuate the deep education divisions that exist, and exploit them to bring out a coalition of educators, their wider families and friends, and the hundreds of thousands of moms out there.

Although Ritz had overwhelming support during her 2012 campaign for state superintendent, Indiana political analyst Ed Feigenbaum says support from that election might not translate to a gubernatorial race.

“The reason that she won in the general election is because she wasn’t Tony Bennett,” Feigenbaum says. “And that’s not how she would run in a Democratic primary for governor. So I think she would have to position herself a little differently and I’m not sure that the people who ended up voting for her in the fall wouldn’t necessarily be the same people that would vote for her in the primary.” Continue Reading

Charter Board Approves Three New Charter Schools Across State

The Indiana Charter School Board met Wednesday and approved charters for three schools.

The Indiana Charter School Board met Wednesday and approved charters for three schools. photo credit: Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

At a meeting yesterday, the Indiana Charter School Board approved charters for three new schools, two in Indianapolis and one in Gary.

ACE Preparatory Academy anticipates it will open on the Northeast side of Indianapolis in fall 2016 with a special focus on literacy for its kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Anna Shults, a former Indiana Department of Education staff member, will head the school, which will be located within the Indianapolis Public Schools district. Schults consulted with former state superintendent Tony Bennett during the application process, but said at the meeting that none of the advisory committee members will serve as employees of the school.

ACE Prep hopes to eventually enroll 432 students.

The board also approved the charter for the Global Leadership Academy in Gary, which will serve only fourth and eighth grade students during the first year, but hopes to eventually serve around 1,120 students in pre-k through twelfth grade.

Katie Kirley, the school’s director, said only serving certain grades is part of a strategy to “start small and grow strategically.”

The third school approved will open in either Perry Township or Clark County and be run in party by Charter Schools USA, a Florida-based company that already helps oversee three schools in Indianapolis. The school hopes to enroll 1,445 students, grades K-8. The group originally submitted application materials for two charters – but the board ruled that only one should be granted at this time. They told the applicant they they could come back to seek their second charter, pending success at the first school.

Seven Oaks Classical School in Bloomington – a charter whose proposal stirred up many Monroe County residents and educators – withdrew its application before the meeting. Board Vice President Matt Wolf said in a statement that the group is “exploring all options” that would still allow them to open a school in Monroe County by fall 2016.

Indy Preschools Try To Keep Up With Demand Created By Scholarships

Francis Bellamy preschools is part of the Indianapolis Public Schools system, and is working to improve their program so they can accept students using new preschool scholarships offered by the city and state.

Francis Bellamy preschools is part of the Indianapolis Public Schools system, and is working to improve their program so they can accept students using new preschool scholarships offered by the city and state. photo credit: Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

Linda Hogan stands outside of the fenced in playground at Francis Bellamy preschool in Indianapolis.

Dozens of kids run around playing tag or using hula hoops and other toys. There are screeches and laughter and according to Hogan, this is the only opportunity some kids have to play outside, safely.

“There have been a lot of shootings within five miles of here,” she says. “So that’s why they tend not to be able to go outside like they would in other places.”

Opportunities like these make attending preschool important for kids from low-income families who might not otherwise get to attend preschool.

Since Francis Bellamy is part of the Indianapolis Public School district, families don’t pay tuition like at private preschools, but spots in public pre-k programs are limited and private ones are expensive.

This disparity in access to early education led to the recent push from the state to start a pre-k pilot program in five counties. It also led the Indianapolis Mayor’s office to create its own scholarship program.

Marion County is the only place in the state to have both the pilot program and a city run scholarship program, creating a supply and demand problem for preschool providers. But many in the field of early education hope Indianapolis can serve as an example to other cities on how to incorporate pre-k into the economic and education landscape.

The Push For Preschool At All Income Levels

For years, Indiana lagged behind other states when it came to educating three- and four-year-olds.

Up until a year ago, it was one of a handful of states not providing state run preschool, but last legislative session Governor Pence signed legislation creating On My Way Pre-K, a pilot program funding preschool for low-income four-year-olds in five counties. Continue Reading

Where Do Gubernatorial Candidates Stand on Education Issues?

It may be more than a year away, but the 2016 race for Indiana governor is already shaping up to be an interesting contest.

Since the end of the General Assembly‘s annual legislative session just a few weeks ago, a number of candidates have declared their intentions to run. A number of veteran politicians are ramping up campaigns on both sides of the aisle.

What could the race mean for Hoosier education? Let’s take a look at the track records of those who have signed up for the big race.

Republicans

Mike Pence

Current Indiana Governor Mike Pence will run for a second term. (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Current Indiana Governor Mike Pence will run for a second term. (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Current Governor Mike Pence plans to formally announce his bid for re-election in June, Indiana GOP chairman Jeff Cardwell said Monday.

“Gov. Mike Pence is a conservative leader and dedicated public servant who always puts Indiana first,” Cardwell said in a statement. “He followed through on his promise to put education first this legislative session by making an historic investment in our children, teachers and schools.”

As an incumbent, Pence will be able to note a number of moves that most would agree have proven beneficial for the state, including the establishment of On My Way Pre-K, Indiana’s first state-funded preschool pilot program, and an increased focus on career and technical education. He has also been vocal on the issues of school choice and charter schools.

But, the governor will also need to defend many education-related decisions that have split voters. And he’s been a key player in the saga that is the State Board of Education, creating and later disbanding what some would call a shadow agency to the state Department of Education, the Center for Education and Career Innovation.

Earlier in the year, many had suspected Pence might make a go at the Republican bid for the presidential nomination. Now, the governor has 18 months left on the job to make his case to voters why they should extend his presence at the helm of the Hoosier state. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports that history is on Pence’s side – it’s been 40 years since an incumbent Indiana governor wasn’t elected two consecutive terms.

Democrats

John Gregg

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg speaks at a press conference on the steps of the Indiana statehouse in 2012. (Photo Credit: Brandon Smith/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg speaks at a press conference on the steps of the Indiana statehouse in 2012. (Photo Credit: Brandon Smith/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

If Gregg’s name looks familiar, that’s because it appeared on the ticket in 2012. The Democrat and former Indiana House Speaker announced his second run just a day after the conclusion of the “education session,” focusing on his desire to better the state’s economy for the future of Hoosier students.

“Especially as the president of Vincennes University, I understood how important Indiana’s reputation was in attracting good jobs to our state, so our graduates could stay here at home,” Gregg said in a video announcement.

Back in 2012, Gregg called for increased access to early education for middle-income families, proposing a preschool pilot similar to the one that began in five Indiana counties earlier this year. He was also vocal about the need to raise the high school graduation rate and make college more affordable. Whether these remain the focal points of his education agenda remains to be seen as the campaign continues.

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Indiana Hasn’t Heard The Last Of Former Supt. Tony Bennett

We at StateImpact have many recurring education stories that will presumably continue for some time to come: standardized testing, teacher evaluations, school accountability…the list goes on.

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett delivers a speech in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett delivers a speech in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

One storyline we never expected to continue for as long as it has: the recurring presence of former state superintendent Tony Bennett

As we reported last summer, an ethics case against the former state official resulted in a $5,000 fine. The State Ethics Commission approved the settlement regarding allegations that Bennett used state resources during his 2012 re-election campaign, as discovered in a series of emails obtained by the Associated Press in 2013.

The exchanges also revealed that Bennett and his staff may have altered Indiana’s A-F school grading formula to benefit Christel House Academy, an Indianapolis charter school founded by one of Bennett’s supporters. Inspector General David Thomas cleared Bennett of charges for that accusation.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said Friday that the state will not file criminal charges in connection with either portion of the ethics case.

“No evidence was presented to justify criminal charges, and prosecution on each of these issues is declined,” Curry said in a statement. “I would note that submission of the same Inspector General materials to the U.S. Attorney’s Office likewise did not result in any Federal criminal charges.”

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Music Program Cuts Worry Some IPS Community Members

Changes to school funding statewide are forcing many Indiana school corporations to reevaluate how they spend their money, but families supporting those districts don’t always support their decisions.

This week, Indianapolis Public Schools announced it is cutting back on some of its music program offerings – and not everyone is happy about the changes.

Photo Credit: Loyola Fine & Performing Arts/Flickr

(Photo Credit: Loyola Fine & Performing Arts/Flickr)

The shift comes as a result of tweaks to the district’s staffing system. Right now, many IPS schools share music educators, who split their time between multiple buildings. This means some schools – specifically those with lower enrollments – don’t have a dedicated, full-time music teacher.

The new “model” seeks to streamline this, giving each school its own full-time music teacher. It’s a change taking place at the elementary school level only.

IPS spokesperson Kristin Cutler says no school will lose music entirely, but some may lose specific classes based on who they keep on for the full-time position.

“Some people are licensed to teach general and vocal music education, some people are licensed [for] instrumental music education, some people are licensed for both, so that would be the determining factor in if the offerings at a school change,” Cutler explains. For example, she adds, a school may keep its general music classes, but lose a band or orchestra program if the teacher is not certified in instrumental education.

Schools with higher enrollments will also be given an additional financial allocation that can be used to hire a second music teacher to support programming and scheduling needs. Cutler says that decision will be left up to individual school principals.

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Indiana’s New Test Vendor Finds Itself In Hot Water

Indiana education officials have agreed to sign a contract with Pearson to operate the ISTEP+ beginning in the 2016 school year. (Photo Credit: Robbie/Flickr)

Indiana education officials have agreed to sign a contract with Pearson to operate the ISTEP+ beginning in the 2016 school year. (Photo Credit: Robbie/Flickr)

Testing company Pearson – slated to run Indiana’s statewide ISTEP+ tests beginning in 2016 – is facing criticism over security of assessments it handles in other states.

Education officials in Minnesota canceled statewide science exams Thursday after an apparent cyberattack on Pearson’s system Wednesday. This is the second time testing has been suspended due to hacks in less than a month.

POLITICO‘s Caitlin Emma summarizes the state’s response to the situation:

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius is now questioning whether Pearson can adequately serve as vendor.

“It is simply unacceptable and unfair to subject students and teachers to this kind of uncertainty in a high-stakes testing environment,” she said on Wednesday. “After the April 21 suspension, Pearson added additional security measures to prevent this type of disruption. Given the need to suspend testing today, I have questions about Pearson’s ability to follow through on their assurances.”

Cassellius said her department will talk to districts today about next steps.

Pearson representatives said in a statement that student data had not been compromised.

The Minnesota Department of Education is evaluating options that include exiting their two-year testing contract with Pearson early, and possibly even pursuing further legal action, according to reports from local television station KARE.

The state’s contract with Pearson costs about $33.8 million. Estimates for the company’s agreement with Indiana run about $38 million.

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