Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

National News: More States Push Private Educational Options

Around the country, more states’ legislatures are discussing measures to give parents and students the chance to seek out alternatives in education – be they private schools, voucher money or charter schools. Meanwhile, Congressional efforts to rewrite the federal No Child Left Behind law this year have “opened a wider discussion about the federal government’s role in schools,” versus how much power belongs to the states and local schools. The conversation is further complicated by concerns about the widespread implementation of common academic standards and standardized tests.

Indiana currently has the largest voucher program in the county, in addition to a robust charter school presence.

A growing number of statehouses are considering measures that would allow school districts, parents and students increasingly to use taxpayer funds to explore alternatives to traditional state-backed public education. The flurry of new bills-which range from supporting private-school options to putting education dollars directly into parents’ hands-come amid concerns of increasing federal overreach in schools and a backlash against…

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How Much Should The State Be Involved In School Intervention?

Senate lawmakers continued an ongoing conversation Wednesday about how the state handles schools in jeopardy.

Right now, schools receiving six consecutive failing grades could face state intervention. (Photo Credit: amboo who/Flickr)

Schools receiving six consecutive failing grades could face state intervention. (Photo Credit: amboo who/Flickr)

The Senate Committee on Education & Career Development tweaked House Bill 1638, a measure which suggests a number of changes to the repercussions for failing schools.

Original bill language in would have allowed the state to take over entire school corporations, rather than just individual schools. Committee members approved an amendment to eliminate that section.

This is sure to please Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, who shared his concerns about this section with the Times of Northwest Indiana earlier this week:

Smith said Gary and Indianapolis schools are the only two corporations in the state that have had schools taken over.

“My concern is that if you have a school like Gary where there are three schools which have an A, and two other schools with a B and a C, why take over the whole district,” he said. “There is no great effort to get to the root of the problem or to assist. They just want to move forward and take over the entire district.”

Elements of the bill that remain intact include shrinking the timeline for state intervention. Currently, state officials must design a plan for any school receiving failing school accountability grades (D’s or F’s) for six consecutive years; the bill recommends bringing that number down to four.

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IN Supreme Court: School Buses Not A Constitutional Right

A case over whether or not families should pay busing fees in Franklin Township has made its way all the way to the state Supreme Court.

A case over whether or not families should pay busing fees in Franklin Township has made its way all the way to the state Supreme Court. photo credit: Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The Indiana Supreme Court Tuesday upheld a trial court’s decision that the state constitution does not require school corporations to provide transportation for students to and from school.

The opinion ends a battle between parents and Franklin Township Schools over the district’s decision in 2011 to stop offering busses for students in wake of a $16 million budget shortfall.

Franklin Township Superintendent Flora Reichanadter said she does not expect schools to now drop transportation because they can. The judgement, she said, clarifies for schools what is and is not a constitutional right in public education.

“We just wanted to have the ability to resolve the whole issue ‒ if we were performing in an unconstitutional way or not,” she said. “I also think it provides clarity to school districts across the state because there are some districts, like Speedway for example, that have walk zones. It provides definition, if you have students walking to school in way to get there safely ‒ do you have to provide transportation in a climate where financial resources are limited.” Continue Reading

Messer Leading Effort For National Student Privacy Law

A Carpe Diem student logs into a computer in the school's "learning center," where each student has his or her own workstation.

A Carpe Diem student logs into a computer in the school’s “learning center,” where each student has his or her own workstation. photo credit: Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

As education moves into the digital age, so does data about the students using technology.

From homework and lessons on the web, Google Classroom and standardized tests moving online, a lot of information about a K-12 student lives on the Internet. That fact has long worried parents and educators, and now U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., is attempting to rectify it at the federal level.

Along with Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., Messer wrote a bill addressing the issue of student data privacy. Messer and Polis had planned to introduce the bill in the House Monday, but delayed following criticism that the bill doesn’t do enough to protect student data.

Currently, student data is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a law enacted in 1974. It applies to institutions like schools and universities and the records they oversee, but doesn’t apply to the current system of education where third party companies hired by schools own student data.

When a school district hires online textbook companies or other ed-tech companies, those groups gain a lot of information about students. According to Fred Cate, Director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, there’s really only one reason a company would want access to student data.

“Nine times out of 10 the reason someone wants data is for marketing,” Cate says. “It’s really for targeting who you’re marketing to or what you’re marketing to them. So if I run a testing service or an online publisher or whatever and I can identify students by what they’re interested in, I can identify them by their proficiency, how well they do, I then know what to market to them.” Continue Reading

Indiana State Partners With Local Schools To Curb College Costs

ISU President Dan Bradley and Vigo County School Corporation superintendent Danny Tanoos announce the partnership between the two organizations to help high school students get more college credit.

ISU President Dan Bradley (left) and Vigo County School Corporation superintendent Danny Tanoos announce a partnership between the two organizations to help high school students get more college credit. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

Indiana State University and the Vigo County School Corporation announced a partnership Monday that will offer high school students in Vigo County Schools the opportunity to earn up to 30 credit hours at ISU before graduating.

The Early College program will allow high school students to enroll in classes that contribute to the five most popular majors at ISU, chosen by Vigo County School Corporation graduates: nursing, pre-business/business administration, pre-elementary education, psychology and criminology and criminal justice.

K-12 teachers approved by the university will receive and implement the curriculum from ISU. If students do not take the class through the Early College program, they can still receive Advanced Placement credit for the course.

ISU president Dan Bradley says giving high schoolers the opportunity to complete up to a year of college credit means the university won’t have as many students with large amounts of student debt.

“I think it can really help the students who are in some of the state funded programs like 21st Century [Scholars program] because it allows them to stay on track for degree completion without overloading themselves,” Bradley says. Continue Reading

In Need Of Substitute Teachers? So Are Many Hoosier Districts

It’s getting tougher to find substitute teachers these days.

Nationally, school corporations are struggling to fill the gaps left when regular teachers go on vacation, get sick or take time out for professional development.

Shortages are not a new phenomenon in Indiana, either. Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, says a majority of districts across the state are facing some sort of challenge when it comes to finding subs –– and there doesn’t seem to be one overarching reason why this is the case.

Low pay, lack of benefits and could be reasons why fewer people sign up to substitute teach. (Photo Credit: elementalPaul/Flickr)

Workload, low pay and lack of benefits could be reasons why fewer people sign up to substitute teach. (Photo Credit: elementalPaul/Flickr)

“I think part of it is the workload. You’re asking people to come on very short notice sometimes minutes, and very little time to prepare for whatever it is they’re supposed to sub for,” Meredith says. “Other times it might be pay –– if they can make more at McDonald’s, is that a little less stressful than the substitute role?”

The average rate of pay for a substitute is about $105 per day across the U.S., according to the National Substitute Teacher Alliance. In Indiana, compensation can range anywhere from around $60 to a little more than $100 a day, depending on the corporation and a candidate’s credentials.

Along with low pay, experts speculate the problem has increased in recent years because of poor training and lack of benefits.

Others say the pool of quality candidates has decreased because fewer college students study to be teachers nowadays.

“We really do see that trend as part of the problem,” says Dan Roach, superintendent at Washington Community Schools in southern Indiana. “In past years, those preservice teachers are waiting for those jobs, hoping to get their foot in the door, but those numbers continue to decrease.”

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Updated IDOE Testing Plan Cuts Original Estimate In Half

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz continued the conversation about testing costs Thursday, presenting an updated version of her Department of Education’s budget estimates to the Senate Appropriations committee. Ritz’s plan provides a different outlook for Indiana’s slate of standardized tests than was released by her State Board of Education colleague Sarah O’Brien just one day earlier – one that, by IDOE calculations, would cost about $12 million less than O’Brien’s proposal.

Ritz also told committee chair Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, that she welcomes conversation about switching the ISTEP+ out for a national “off-the-shelf” test in the future.

Indiana might not be able to completely avoid more expensive state ISTEP tests in the future, but a revised plan today from state Superintendent Glenda Ritz would save big money for now, cutting the cost by almost half from the two-year $134 million estimate she presented in December.

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Bloomington Classical School Seeks Charter For A Second Time

A Bloomington group leading the charge for a local charter school is sticking to the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

The Seven Oaks Classical School submitted its second application for authorization to the Indiana Charter School Board Monday. The board denied the group’s original request this past fall.


Credit: Seven Oaks Classical School Official Website

“We are so excited to begin the process in bringing a classical education in the liberal arts and sciences to the students of Monroe County,” school leaders wrote on Facebook.

School officials say they will likely get a public hearing sometime in April.

The ICSB voted unanimously against granting Seven Oaks’ charter request last October, citing concerns primarily with the group’s business plan, discipline policy, lack of a lunch program and board members’ lack of K-12 experience.

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