Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What Does The State Board of Education Chair Do?

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

Members of the State Board of Education speaking during July’s meeting. (Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Earlier this month, Governor Pence dissolved the Center for Education and Career Innovation and announced he will encourage the legislature to change a law that says the state superintendent is the board of the State Board of Education. Pence wants the board to elect its own chair, citing the board’s continued tension with state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

We’re going to explore some hypothetical situations ahead of the General Assembly’s 2015 session, to break down what it will take to make these changes to the SBOE and what that would look like.

Changing the Law

So, if the General Assembly votes to change this distribution of duties for the SBOE, what will it take?

The Indiana Constitution says “there shall be a State Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose method of selection, tenure, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.”

So legislators don’t need to make a Constitutional amendment, which is much more difficult, rather they would vote to change part of the Indiana Code that addresses the roles of the State Board of Education that designates the state superintendent as chair of the board.

Senator Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, serves on the Senate Education Committee and says he is glad to see the Governor suggest this.

“I think it deserves consideration and some discussion because I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who says its working well the way it is right now,” Yoder says. “It’s just not a good concept, especially when you have opposing parties representing each side.” Continue Reading

Obama Administration Releases Draft Of College Ranking System

The Obama Administration will release its draft of a new ranking system for colleges today, seeking feedback from stakeholders in the field. Politico Pro education reporters look at the challenges of trying to find consistent metrics to rate the accessibility, affordability and outcomes for two and four year colleges.


In the weeks and months leading up to the first major release of the controversial college ratings plan, Education Department officials have described the content as a “draft,” an “outline” and a “wire frame.” They weren’t exaggerating. The highly anticipated draft release issued Friday morning was delayed…

Read more at: www.politico.com

Private Schools To Return Almost $4 Million In Voucher Funds

Eighty of the more than 300 schools involved in the state’s voucher system announced Wednesday they will return $3.9 million in voucher scholarship funds to the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program.

Eighty of the 317 schools that take part in Indiana's

Eighty of the 317 schools that take part in Indiana’s voucher system will return money they were overpaid by the state.

A new study on tuition and financial aid practices, released by the Indiana Non-Public Education Association, found the group overpaid those schools over the course of three years due to unintentional errors in calculating voucher costs.

John Elcesser, executive director of the INPEA, tells The Indianapolis Star that most of the errors happened because schools forgot to apply discounts for parishioners (at Catholic schools), families enrolling more than one child or employees. He adds that families were not overcharged.

Staff at IndyPolitics.org reports on the schools affected:

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How Education Could Factor Into A Pence Presidential Bid

Governor Mike Pence is often mentioned on the list of potential Republican nominees for the 2016 presidential election.

Governor Mike Pence is often mentioned on the list of potential Republican nominees for the 2016 presidential election. (House GOP)

We’re almost two years away from the 2016 presidential election, but speculation, rumors and announcements are already in full swing. Many potential candidates are focusing on issues that took a backseat during the financial crisis, including education.

Gov. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, is often mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election, and over the past year he has made a slew of education decisions many people say are proof he wants to be relevant on the national stage. Pence avoids directly answering the question of whether he’ll run, but if education is going to be a cornerstone of a political campaign, there’s a lot to look at in Indiana.

For starters, earlier this month Pence explained his legislative plan for the upcoming session, saying he wants it to be a session focused on education policy. But before the governor gives any more specifics on his plan, let’s examine his education policy decisions up until now, and what the could mean for a potential campaign.

Backing Out of the Common Core

Removing Indiana from the Common Core was one of Pence’s biggest education moves over the past year. The standards are not well liked by conservatives, who view them as a tool for too much federal oversight in local school districts, so earlier this year Pence signed legislation making Indiana the first state to make an exit. Continue Reading

Overwhelming Family Interest In ‘On My Way Pre-K’ Pilot

Updated Dec. 18, 2:40 p.m.: 

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration totaled the count to 1,800 applications received from families hoping to enroll their 4-year-old children in the first phase of On My Way Pre-K. 

The goal for this first launch in January was initially to enroll 350 children in the four participating counties. However, the FSSA is looking to expand that number to 450. After reviewing existing capacities of approved providers, the agency will determine a target enrollment for each county by the end of this week.

The full rollout of the program in August is expected to include between 1,600 and 2,000 4-year-olds in the five counties.

The chart below shows the number of applications received and how many were deemed eligible in the four counties:

Data courtesy of the Office of Governor Mike Pence

Data courtesy of the Office of Governor Mike Pence

Original post, Dec. 16, 2:33 p.m.:  

The numbers are in, and it looks like interest is high for the first phase of Indiana’s first state-funded preschool program.

The FSSA received more than 1600 applications from families interested in participating in the On My Way Pre-K pilot program.

The FSSA received more than 1600 applications from families interested in participating in the On My Way Pre-K pilot program.

More than 1,600 applications came in from families interested in taking part in On My Way Pre-K, which will launch in four of the five selected pilot counties – Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh – in a few weeks.

Applications from families interested in getting a spot in the program were due Monday.  Family and Social Services Administration spokeswoman Marni Lemons says by mid-afternoon, her agency had received just over 800 applications – a number that doubled overnight.

That number far exceeds capacity. The state originally intended to enroll between 350 and 400 children in those four communities. Lemons says due to the high interest, the FSSA is trying to see if they can make room for a few extra spaces.

Available spots for eligible children will be somewhat limited this time around, as only a portion of interested providers meet eligibility requirements to participate: specifically, a Level 3 or 4 status on the state’s Paths to QUALITY ranking system.

Interested providers have until the program’s full launch in August to reach that benchmark and submit an applicationJackson County also plans to be ready by that date.

County representatives are still in the process of determining which of those who applied fit eligibility requirements. We will update with official numbers as soon as they are confirmed by the FSSA.

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Monday Marks Deadline To Apply For On My Way Pre-K Pilot Grant

Today is the deadline for families in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties to apply to On My Way Pre-K, the state’s preschool pilot program.

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration will accept applications until 4:30 p.m. EST.

Families in four counties have until 4:30 p.m. to apply for the first wave of the state's pre-k pilot program.

Families in four counties have until 4:30 p.m. to apply for the first wave of the state's pre-k pilot program.

In order to qualify for the first wave of the program, starting in January, families in these four counties must have an income below 127 percent of the federal poverty level – a little more than $30,000 a year for a family of four. Eligible children must be four years old and planning to start kindergarten in August 2015.

Each county’s application is fairly easy to follow, and is available in both English and Spanish. But just in case you’re panicking this close to the finish line, here are some helpful tips provided by the FSSA:

  • Child information: Parents must prove their current residency in this section of the application. Suggestions include a copy of a lease, mortgage or utility bill showing a current address, or a copy of a valid Indiana driver’s license.
  • In the same section, parents must verify their child’s date of birth, which may include a copy of his or her birth certificate.
  • Income Eligibility Verification: Each parents or guardian in the household applying must list all earned gross income from work (income before taxes). If you have no earned or unearned income, the FSSA recommends that you instead explain in the space provided how your family is meeting basic needs such as food and shelter.
  • The FSSA also has an income guide available on their website, if you are unsure whether or not your family qualifies.

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U.S. Wants Measurements To Rate Teacher Training Programs

The U.S. Department of Education announced rules late last month requiring states to develop rating systems for teacher preparation programs that would track, among other things, how graduates’ students perform academically, writes Motoko Rick for the New York Times:


The federal Department of Education announced preliminary rules on Tuesday requiring states to develop rating systems for teacher preparation programs that would track a range of measures, including the job placement and retention rates of graduates and the academic performance of their students.

Read more at: www.nytimes.com

Here’s What Will Happen With CECI Responsibilities, Personnel

We might be saying goodbye to the Center for Education and Career Innovation, but the agency’s duties, responsibilities and staff will not disappear from Indiana’s education scene.

Along with her colleagues, Claire Fiddian-Green, co-director of the Center for Education and Career Innovation, will be moving out of the agency when it formally disbands Feb. 20.

Along with her colleagues, Claire Fiddian-Green, co-director of the Center for Education and Career Innovation, will be moving out of the agency when it formally disbands Feb. 20.

CECI leadership had known about the move a few weeks before Pence made his announcement, according to the governor’s communications director, Christy Denault. Plans are already in the works to finish accomplishing the agency’s goals, as the governor alluded to during his speech last week.

“Our commitment to aligning statewide efforts in education and workforce development remains undiminished,” Pence said. “I believe [CECI] has laid the groundwork necessary to accomplish these goals through other existing agencies and programs, and so we will.”

The five agencies that operated under the CECI umbrella – including the State Board of Education, the Education Roundtable, the Indiana Career Council, the Regional Works Councils and the Indiana Network of Knowledge – will continue operating and fulfilling their statutory obligations. With the exception of the Roundtable and the State Board, the others will fall under new management.

That job will go to the Department of Workforce Development, who is finalizing details with the governor’s office. Along with each agency’s responsibilities, the DWD will take on their existing staff as well.

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Show Me The Money: Fundraising Efforts For On My Way Pre-K

The Pre-K pilot will begin in January, and fundraising efforts have proven to be a challenge for some of the counties.

The Pre-K pilot will begin in January, and fundraising efforts have proven to be a challenge for some of the counties.

The state’s new preschool pilot program, On My Way Pre-K, launches in January in four of the five pilot counties. Creating an education program from scratch takes time, creativity and a lot of money, regardless of the $10 million allocated to the program from the Family and Social Services Administration. $10 million doesn’t go as far as one might think when divided by the five counties and split between the two thousand eligible children.

That’s why as part of the law that created the program, selected counties are required to raise at least 10 percent in matching funds to put toward student scholarships. These funds can be from private donations or federal grants.

Governor Pence announced the five counties in July, leaving those in charge of fundraising a few months to find hundreds of thousands of dollars before the January launch in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.

‘It’s frustrating because it’s a moving target’

Lake County, home to Gary, East Chicago and Crown Point, has more than 1,000 children on the waiting list for Head Start, the current option for low-income preschool. The need is there, but an abundance of donors is not, according to Dennis Rittenmeyer who is in charge of fundraising for Lake County’s program.

Rittenmeyer says the county will meet the 10 percent match, but he has received some pushback from potential donors.

“Several donors that I have talked to, even though in some cases they still are agreeing to support this effort, have said they don’t like it because it really is the state’s responsibility,” Rittenmeyer says. “It’s not private foundations’ responsibility to run ongoing public education.”

Another obstacle to Rittenmeyer’s fundraising efforts is the future of the program. Continue Reading

IDOE Budget Conversations Turn Focus Back To Assessments

When State Superintendent Glenda Ritz prepared for her presentation before the State Budget Committee Thursday, assuredly there were a number of items on which she expected questions.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz appeared before the State Budget Committee Thursday to present her department's request for 2015.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz appeared before the State Budget Committee Thursday to present her department's request for 2015.

But the item that appeared to take center stage – new state assessments – received a different kind of attention than Ritz was probably expecting.

Ritz outlined the Department of Education’s proposed budged Thursday, which included a request for $65 million for testing and remediation. This is up from $45 million from the last budget cycle.

State education leaders are still in the process of creating a new state assessment to align with the new state academic standards schools began implementing this year. This new system will include a fully operational state-run ISTEP+ test this spring, as well as a second brand-new test to be developed and put in place for the 2015-16 school year.

The State Board of Education is currently still seeking a vendor to write the test for next spring.

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