A federal report released Wednesday ranks Indiana’s state-funded preschool program as one of the worst in country because it doesn’t serve more than 10 percent of the preschool aged population. (photo credit: Sonia Hooda / Flickr)
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its 2016 State Preschool Yearbook Wednesday, which shows Indiana’s early childhood education efforts don’t match those of other states, but recent legislation shows improvements in how the state funds preschool.
The NIEER report rates a state’s program based on class size, teacher credentials, meal and standards, among others. Of the 10 criteria NIEER says quality programs have, Indiana meets one: having high quality standards that are culturally aligned.
Indiana is tied with Arizona in the lowest score for states with preschool programs, but there are currently seven states with no program at all.
Indiana became one out of three states in the last year to make significant efforts towards early childhood education programs with the expanded Indiana pre-K bill Gov. Eric Holcomb signed in April. This bill added $2 million to the pre-K pilot program. NIEER noted Indiana’s increasing enrollment as it turns its pre-K pilot into a full program.
Ted Maple, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana, says even though Indiana is ranked low in the report, he is happy to see a pre-K program exist in the state.
“We are hopeful that the more parents and communities come on board the more pre-K is talked about and understood to be a necessary component to a child’s education. The more parents enroll, demand will increase and our state leaders will invest and increase access,” says Maple.
The new bill allows students in 15 additional counties to access scholarships, where before the pilot was only in five counties, but didn’t allocate enough money to make the program as robust in all these counties as they were in the original five.
Indiana is one of 14 states whose preschool programs serve less than 10 percent of 4-year-old children.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visits Providence Cristo Rey High School on May 23, 2017. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited a high-performing private Indianapolis high school Tuesday, where nearly every student receives a voucher. She toured Providence Cristo Rey High School on a fact-finding mission and meet students and staff.
Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program currently gives over 30,000 students state money for private school. It’s the largest voucher program of its kind in the country.
At the school, DeVos would not answer questions from reporters, but an education department spokesperson says DeVos is impressed with Indiana’s program.
“Indiana’s voucher program has given students great opportunities to find education that works best for them, and Cristo Rey is a shining example of that,” says Liz Hill, U.S. Education Department press secretary. “The voucher program has really opened up opportunities for low-income and vulnerable students.”
Providence Cristo Rey’s focus on exactly those students – low-income, minority students with college ambitions — makes it an anomaly in Indiana’s school choice landscape. While politicians at the state and federal level tout vouchers as a tool to help this demographic escape failing schools, fewer than 1 percent of Indiana voucher students got a voucher for this reason, according to state data. Continue Reading →
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praises Indiana\’s choice laws at an event in Indianapolis Monday. She alluded to a forthcoming federal choice program, calling it “expansive.” (photo credit: Eliot Cremin/Indiana Public Broadcasting).
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praised Indiana’s expansive school choice laws in Indianapolis Monday and alluded to a federal effort to expand school choice at the conference.
She praised Indiana’s school choice laws which includes a voucher program that gives more than 30,000 students state money to attend private schools. DeVos says she wants students all over the country to have the same opportunities as students in Indiana, and that the Trump administration has a plan to do that.
“The President is proposing the most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation’s history,” DeVos said. “The proposal’s aim is to empower states and give leaders like Gov. Eric Holcomb the flexibility and opportunity to enhance the choices Indiana provides for Indiana students. If a state doesn’t want to participate, that would be a terrible mistake on their part. They will be hurting the children and families who can least afford it.”
700 students across the state received a certificate in multilingual proficiency, the first year the certificate was given. (Photo Credit: Nathan Moorby/Flickr)
More than 700 Indiana students received a certificate of multilingual proficiency from the state, meaning the students are proficient in two languages.
The Department of Education awarded this certificate, and this is the first cohort of students receiving the recognition.
This certificate program was created in 2015 legislation that sought to promote dual language learning in the state’s schools. The legislation also created the dual-language immersion pilot program implemented in a few schools around the state.
Adam Baker, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education, says the state is helping select schools strengthen the rigor of already existing foreign language classes.
“The ultimate goals for this certificate would be to both promote language acquisition in a functional and sustainable way for students and grow the number of students that have reached this level of proficiency year after year so Indiana graduates can be more competitive moving forward,” Baker says.
A total of 27 schools launched the certificate program this year.
To receive the certificate, students must demonstrate an “Intermediate High” proficiency level in a foreign language, according to a rubric set out by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. The student must also complete eight credits of English Language Arts and pass their grade level ELA assessment.
The Indiana State Board of Education. (Eric Weddle/WFYI)
With two seats sit vacant on Indiana’s education policy-creating body, the state’s highest ranking education official is concerned.
As Gary Community Schools prepares for a state-hired emergency manager to take control, the seat on the state education board that represents the district remains vacant.
The same goes for East Chicago Schools as it faces a lead contamination crisis in the community.
The Indiana Board of Education member from the 1st Congressional District represents both areas. But that member, Eddie Melton, resigned from the board in November, after being elected a Democrat state senator.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, who took office in January, has yet to appoint someone to the vacant seat.
“It is a concern,” says Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of public instruction and board chair. “I think the bigger picture is we want to make sure each district has a voice. I know the governor’s office also feels that urgency.”
The 9th District seat sits vacant, as well. Lee Ann Kwiatkowski resigned after she joined the department of education as McCormick’s chief of staff.
In all, 11 members sit on the board. The governor appoints most members. McCormick says having only nine members can cause slow down board business.
Earlier this month during a regular board meeting, one member was absent, leaving eight members to vote on a series of actions. State law requires six “yes” votes for an action to pass.
So when members cast a 5-3 vote to grant waivers to let formerly failing private schools become eligible for school vouchers — no action was taken and the waivers were not granted, due to a lack of votes.
Last month, Holcomb signed the law that created the waivers to help once-failings schools speed up their acceptance back into the Choice Scholarship program.
A spokeswoman for Holcomb’s office says they are working to fill the vacancies.
Since 2015, the 11-member board consists of the following members: eight appointed by the governor; one appointed by Speaker of the House; one appointed by President Pro Tempore of the Senate; and the state superintendent. No more than five members of the board can be from the same political party.
Indiana Center for Evaluation and Education Policy
A new study shows Indiana’s schools are segregated by race and income, something that’s true across the state.
The study comes from Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation & Education Policy, and focuses on how students from different races and economic backgrounds intersect.
The state is seeing a dramatic increase in minority students. For example, the number of Latino students attending Indiana schools has grown more than 500 percent since 1988. But these growing minority groups don’t mean schools are getting more diverse.
One finding is that the average black student in the state goes to schools where 68 percent of the student population is also non-white students. That’s compared to white students who on average attend schools where 19 percent of the school is non-white.
Jodi Moon is a researcher who worked on the study, and says the report found black families are mostly concentrated in more urban areas like Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Gary, while Latino families are more spread throughout the state.
“The changing demographics of our country, the changing demographics of our state and the inequities we see are important conversations to be looking at,” Moon says. “This data enables those conversations to get started.”
Moon says the segregation taking place in rural parts of the state is based on family income levels, with more low-income families attending school together.
The study doesn’t consider whether segregation affects students’ academic or social performance. Moon says she hopes the data prompts more people to ask that question.
“I recognize that some people are looking for solutions, and I think that varies greatly depending on the region and geography in terms of what the opportunities are,” she says. “But really the first step is to know what enrollment patterns are occurring and evaluate what kind of possibilities there are.”
About 75 parents and community members attend a public meeting to discuss ideas for the Gary Community School Corporation in early April 2015. The district has faced financial issues for years, and now the state is assigning an “emergency manager” to help the district address its financial problems. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
Charter schools or companies could end up assisting the financially-troubled Muncie and Gary school districts, rather than an individual, as decided during the 2017 legislative session.
A bill passed and signed into law this year allows the state to assign an “emergency manager” to the Gary School Corporation, and possibly the Muncie district, to help these school districts address severe financial issues.
“We should all be very alarmed,” says Jasmine Tucker, director of research at the National Women’s Law Center. “Discipline is a problem across the board and Indiana is up there with black girls, in particular, being especially likely — about six times as likely — to be suspended from school.”
The concept of school vouchers was part of the national spotlight when now-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos underwent her confirmation hearing. NPR’s education team wanted to investigate how vouchers are currently used around the country, and traveled to Indiana to see how our program functions. Indiana education reporters Peter Balonon-Rosen, Eric Weddle and Claire McInerny assisted in the reporting. The full investigative piece is now published over at NPR Education, and dives into the state’s voucher program, who its helping, and who its hurting.
Wendy Robinson wants to make one thing very clear. As the long-serving superintendent of Fort Wayne public schools, Indiana’s largest district, she is not afraid of competition from private schools. “We’ve been talking choice in this community and in this school system for almost 40 years,” Robinson says.