Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

For Counties Not Chosen In Pre-K Pilot, Preschool Still A Priority

Most of the state will not get to participate in the new pre-k pilot program, but that isn't stopping them from increasing access to preschool.

Barnaby Wasson (flickr)

Most of the state will not participate in the new pre-k pilot program, but that isn't stopping them from increasing access to preschool.

Indiana is selecting five counties –Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh—to test its pre-k pilot program and see whether it should be expanded to the rest of the state. Only parents in those five counties will be eligible to receive state dollars to pay for preschool, but local leaders in counties that didn’t qualify for the program are still seeking ways to make early childhood education a priority.

What is the pilot program?

First off, we need to understand what the program is and how it works. 

The pre-k pilot program is a result of legislation the General Assembly passed this year. The program provides money to low-income families in the five counties selected to enroll their four-year-olds in a high quality preschools. In terms of this legislation, low-income is defined as making less than 127 percent of the federal poverty level. A high quality program is defined as meeting Level 3 or 4 on the state’s Paths To Quality ranking system.

Children will enroll in these programs, and the Family and Social Services Administration will conduct a longitudal study to see how preschool for these students affects their education in the long run. This is why the program is only available in limited areas right now.

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Higher Ed Commissioner Stresses Funding Needs To U.S. Senate

Indiana’s commissioner for higher education went before a U.S. Senate committee today, to stress the importance of funding higher education and explain the state’s plan to boost college degree attainment.

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers prepares for the December meeting.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers prepares for the December meeting.

The Commission for Higher Education, which oversees Indiana’s public universities, came out with a plan to tie a greater portion of state funding to a college’s academic performance in 2011. This performance funding formula is designed to give schools specific targets that fit the state’s policy goals.

Indiana Public Radio reports that the testimony was part of a two-hour hearing where senators heard from education leaders on state funding for education, loan repayment and college affordability:

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Bennett Speaks Out On A-F System Allegations

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks with media on his last day in office.

Dan Goldblatt / WFIU

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks with media on his last day in office.

After the state ethics committee found Tony Bennett not guilty of adjusting A-F letter grades two years ago in an unethical way, Bennett admits Indiana’s accountability system is confusing and contributed to the skepticism around those allegations.

The accusation against Bennett regarding the A-F system was that he changed the letter grade for Christel House Academy, a school he championed for, from a C to an A.

But as Andrew Ujifusa for Education Week reports Bennett admits the complicated way schools were scored added to notion he and his staff cheated. Continue Reading

For The Five Counties Selected To Host Pre-K Pilot, What’s Next?

Preschool.

Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images

The five selected counties will spend the next year recruiting families to the pilot program and helping providers expand their programs.

Governor Pence announced Tuesday the five counties selected to participate in the state’s new pre-k pilot program, so over the next year Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh Counties will recruit families, create capacity in existing preschool providers and secure private funding for the voucher-like program.

These five counties, as well as the 13 other finalists, submitted statements of readiness which outlined the need for state-funded pre-k in their area, as well as available resources and support if chosen for the program. These documents outlined the number of students who would qualify for the program, community engagement in early education, family engagement, provider capacity and a timeline of how they will make the program a reality.

Here at StateImpact we read documents so you don’t have to, so let’s take a look at each county’s plan to implement the program and what qualified them to be part of the pilot.

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Governor Pence Announces Counties Selected for Pre-K Pilot Program

Updated, 4:30 p.m.:

Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties will participate in Indiana’s pre-K pilot program aimed at preparing low-income four-year-olds for success in school.

Students play a bingo game to help improve their counting skills at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Students play a bingo game to help improve their counting skills at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Parents in those counties will now be eligible for state funds that they can use to send their children to a “quality” preschool–one that is either a Level 3 or 4 on the state’s Paths to QUALITY rating system.

“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Governor Pence in a statement. “The State looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”

Pence also recognized the 13 other finalists, thanking them for their commitment to Indiana’s children.

The program is on track for a full launch by July 2015.

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Report: Despite Persisting Poverty, Indiana Education Improves

New data shows Indiana children are making strides in education, despite persisting poverty.

Indiana ranks 29th in the nation in education, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Kristen (flickr)

Indiana ranks 29th in the nation in education, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Indiana 26th nationally in education, moving the state up from 34th last year.

The rankings are based on a few components. The first is improvement in scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the “nation’s report card.” Indiana saw an 11 percent increase in the number of students below proficient in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math.

Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, says the Indiana Department of Education deserves some credit for the upswing, especially in the wake of a sudden transition from the nationally crafted Common Core Standards to state-specific academic standards.

“[They have] done a wonderful job as the standards have changed with creating resource documents to help teachers find other tools and materials online that can be useful towards teaching these standards,” Stanczykiewicz says.

Despite gains, many students still lag behind academically. Nearly two-thirds of 4th graders still perform below the proficient level in reading; the same goes for 8th graders’ performance in math.

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Indiana Special Education On Track With National Framework

Indiana is one of the few states hitting the mark for national special education framework.

Indiana is one of fifteen states that met requirements for the national special education framework this year.

Corie Howell (flickr)

Indiana is one of fifteen states that met requirements for the national special education framework this year.

The U.S. Department of Education last month announced a shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs. The department will now focus less on state compliance factors – such as timelines for evaluations -  and more on how well those students are being taught.

The new framework, known as Results-Driven Accountability, will still take compliance indicators into account, but will also include educational outcome measures for students with disabilities, such as their performance in reading and math on state assessments and the achievement gap between such students and their peers.

With those changes in mind, the federal department determined annual state performance under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. “IDEA” requires the Department to place states in one of four categories: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention or needs substantial intervention.

Based on data collected for the 2012-13 school year, only 15 states fell into the “meets requirements” category, including Indiana. That’s less than half the amount that met the mark last year under the old framework.

More than half of the states were categorized as “needs assistance.”

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Arlington High School Will Stay Open, Operated By EdPower

Arlington High School will be open this year, and Indianapolis non-profit EdPower will continue to operate the school, despite fears that it might close.

Arlington High School, a takeover within the Indianapolis Public School system, will remain open through the 2014-15 school year.

kelsia (flickr)

Arlington High School, a takeover within the Indianapolis Public School system, will remain open through the 2014-15 school year.

The turnaround school operator, also known as Tindley Accelerated Schools, indicated as early as last summer that it might not be in a financial position to operate the failing school for the 2014-2015 school year. Marcus Robinson, EdPower’s Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer, sent a letter to State Superintendent Glenda Ritz in June requesting $2.4 million, and followed up at the State Board of Education meeting in early July.

The charter network that funds and oversees Arlington has enough money to keep the school running for at least another year with some help. Indianapolis Public Schools intends to provide some cost-neutral services, such as grounds work and building maintenance, to help offset some of the costs in the budget as well.

The city of Indianapolis will also work with other area non-profits to gain additional support.

The network plans to aggressively recruit students for future years.

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Future Of Two Evansville Schools Now In Hands Of State Board

Families from two Evansville schools met with state education representatives Thursday to discuss how they plan to move forward after half a decade of failing accountability scores.

Community members pack the gym at Lincoln School for a public meeting about the school's failing accountability scores.

@NEWSjordanv (Twitter)

Community members pack the gym at Lincoln School for a public meeting about the school's failing accountability scores.

Superintendent Glenda Ritz and members of the Department of Education and State Board of Education staff, including SBOE Executive Director Robert Guffin, heard public comment at both Lincoln Elementary and McGary Middle School, to solicit input on how to better serve students.

The meeting – required by law since both schools have received failing accountability grades five years in a row – focused on five options for improving the schools’ performances:

  • Merge with another school.
  • Assign special management teams to operate all or part of the schools.
  • Implement recommendations from the IDOE for improving the schools.
  • Implement other options for improvement expressed at the hearing.
  • Revise the schools’ plans in the areas of procedures and operations, professional development or intervention for teachers and administration.

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Study: Teacher Turnover Is Higher Than Ever

Over the past decade, an increasing percentage of teachers have either moved to another school or left the profession altogether.

An increasing number of teachers is leaving the workforce each year.

woodleywonderworks (flickr)

An increasing number of teachers is leaving the workforce each year.

A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education shows that roughly half a million U.S. teachers move or leave the profession each year. That’s a turnover rate of about 20 percent compared to 9 percent in 2009.

State-by-state analysis found that 7 percent of Indiana’s teachers left between 2008-09.

That rate of attrition is relatively high compared to some other careers, according to a similar study released by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Teachers had significantly less turnover than secretaries, child care workers or correctional officers. On the other hand, teachers leave their jobs at about the same rate as police officers and considerably more often than nurses, lawyers and engineers.

And it’s costing school districts, large and small. Thousands of dollars walk out the door each time a teacher leaves because schools have to pay for recruiting, the hiring process, and training new teachers.

Attrition costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually. Those teachers that left Indiana? Its estimated their departures cost the state between $20 million and $45 million.

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