Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Seven IPS High School Students Immersed In Cancer Research

In an IU School of Medicine pathology lab, Shortridge High School student Isaac Carrera Ochoa is at a microscope looking for specific cancer biomarkers to be used in immunotherapy cancer treatment. Ochoa is searching for a biomarker called VISTA.

“I have studied 19 cases and only two seemed positive,” Ochoa says.

Professor Dr. George Sandusky, Ochoa’s mentor, says the work of these high schoolers is having a tangible impact on patient lives.

“We’re right on the cutting edge here because several people do get immunotherapy when they come from regional and outlying hospitals,” Sandusky says.

Sandusky says immunotherapy uses the patient’s own body to fight the cancer instead of radiation and chemotherapy – though immunotherapy may be used in tandem with the other treatments.

He says this kind of hands-on experience has a lasting impact on the students. Sandusky recently learned a participant from several years ago is now at the IU School of Medicine.

Ochoa says his cancer research this summer is especially meaningful because he has a relative being treated for breast cancer.

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Are Helicopter Parents Ruining Summer Camp?

In a wired world, summer camp is one of the last phone-free zones. But campers, staff and especially parents don’t always appreciate the message. The NPR Ed team investigates.


“It beeped in the envelope. That’s how we knew.” Leslie Conrad is the director of Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton, S.C., which runs several different camps during the summer. Clemson bans cellphones and other electronic devices for campers. That makes sense.

Read more at: www.npr.org

Bill Collector To Target IPS Families For Unpaid Textbook Fees

A range of text book fees at Indianapolis Public Schools for the 2016-17 school year.

A range of text book fees at Indianapolis Public Schools for the 2016-17 school year. (photo credit: Indianapolis Public Schools)

Families in Indianapolis Public Schools who have not paid textbook rental fees will soon be hearing from a collection agency.

The IPS Board voted unanimously Thursday to hire a company to collect on the outstanding bills.

More than 3,000 IPS parents have delinquent textbook fees from last school year. That has left more than a half million dollar deficit for the district, officials say.

More than 5,500 bills were sent for the 2016-17 year for a total of $846,221 in textbook rental fees. But as of this month, 3,213 parents had not paid last year’s fee leaving a deficit of $550,693.

Textbook rental fees can range from $100 to $200 per student each year depending on the grade.  A majority of IPS students qualify for free textbook through a state reimbursement program for low-income families.

“We want to ensure that fees do get paid when families can pay it,” IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee says.

The Statewide Credit Association of Indianapolis will try to collect on the outstanding bills as part of a $22,000 contract with IPS. The company is authorized to send three letters to each family requesting payment.

After this phase, legal action is possible — but that would require a separate approval by the board, says Weston Young, district chief financial manager.

IPS Board President Mary Ann Sullivan urged the district to continue lobbying state lawmakers for more textbook funding. The Generally Assembly recently approved a two-year state budget with $39 million for textbook reimbursements for each year.

“It is not pleasant to to think about having to collect these fees,” Sullivan says of hiring a collection agency. “I remember paying those fees and it is significant.”

School districts contracting with a bill collector is not new.

The Statewide Credit Association handles collection services for seven Marion County schools districts and 135 school districts statewide. The company reports a  78 percent to 92 percent recovery rate, according to IPS officials.

IPS expects to collect 50 percent to 78 percent of the 2016-17 bills through the letter writing phase of the collection process, says Young.

The Statewide Credit Association will charge IPS $7 for each unpaid bill.

IPS officials say families will have an easier time paying for text books and other expenses in the 2017-18 school year. A new website will soon be launched that allows families to use a credit card for various school expenses, Young says.

Families will receive textbook rental bills during the first few weeks of the new school year. Classes begin July 31.

U.S. Dept. Of Education Encourages IDOE To Improve Data Security

The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to state superintendent Jennifer McCormick, outlining problems with the state's security around student data. (photo credit: Peter Balonon-Rosen/ Indiana Public Broadcasting)

The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to state superintendent Jennifer McCormick, outlining problems with the state’s security for student data. (photo credit: Peter Balonon-Rosen/ Indiana Public Broadcasting)

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) sent a letter to state superintendent Jennifer McCormick this month outlining problems with the Indiana Department of Education’s security around student data.

The state receives grant money from USED for implementing security systems, which opened the state up to an audit.

According to the USED letter, the audit’s “objective was to determine whether IDOE has internal controls in place to prevent, detect, report, and respond to unauthorized access and disclosure of personally identifiable information” in the state’s data system.

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Indiana Early Learning Group Gives Out $72,500 In Awards

Early Learning Indiana awards grants to pre-k programs across the state.

Early Learning Indiana awards grants to pre-k programs across the state. (photo credit: Sonia Hooda / Flickr)

The education advocacy group Early Learning Indiana has awarded $72,500 to programs across the state designed for youngsters.

Fourteen different programs were selected for the group’s Family Engagement Prizes. They include grand prize winner Walnut Hill Early Childhood Center in Goshen, which was awarded $25,000.

St. Mary’s Child Center MLK in Indianapolis was among eight programs receiving $5,000 awards. The others were Apple Tree Child Development Center YMCA in Muncie, Bona Vista Early Head Start in Kokomo, Head Start of LaPorte County, School City of East Chicago, the Monroe County Community School Corp. in Bloomington, Montessori Garden Academy in Indianapolis and Cradles of Clay County in Brazil,

The awards were granted to early childhood school programs that demonstrate “a deep level of commitment and care for families.”

Educators, Employers Will Use State Data To Tackle Local Job Needs

Caleb Pierson looks over a cabinet project he designed for Heartwood Manufacturing. Pierson is a graduate of a program run through Batesville High School, that helps students get manufacturing skills while still in high school. (Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Caleb Pierson looks over a cabinet project he designed for Heartwood Manufacturing. Pierson is a graduate of a program run through Batesville High School, that helps students get manufacturing skills while still in high school. (Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Indiana workforce officials are convening dozens of groups of local education and business leaders across the state to improve training efforts for new workers.

It’s the next phase of the Indiana’s SkillUp program, which aims to help localize training efforts for the state’s estimated million job openings in the next decade.

Workforce development commissioner Steve Braun shared local workforce data with the Lafayette-area group – made up of high school superintendents, vocational and technical educators and local employers – on Monday.

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Feds To Revisit Campus Rape Policy, An Issue That’s Vexed Indiana

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says she will revisit Obama-era sexual assault policies, but did not reveal what specific policy changes the administration intended to make. In this May 23, 2017 photo, DeVos visits Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says she will revisit Obama-era sexual assault policies, but did not reveal what specific policy changes the administration intended to make. In this May 23, 2017 photo, DeVos visits Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Federal education officials plan to take a hard look at campus sexual assault policies created by the Obama administration, saying those policies could deprive accused students of their rights. It’s a move infuriating advocates for victims and women who have spent years waging a campaign against what some have called “rape culture” on campuses.

The issue has garnered considerable controversy. And it’s one all too familiar in Indiana.

The federal government is currently conducting 16 investigations into Indiana colleges and universities for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence.

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Senate Health Bill Would Affect Special Education? Yes, Here’s How

New federal healthcare legislation could result in large cuts to Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for low-income people. Schools often rely on these funds for special education and other health services. (Simon Hulatt/Flickr)

New federal healthcare legislation could result in large cuts to Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for low-income people. Schools often rely on these funds for special education and other health services. (Simon Hulatt/Flickr)

Indiana districts stand to lose more than $3.6 million per year over the next two decades, under proposed cuts to Medicaid spending under new federal healthcare legislation.

How school services would be effected has garnered little attention in the national debate as Republican lawmakers seek to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Indiana districts use Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for low-income people, to pay for certain health-related services. Districts rely on Medicaid reimbursements for special education, transportation for children with disabilities, social workers, full-time nurses, testing accommodations, physical and occupational therapists and medical equipment. Districts also use Medicaid reimbursements for administrative costs, like health fairs or connecting students without medical insurance to state services.

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McCormick Responds To New Federal Graduation Rate Requirements

Jennifer McCormick leads the State Board of Education meeting May 10. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI)

Jennifer McCormick leads the State Board of Education meeting May 10. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI)

A new federal education law would make thousands of diplomas known as general diplomas no longer count toward a school’s graduation rate. It’s a move that Indiana’s schools chief says “blindsided” the state.

“Obviously the state recognizes those diplomas, employers are recognizing those diplomas,” says Jennifer McCormick, Indiana superintendent of public instruction. “This will just make it more problematic.”

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