In the heart of rural Indiana, Argos Community Schools struggles to survive as students leave. Like many rural schools, the school system's future is uncertain.
In the heart of rural Indiana, Argos Community Schools struggles to survive as students leave. Like many rural schools, the school system's future is uncertain.
Holy Cross College in South Bend is one of 67 higher education institutions across the country to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Program. The program uses federal Pell grant money to pay for prisoners to take degree-seeking programs behind bars.
The pilot program allows universities to partner with prisons to provide degree programs – an opportunity that’s been missing from most Indiana prisons since 2012.
The college will work with Westville Correctional Facility and Indiana Women’s Prison, both state prisons. It’s already offered associates and bachelor’s degrees for a small number of prisoners at Westville.
Holy Cross applied to participate in the federal program so it could use the Pell grant money to expand on its existing courses.
“That’s a very important part of maturity, I guess you would say, for a program offering education within prison,” said Brother Jesus Alonso, vice president for strategic initiatives at Holy Cross. “It signifies a lot for stability, commitment on behalf of the students and commitment on behalf of the institution to continue delivering what we offer in that type of setting.”
The program offers approximately $30 million in Pell grants to universities in 27 states, and expects to help around 12,000 inmates work toward a post-secondary degree.
Alonso says the assistance from the federal government is necessary to continue education programs in prison.
“It takes about $10,000 to run one course,” he said. “What that means is – providing supplies and books for students and also providing salary for our faculty.”
The Second Chance Pell Program was initiated by the Obama administration as a way to reduce recidivism lower the incarceration rate.
After the Supreme Court upheld an affirmative action program at the University of Texas, legal experts in Indiana say it likely won’t have a major effect on local school enrollment.
The Supreme Court Thursday ruled in favor of the University of Texas allowing the school to continue their affirmative action program. Abigail Fisher, who is white, was not accepted into the school in 2008. She’s since argued that she was discriminated against based on her race.
Legal experts say the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action this week was narrow, meaning schools like Indiana University won’t have to change. The Court reaffirmed its stance that race can be considered, among a number of factors, when choosing which student submissions to accept.
“[Affirmative action] is not about ensuring success for people, it’s about providing opportunity and access to opportunity for people,” said David Johnson, Indiana University’s vice provost for enrollment.
Colleges are not required by law to consider race when accepting students, but Indiana University does. Johnson said race will remain one of many factors considered as part of a holistic process.
“It’s very clear that a diverse learning environment provides a quality education for all involved, not just the underrepresented students or majority students,” Johnson said.
Professor of law at IU’s Maurer School of Law Kevin Brown said he thinks the driving force behind affirmative action should be globalization.
“As our kids come more and more into contact with people from other countries, other cultural backgrounds, they really need a totally different set of skills,” Brown said.
Since one Supreme Court chair remains empty, Brown warned that the coming presidential election could have an impact.
If Hillary Clinton is elected, Brown said, affirmative action is probably safe. But with a possible Donald Trump presidency, it could be challenged again.
Steve Sanders, associate professor of law at IU’s Maurer School of Law, said the nature of what affirmative action could be up for debate — is it to make up for past inequities or to ensure diversity in on current college campuses?
Sanders said the Supreme Court’s interpretation gives one specific view.
“The purpose of affirmative actions is not to make up for social disadvantage, it’s not to ensure African-American and Latino needs,” Sanders said. “It’s really concerned with the institution’s needs.”
Affirmative action programs in Indiana and around the country was the subject of WFIU’s Noon Edition this week.
Listen to the entire show and hear from lawyers and college administrations about the state of affirmative action in Indiana. They touched on the role of changing demographics, root causes for affirmative action and the role of the Supreme Court.
WFIU’s Drew Daudelin contributed to this report.
School counselors help students improve their academics, address emotional needs and prepare for college and careers. Still, they’re a profession that often floats under the radar in the education world.
Indiana currently has a higher student-to-counselor ratio than most states. There’s currently one counselor for every 639 students statewide.
A new report from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says school superintendents and principals have favorable views of school counselors, but can’t always hire counselors when students need them.
“In Indiana we have a funding shortage for the number of school counselors that are truly needed at the schools,” said Jen Money-Brady, Indiana School Counselor Association president-elect. “We have enough counselors to fill those roles, it’s just finding the funding to be able to have the position available.
Brandie Oliver with Butler University’s School of Education helped author the Chamber of Commerce report. She agrees funding is a challenge.
She also says it’s important for school’s to embrace the evolving role of school counselors.
“Today’s counselor is definitely different from the counselor 20 years ago,” Oliver said. “School counselors address social-emotional need, academic needs and then college-and-career readiness needs.”
And that involves reaching students in a way counselors didn’t 20 years ago — addressing student trauma, toxic stress and other needs.
“When we think about college-and-career we have to think about it holistically,” Oliver said. “And so is student that’s kind of in crisis or worrying about trauma, are they really going to be able to look futuristically at their college-and-career?”
But challenges remain for school counselors to address the “career” part of “college-and-career readiness,” according to Oliver.
“Many counselors might feel pretty equipped with how to prepare and guide those students for college pathways,” Oliver said. “But there’s still a gap in knowledge and skills for students that are not going to pursue a traditional four-year college.”
Oliver says this can, in part, be remedied through increased access to data and other student tracking tools.
The Chamber of commerce report says the presence of school counselors positively impact a school’s climate and student emotional needs.
Here’s a no-brainer: Not all learning happens at school.
Toys, games, books, puzzles, crafts and after-school activities from bird-watching to basketball expand our knowledge and our capacity to learn — and most of that happens out of the classroom. But, with a price tag attached to each opportunity, access isn’t equal for all children.
And that divide is growing.
In the past four decades, spending on “education extras” has rocketed from wealthy families yet remained level in other income groups.
According to new research published in a journal from the American Educational Research Association, spending on childcare and learning enrichment goods for children younger than 6 years old has grown significantly among the wealthiest U.S. households since the 1970s. At the same time, it’s remained stagnant for all other income groups.
Using data from a federal survey, the report finds that the wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. households tripled their spending on extracurricular items and experiences. Spending went from $3,000 in the early 1970s to $9,000 in 2010. Continue Reading
Although most Indiana students do attend kindergarten, students are not required by law to go to school until age seven.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count data book, a national report on child wellbeing, reports Indiana ranks 40th in the nation for preschool enrollment: parents of 60 percent of Indiana’s three and four year olds say their children are not in school. Only 10 states have fewer young children in school programs.
According to some experts, missing out on those early years is a big deal.
“Success starts early,” said Kent Mitchell of Early Learning Indiana. “You know kids who start behind stay behind.”
Early Learning Indiana is an preschool provider and advocate.
Preschool students may learn early math, language skills and life skills, like how to sit still or take instruction.
“Those experiences literally help to shape the architecture of a child’s brain,” said Mitchell.
Access to preschool has been a major platform point in the upcoming election, as we previously reported.
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz wants to see preschool available to all Indiana kids — and says it should be at the front of lawmakers’ minds as they enter the 2017 legislative session.
The $150 million proposal to expand preschool in every district in the state would be less than one percent of the state’s annual budget, Ritz said. She says it’s among the Department of Education’s top policy priorities heading into the next legislative session.
Ritz’s plan would comprise of public-private partnerships paid for from existing state funds, federal grants and private contributions.
In response, Gov. Mike Pence has said the state should focus funds on students with certain income qualifications, not all students.
Under the state’s existing preschool pilot program, families are only eligible if they have incomes up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level — about $31,000 for a family of four.
“When it comes to disadvantaged kids the benefits of opening doors of access to early childhood education is very significant,” Pence said. “And that’s where we’ll focus.”
Pence also said under any state-funded preschool program, students should be able to use those resources in public, private or faith-based preschool programs.
INDIANAPOLIS — As Ayana Coles gazed at the 20 teachers gathered in her classroom, she knew the conversation could get uncomfortable. And she was prepared.
“We are going to experience discomfort — well, we may or may not experience it — but if we have it that’s OK,” said Coles, a third grade teacher at Eagle Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis.
At Eagle Creek, students of color make up 77 percent of the student body. All but four of the school’s 37 staff are white. Throughout this past year, Coles has led a series of after-school discussions with teachers about race.
“We talked about unquestioned assumptions,” Coles said to her colleagues at the meeting. “Like some parents or groups of people have no value of education, or their parents are uneducated, their parents don’t have money.”
Her goal? Create a common understanding of race and power, with the hopes that teachers acknowledge, then address how that plays out in the school.
But getting there means first exploring often-taboo topics: race, power and teachers’ biases.
A lower percentage of students passed Indiana’s required third grade reading test on their first try.
The Department of Education released preliminary results from this year’s IREAD-3 exam, which show 83.8 percent of third graders passed on their first try. Last year, the percentage was 84.2.
IREAD-3 is a standardized test assessing third graders’ reading ability, and it is separate from ISTEP+.
More students took the test this year, 1,575, which may have had an impact on the passing rate. And the rate could go up, as students can retake the test in the summer. After unsuccessful students had the chance to take last year’s test a second time, that passing rate jumped to 87.4 percent.
If a third grader doesn’t pass the IREAD reading test the second time, they will have to retake third grade versions of the ISTEP and IREAD exams the following school year. State officials say these students will probably also be held back from entering fourth grade.
Final passage results will be available at the end of the summer.
INDIANAPOLIS — Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg and state superintendent Glenda Ritz detailed their proposal for universal pre-K Thursday. Universal pre-k would be free for all 4 year-olds, not just those from low income families.
Ritz will run for re-election in November, and the two Democratic candidates proposed the plan last week.
The state’s current pre-K pilot program, On My Way Pre-K, gives pre-K scholarships to certain families who have incomes up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level — about $31,000 for a family of four.
Ritz said she wants the program to be available for all students.
“Middle income families affording daycare and pre-K, it’s a stress on their budgets,” Ritz said.
On My Way Pre-K requires families to apply, and approval takes time. Some have identified this process as a barrier. Ritz said more students will enroll in pre-K if it’s universal.
The plan she and Gregg support would cost the state an estimated $150 million a year. The money would be allocated to 289 public schools with preschool programs.
Ritz said the Department of Education will propose this program to the legislature during the 2017 General Assembly, which is a budget year.
Gregg said this program is good education policy and hopes Republicans in the legislature recognize that.
“My fear is if you just make it income weighted, they think this is just another one of these government programs, that they would call welfare programs, and it’s not, it’s education,” Gregg said.
The program would not require families to enroll their child in preschool.
In terms of funding, both Ritz and Gregg said the state has money for the program. Their plan would pool dollars from state and federal funds, and could use money currently spent on assessment, if the ISTEP+ panel chooses a cheaper option.
Governor Pence signed the state’s current On My Way Pre-K pilot program into law in 2013. The pilot program does not have a long term funding, as its effects are currently being studied. The program launched last year in five counties.
The Department of Education announced Wednesday the latest group of schools that will receive state money to create or expand dual language immersion programs, adding three new schools to five already existing grant-funded programs.
The goal of dual language immersion programs is to teach students to become bilingual by teaching 50 percent of their lessons in English and 50 percent in another language. These usually begin in kindergarten or first grade and ideally continue throughout elementary school.
The following schools received grants Wednesday, and the ones in bold are new recipients:
The 2015 General Assembly created the dual language immersion pilot program, allocating $1 million over two years for schools to create or expand a program.
Batesville Primary School received one of the first grants last year and will enroll their first class of kindergartners in its Mandarin dual language immersion program this fall. Batesville Primary principal Heather Haunert says she spent the last year conducting research on successful Mandarin programs around the country. This included traveling to Seattle, Wash. and Portland, Ore. to see how Mandarin programs there were run.
Haunert says her school chose Mandarin because of a few businesses in Batesville with Chinese connections, but also because they wanted to provide a unique experience for students in the overwhelmingly white school.
“We’re just in such a small, tiny little pocket that it’s important for them to realize that there’s a big huge world out there and they need to have as many experiences as they can,” Haunert said.
After a year of researching and planning their program, Haunert says it was exciting to receive money for another year, but they are also planning how to maintain the program after state funding runs out. They hope to have one dual language Mandarin class at grade level, through fifth grade.
Waterford Elementary in Goshen Community Schools was one of three schools that received its first state dual language immersion program grant this week. It will launch a Spanish dual-language immersion program, and will follow a two-way immersion model. This means in addition to half of the instruction being in Spanish, half of the students will also be native Spanish speakers.
Unlike Batesville, Goshen schools enroll more 51 percent Latino students, many of them speaking Spanish. Their program will not only help English speakers learn a new language, but native Spanish speakers maintain their original language while practicing English.
Karen Blaha, Goshen English Language Learner director, said the fact that non-Latino families want their students to learn Spanish is encouraging.
“When I hear those comments from families who are native English speakers, to me shows that there is an interest for the whole dual language with the Spanish and English,” Blaha said.
Blaha says her district will spend this next year developing the curriculum for the program and preparing for its official launch in the 2017-2018 school year.
The state’s ISTEP panel met for the second time Tuesday, with much of the discussion focusing on what the vision for the new assessment is. Many panel members struggled to agree on a shared goal.
The panel, established during the 2016 General Assembly, meets every month until December 2016 and will design a new state assessment to replace the ISTEP+. The 23-person panel is comprised of educators, legislators, state agency heads and business leaders.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Marilyn Moran-Townsend, CEO of CVC Communications, said the group must have a goal for the assessment before digging into issues of technology, format and contract processes. This suggestion turned out to be complicated for much of the group.
Many of the educators that spoke up during the discussion, including Ft. Wayne Community Schools superintendent Wendy Robinson, want to have a more philosophical conversation about what this test would measure and what the state wants to know about student academic achievement.
“I just don’t want to get into the weeds until I’m clear that everybody on this committee, we’re all focused on the same thing,” Robinson said. “Teachers don’t want to get rid of testing, they just want to make sure what you’re having them spend valuable time on is actually going to help them change practice to get to proficiency, because that’s the goal.”
Scot Croner, superintendent of Blackford County Schools, brought up a specific goal he wants the panel to discuss. He says whenever the subject of testing has come up in recent years, people involved in the conversation say they want it to test if a student is ready for college or career. But how that actually plays out isn’t equal. He says students in his district’s welding program perform the worst on their End of Course Assessment with a 70 percent passage rate. But these same students have the highest passing rate for their industry exam, with 96 percent passing the welding exam. Which means they are ready for a career, but that’s not reflected on any state measurement.
“It’s mind numbingly painful to think we try to create these arbitrary tests that somehow measure college and career, when to my knowledge I think we know what college readiness means in the form of a test,” Croner said. ” It’s called the SAT and the ACT.”
While Croner and others wanted to have this vision set in stone before moving forward, many at the state level, including superintendent Glenda Ritz, Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers and Representative Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, were more focused on the logistics of format, technology and selection of a test vendor.
But discussions around these issues didn’t take place today. Before adjourning, Chair Nicole Fama asked the other 22 panel members to email her their individual visions for the test.
The panel has six more meetings before the December deadline to submit their redesign plan.