Claire McInerny is a reporter/producer for WFIU/WTIU news. She comes to WFIU/WTIU from KCUR in Kansas City. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Kansas where she discovered her passion for public media and the stories it tells. You can follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.
No Child Left Behind, the federal law that created the current testing climate and accountability systems in schools, looks like it will finally get the overhaul federal lawmakers have been discussing for years.
Right now, the new version of the law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act, easily survived a conference committee this month and is expected on the House floor next week.
Education Week reports the bill is expected to do well in the Senate but will likely hit snags once House Republicans get a hold of it. Here is how reporter Alyson Klein explains some of the proposed changes:
The bipartisan agreement seeks to give states miles of new running room on accountability, school turnarounds, teacher evaluation, and more, while maintaining No Child Left Behind’s signature transparency provisions, such as annual testing in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school.
And it calls for states to incorporate new measures into their accountability systems that get at students’ opportunity to learn and postsecondary readiness. States could choose to include school climate, student engagement, and teacher engagement, for example.
“This agreement, in my opinion, is the most significant step towards local control in 25 years,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, told House and Senate conferees.
The Senate panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, said that the framework includes “strong federal guardrails … so that students don’t get left behind.”
(Check out Education Week’s extensive breakdown of the changes that affect everything from testing to school choice to funding.)
A major takeaway of the bill is that states would have control over most parts of education, including how standardized assessments fit into accountability and how to help low-performing schools.
And this flexibility for how states keep their schools accountable is what is raising concerns from Democrats in Congress, according to NPR:
Under NCLB, the federal government has had a big role in all of that, and some lawmakers and advocates worry that this overhaul could move too far in the opposite direction, dramatically weakening the law’s protection of poor and minority students. At a recent meeting with civil rights groups on Capitol Hill, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sounded anxious.
“The idea that we would pass a major piece of legislation about education and, in effect, shovel money into states and say, ‘Do with it what you want’, and not have some accountability for how that money is spent, I think, is appalling,” Warren said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee and one of the architects of the law’s rewrite, has dismissed this concern. He declined to be interviewed for this story but sent NPR a statement saying he disagrees with groups “who believe that the path to higher standards, better teaching and real accountability is through Washington instead of states.”
But Daria Hall, with the advocacy group The Education Trust, says that, historically, “states have not made decisions with the best interest of vulnerable kids in mind.”
Hall says, when given the opportunity, states still find ways to camouflage the fact that most of their low-income, black and Latino students don’t get a quality education. As evidence, she points to the most recent reading and math scores from the so-called “Nation’s Report Card.”
“Those kids are losing ground,” Hall says. “And yet, we’re telling parents and the public this is an A school when the reality is it’s doing C work or maybe D work. That’s why we need a continued federal role in education.”
Lawmakers will have the final draft of the bill by Nov. 30, and the House is expected to vote that week, meaning we could see progress on this update by the new year.
The State Board of Education announced Friday that 33 charter schools in the state will split almost $40 million from the Common School Fund as part of a new initiative laid out in the state budget.
The biennial budget passed during the 2015 legislative session earmarked money for charter schools that can be used for anything including technology, transportation, capital or any other needs.
Charter schools don’t receive property tax money like traditional public schools, which is why the legislature added this line item to the budget.
The money is an advance, so as a way to “repay” it, the state will automatically withhold funds from the schools from their state allocations.
“The State is steadfast in the belief that students attending public charter schools deserve equal access to quality facilities and technology. Since public charter schools receive zero property tax revenue for facilities, transportation and technology, this program helps to offset those funding disparities,” said Sarah O’Brien, Vice Chair of the Indiana State Board of Education, in a statement. “The Board’s decision to place a per-pupil cap on the advance amount also helps to protect taxpayers by limiting a school’s ability to borrow more than it can afford to repay.”
The budget allows for the INSBOE to allocate $50 million over two years, so there will be $10 million left to award next year. Schools receiving an A, B or C on the state’s accountability system were eligible to apply for the grant. Charter schools receiving a D or F could apply if this grade was on par with or better than their closest traditional public school.
Schools could not receive more than $5 million. The most awarded in this round of advances was $1 million.
View the entire list of schools receiving money and the per pupil amount here.
This is part of a StateImpact series following three first year teachers through their experiences during the first year in the classroom. To learn more about the teachers and see all of the stories, visit the series website here.
Parent-teacher conferences are one of the biggest milestones a new teacher experiences. Not only does it take a lot of time and work to prepare for them (getting all of a student’s data assembled, writing notes about behavior and social updates, etc.), it’s intimidating.
What if a parent is displeased with how you run the classroom? What if one asks a question you don’t know the answer to? And what if your inexperience comes through in a concern they have about their child?
Gabe, Sara and Chris had all of the anxieties most new teachers have about conferences, and to capture this experience they all recorded an audio diary before their conferences, explaining their mindset about the meetings, and after, explaining how they went.
Indiana policymakers are focusing a lot of their attention lately on the different diploma options offered to Hoosier high school students. After the original draft for new choices came down from a committee of educators and business leaders, members of the public had a lot to say about the proposed changes – so much so that the State Board of Education decided to send them back to the drawing board. Over the last two weeks, we’ve taken a deep dive into some of the ideas that have been brought forth, why they are so controversial and what they mean for preparing Indiana’s students to be college- and career-ready. Check out our previous stories on arts and math requirements and whether we’re putting kids on academic tracks too early.
Nash Huffman, a freshman at Noblesville High School, is working toward the current General Diploma. His intellectual disabilities force him to work harder to meet certain graduate guidelines. (photo credit: Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana)
The rewrite of the state’s graduation requirements is making the path to getting a diploma more rigorous. These changes include more math credits, different elective requirements and a push to get kids considering jobs or academic interests they’re drawn to. The diplomas will apply to all students, but open up the possibility that as we raise the bar we could leave behind some of Indiana’s learners.
Take for example, Nash Huffman, a freshman at Noblesville High School. Nash has Down syndrome, and therefore an individualized education plan since he’s entered school. This means splitting his time between a general education classroom and working individually with a special education teacher. It also means his coursework could look different from other students’. But according to his mom, Jan, that’s different now that he’s a freshman.
“Once we get to high school you can’t modify the work,” she says. “You can accommodate the work, which is very different.”
This new challenge is manifesting itself in his math and science classes, where he’s struggling the most. After school one day, Nash and his parents meet me at the public library to talk. He’s already had a full day and is pretty tired, and has to go home to a math tutor after our meeting. It takes a little prodding from Jan and I to get him to talk about what he’s struggling with at school.
“Earth space science is driving me crazy,” Nash finally says.
“Why is it driving you crazy?” I ask.
“Because it’s real,” Nash says.
“What do you mean by it’s real?”
“I don’t know, it’s kind of complicated I think.”
When It Comes To a Diploma, Special Education Students Have The Same Rules
In Indiana, Nash must meet the same state standards as other students, and more importantly, must meet the same graduation requirements if he wants a diploma. He’s currently working toward earning the General Diploma, which requires four math credits, including Algebra 1.
Nash’s dad, Jeff, says his son isn’t ready to take that class so he’s in another, remedial math class to help prepare him for Algebra.
“He’s got a math test tomorrow, pre-algebra, and he’s working hard on it, but he doesn’t get any credit for it,” Jeff says.
He doesn’t get credit because it’s not an approved math course to graduate. The Huffmans are a little concerned about whether Nash can complete the four math credits he needs over four years. But if Nash were trying to get a diploma in a few years, when new diploma requirements go into affect, that could require three to four years of math. Jeff knows it would likely prevent his son from graduating. Continue Reading →
Indiana policymakers are focusing a lot of their attention lately on the different diploma options offered to Hoosier high school students. After the original draft for new choices came down from a committee of educators and business leaders, members of the public had a lot to say about he proposed changes – so much so that the State Board of Education decided to send them back to the drawing board. Over the next two weeks, we’re taking a deep dive into some of the ideas that have been brought forth, why they are so controversial and what they mean for preparing Indiana’s students to be college- and career-ready. Check out our previous stories on arts and math requirements, as well as how the new options would impact students’ choices.
Photo Credit: juriyrus/Flickr
The whole point of changing the diploma requirements is to raise the bar that allows an Indiana student to graduate and better prepare them for what they do after high school. But one of the major concerns around the proposed changes has to do with how special education students will meet these new standards.
Parents of special education students testified at the special meeting regarding diplomas that adding more credits and requiring students to get workforce experience will be hard for these students to complete in four years.
Currently, Indiana doesn’t have a separate diploma or allow for adjustments in the graduation requirements for students with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities, so they are held to the same standards as general education students. Some states, like Georgia, offer a separate diploma for special education students. In Connecticut, if a student has moderate to severe cognitive disabilities the school may adjust graduation requirements so they better meet the student’s abilities.
Next week, StateImpact is bringing you a comprehensive look at how special education students in Indiana could struggle with new diploma requirements. Before then, we want to hear from you educators and parents about what concerns you have for your students with special education needs.
Comment on this story, post to our Facebook page or tweet at us and we’ll include your input in next week’s story.
Testing company CTB released preliminary ISTEP+ scores from the 2015 assessment to parents this week, but many parents around the state are struggling to access their students’ scores through an online portal.
After viewing the scores, parents can request a re-score if their child is close to moving from one category to the next. After the re-scores are completed, the state plans to release ISTEP+ scores to the public by early or mid-December.
Despite the issues, Department of Education spokesperson Samantha Hart says the deadline for requesting a re-score remains 11:59 p.m. Friday. She says the DOE doesn’t have much choice because with CTB getting behind schedule with grading the tests, they need to stay on the current schedule so A-F grades can be calculated in a reasonable amount of time.
“We have to stick with such a tight timeline for calculating school grades and getting those out so teachers aren’t penalized,” Hart says. “Because we don’t have those calculated we have to stick to a really tight schedule, so unless the state legislature or the governor take action and request a pause or do a hold harmless approach we have to stick with this tight timeline.”
The state did not renew its contract with CTB to administer the ISTEP+ after this year and testing company Pearson will take over starting with the 2016 test. There have been glitches with CTB technology during previous years, when the online version of the test wouldn’t work while students were taking the test.
The addition of math credits is one part of changing graduation requirements from the state. (Photo Credit: Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)
Indiana policymakers are focusing a lot of their attention lately on the different diploma options offered to Hoosier high school students. After the original draft for new choices came down from a committee of educators and business leaders, members of the public had a lot to say about he proposed changes – so much so that the State Board of Education decided to send them back to the drawing board. Over the next two weeks, we’re taking a deep dive into some of the ideas that have been brought forth, why they are so controversial and what they mean for preparing Indiana’s students to be college- and career-ready.
As they stand right now, Indiana’s draft diplomas require a student to complete more credits than previously demanded, including an increase in math credits.
The current General Diploma requires a student to take four credits of math, or two years. The Core 40 diploma – which is intended for students wanting to prepare for higher education of some kind – diploma requires six credits, or three years of math.
In rewriting the diploma requirements, Associate Commissioner for Higher Education Jason Bearce says his colleagues felt increasing math credits for all students would be necessary to help Indiana high school graduates succeed.
“We’re finding about a third of our Core 40 graduates are needing remediation once they go onto college, and about 2/3 of those students need remediation that graduate with that General Diploma,” Bearce says. “Both cases we think that we can do better.”
The new diplomas increase math credits to eight for the College and Career Ready diploma (four years of math) and six to eight credits for the Workforce Ready diploma (three to four years). Bearce says increasing the amount of math a student takes will help decrease the remediation rate.
“Taking math all four years of high school ensures that the math is fresh and in their minds and they’re ready for what’s going to be expected of them when they graduate high school and go on to college,” Bearce says. “But there’s a second part to this…it’s really important for the math students are expected to do to be relevant to the path that they want to be on.”
To make that math relevant, rather than requiring the same sequence of math classes the diplomas call for a student to choose a math pathway that fits their skill level and career ambitions:
The math pathways a student may choose if they are trying to receive the proposed College and Career Ready diploma. (Photo Credit: Indiana Commission for Higher Education).
These new math requirements worry some school administrators like Bluffton High School principal Steve Baker, who is worried about his current staff being able to meet demands of all students taking four years of math classes.
The state is looking to change the graduation requirements for high school students, including not requiring any fine arts credits. (photo credit: Chris Moncus / Wikimedia)
The State Board of Education will eventually approve new diploma requirements for the state’s high school students, but after much public testimony around a variety of the changes, a new committee will re-work the requirements before sending them back to the board for approval.
While we wait for the final draft of the diplomas — state Superintendent Glenda Ritz says to expect them by April — we at StateImpact want to break down the conversation around these changes. There are discussions about many of the changes, and we want to explain the reasoning behind all of those arguments.
Under current diploma options, of which there are four, the only one that requires a student to take a fine arts credit to graduate is the honors version of the Core 40 diploma.
Kevin Gerrity, Indiana Music Education Association president, says while the fine arts community always wished all kids had to take a fine arts credit, they were content with that requirement. But when his organization, along with other arts advocacy groups, heard the state was looking to rewrite the diplomas, they saw it as an opportunity to inform the state of something they’ve known for a while:
“There is research that shows active participation in the arts actually changed students’ brains in ways that are very compatible with all of the things that the [SBOE] wants to do in order to make these degrees more rigorous.”
He’s talking about what education leaders in the state reference as “21st Century skills”– skills they think kids need to succeed in higher education or the workforce. These include things such as working on team, critical thinking or creative problem solving.
He and other fine arts advocates saw this time as an opportunity to push for a fine arts requirement in all the diplomas, but what they didn’t expect was none of the new diplomas requiring a fine arts credit.This led to a barrage of public comment on the subject, including an online petition with 3,000 signatures urging the SBOE to require the fine arts for all students. Continue Reading →
A new teacher’s first year can be a roller coaster of emotions.
The first few weeks are filled with anticipation and excitement. That changes by late fall. Research shows the toughest part for teachers is usually right now. The newness has worn off, the realities sink in, and many new teachers feel overwhelmed.
As tough as it is for each teacher who experiences it, Robert Kunzman, professor of curriculum studies and philosophy of education at Indiana University, says it’s fairly normal to hit this point in October.
“One of the things they deal with as they move from an idealistic energy at the beginning of the year, and certainly mixed with some nerves and anticipation, is a recognition of the way that the first year of teaching in particular tends to take over their life,” he says.
These frustrations can be learning experiences for new teachers or lead to more serious thoughts of wanting to leave or get burned out on the job. We checked in with the first year teachers to see how this point in the semester is affecting their attitudes toward their careers.
‘Is it ever going to get better?’
That roller coaster is happening right now for Sara Draper in her second grade classroom.
“I feel like it’s just going up and down.”
Draper teaches at Helmsburg Elementary in Brown County. Along with the rest of her first year peers, she has been optimistic up to this point, but the stresses of the job are starting to take a toll.