Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

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Claire McInerny

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.

  • Email: clmciner@indiana.edu

School Voucher Recipients Increase By Nearly 50% In 2015

The number of Indiana students receiving choice scholarships increased by almost half during the 2015-2014-2015 school year.

The number of Indiana students receiving choice scholarships increased by almost half during the 2014-15 school year. (Photo Credit: MyTudut/Flickr)

The number of students enrolled in Indiana’s voucher program increased by 47 percent this year, with fewer students having previously attended public school.

This comes from the Department of Education’s Choice Scholarship Program Annual Report released Monday.

The report shows a rapid increase in the number of students and schools participating in the choice scholarship program. Take a look at the number of students receiving scholarships starting with the 2011-12 school year, the first year Indiana offered them:

2011-12: 3,911 students
2012-13: 9,139 students
2013-14: 19,809 students
2014-15: 29,148 students

The eligibility requirements to receive a scholarship expanded each year, which could contribute to the increase in numbers. When the program started in 2011, students could meet one of two criteria to qualify. Now, there are seven: Continue Reading

Governor Pence Signs Bill To Shorten Spring ISTEP+

House speaker Brian Bosma and the rest of the House and Senate voted through Senate Bill 62, which allows the DOE to shorten this year's ISTEP+.

House speaker Brian Bosma and the rest of the House and Senate voted through Senate Bill 62 Monday, which allows the DOE to shorten this year\’s ISTEP+.                          photo credit: Gretchen Frazee / WTIU News

 

 

 

Updated 8:30 p.m.

Governor Pence tonight signed into law the bill that shortens the length of this spring’s ISTEP+.

This comes after the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives passed the bill Monday allowing the Department of Education to take certain measures to shorten this year’s ISTEP+ test.

After outrage from parents and educators that this year’s assessment would take students a total of twelve hours, the General Assembly took the reigns to trim the length of the test. Both chambers passed a joint resolution last week promising to get the bill passed, so the IDOE could start enacting measures suggested by outside consultants to cut three hours and five minutes from the test.

By passing Senate Bill 62, the legislature gives the IDOE permission to eliminate the Social Studies portion of the ISTEP+ exam for fifth and seventh graders this year (subtracting about an hour). The bill also enables the IDOE to reuse pilot questions on next year’s test, rather than releasing them to the public – another time-saving measure.

With the approved changes, the new test will take around eight hours, which is on par with other states’ assessments.

IDOE spokesperson Daniel Altman says his organization is working with schools to administer the updated test.

“We’re doing quite a bit of communication with schools just letting them know the sort of nuts and bolts of how it is this ISTEP+ administration will work, letting them know which sessions they have to administer, which ones they don’t, so we can make this run as smoothly as possible,” Altman says.

Schools are allowed to begin administering the ISTEP+ as early as Wednesday.

Indiana Colleges Partner With Gallup To Survey Student Experience

Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers explains the new surveying tool for college graduates at her State of Higher Education Address Monday.

Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers explains a new surveying tool for college graduates at her State of Higher Education Address Monday. (Photo Credit: Gretchen Frazee/WTIU News)

Indiana is the first state selected to participate in a study with national research company Gallup to survey recent college graduates from universities around the state and gauge the effectiveness of their degree.

State Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers announced the partnership during her State of Higher Education Address Monday.

The survey is based on the Gallup-Purdue Index, which surveyed 30,000 students nationwide about satisfaction with their college degree after graduation. The Index released its first report in 2014, showing that students who had a mentor or felt their university was engaged in their learning were more engaged in their job.

Lubbers says she hopes this tool will help higher education institutions and employers learn what young people need to be prepared for the current workforce.

“It’s a matter of getting people to understand that the world in which they grew up in is not the world in which people are now growing up in,” Lubbers says. “It’s really a matter of getting people to understand what the world of work looks like. There are no jobs in advanced manufacturing for people with an eighth grade [diploma], or very few with a high school diploma. It’s an education process to change a culture.” Continue Reading

VIDEO: The Weekly Roundup Of Education At The Statehouse

Education issues continue to dominate discussions at the statehouse and across Indiana, as Hoosiers debate a series of controversies relating to school funding, the role of the chair of the State Board of Education and the spring ISTEP+ test.

StateImpact’s Claire McInerny spoke with Indiana Newsdesk host Joe Hren about the week’s events.

Opposing Viewpoints and Rallies

Private, charter and public school leaders held a rally on Thursday to show why they think Indiana is heading in the right direction, pointing to increases in test scores and the fact that students can attend a better school with state financial support, even if it is outside of their district or is a private or charter school.

But hundreds of Hoosiers gathered in the same space just a few days before, exclaiming they feel public schools and State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who they elected, is under attack.

“I voted for Glenda Ritz to be my state superintendent of public instruction. I didn’t vote for Governor Pence,” Mary Plaia, a kindergarten teacher at Indianapolis Public Schools said. “He’s trying to take my vote away by ousting her from her power and that’s not acceptable in a democracy.”

Continue Reading

National News: House Set to Pass NCLB Rewrite Next Friday

Congress is rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act, and the House is expected to pass a finished version next week.


The House is set to clear a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act next Friday. A new schedule laid out Thursday afternoon would send the Republican-backed bill, which the education committee passed on a party-line vote Feb. 11, to the floor for debate Wednesday and Thursday, with a final vote scheduled for Friday morning.

Read more at: blogs.edweek.org

Another Challenge For The 2015 ISTEP+? Snow Days

Districts with multiple snow days this week are facing an even tighter deadline to prepare students and teachers for this year's ISTEP+.

Districts with multiple snow days this week are facing an even tighter deadline to prepare students and teachers for this year\’s ISTEP+. (Photo Credit: Jason.Kuffer/Flickr)

Recent commotion regarding the 2015 ISTEP+ involved a lot of key players: state superintendent Glenda Ritz, the State Board of Education and Governor Mike Pence, along with many parents and educators voicing concerns. But as temperatures dropped and snow fell this week, another character was added to the mix: Mother Nature.

Many school districts cancelled classes multiple days this week because of weather, meaning lost opportunities to administer practice tests or meet with teachers to get them up to speed on how to proctor the test.

The Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation has called four snow days so far this week, and according to spokesperson Marsha Jackson, this puts them on an even tighter deadline regarding assessments. The district received their practice tests at the end of the last week, but have not had a chance to use them.

“Tomorrow we’re hoping to be back in the classroom and will begin working with those practice tests with our kids, but that only gives us a couple days, really,” Jackson says. Continue Reading

IDOE Releases Plan To Districts For Shortening The 2015 ISTEP+

The IDOE divided Part 1 of the 2015 ISTEP in half to shorten the test by three hours and five minutes.

The IDOE divided Part 1 of the 2015 ISTEP in half to shorten the test by three hours and five minutes. photo credit; James Sarmiento (flickr)

The Indiana Department of Education sent guidance to school districts Wednesday evening explaining how schools will divide this year’s ISTEP+ test to make it shorter.

This comes after the IDOE and State Board of Education voted to move forward with a plan from two national testing consultants, hired by Governor Pence, to shorten the test.

Thirty-two percent of the questions Included in Part One of the assessment – which may begin next Wednesday – serve as pilot items for next year’s test. The plan to split sections among schools reduced the amount of pilot questions any given student will take by half.

The IDOE split Part One of the ISTEP+ (the open-ended portion) into two forms, and the forms will be divided by school. An IDOE spokesperson says they decided to split it among schools and not districts to divide the pilot questions evenly among various demographic groups in the state.

Here’s how the test is divided: Continue Reading

How Did We Get Here? The Road To The 2015 ISTEP+

Jenny Robinson reads with her second grade son, Louis. Robinson says she is concerned about the amount of testing her children participate in, and wishes there was more time spent on creative learning.

Jenny Robinson reads with her second grade son, Louis. Robinson says she’s concerned about the amount of testing her children participate in, and wishes they could spend more time on creative learning. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

If you’re a parent trying to prepare your child for the spring ISTEP+ test, you may be at a loss.

Maybe you got a letter from your child’s school this week, but it didn’t include the usual “make sure your child gets plenty of rest and eats a balanced breakfast.” Instead, it probably included a list of uncertainties about this year’s exam.

No one seems to know what students should expect and the testing window opens next week. How did Indiana find itself in this situation?

A Trip Down Memory Lane

If you trace it back, this all really started when Indiana pulled out of the Common Core national standards. When that happened, the state had to write its own new standards, and a test to match them. Because the process was so rushed, there was no time to pilot the new questions.

The solution: include pilot questions within the new test.  Students would be subjected to a lot more questions than would actually count toward their scores – so many new questions that the length of the test actually doubled.

But that wasn’t common knowledge until the end of January. That’s when the Department of Education mailed timetables to school districts across the state.

Continue Reading

Pence Consultants Present Plan To Reduce ISTEP+ Length

Edward Roeber, a national testing consultant hired through Gov. Pence's executive order, presents his plan to shorten this year's ISTEP to the State Board of Education Friday.

Edward Roeber, a national testing consultant hired through Gov. Pence’s executive order, presents his plan to shorten this year’s ISTEP to the State Board of Education Friday. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

Two national testing consultants – hired through an executive order Gov. Mike Pence issued this week – presented five recommendations to the State Board of Education Friday of ways to reduce the length of this year’s ISTEP+ test.

Edward Roeber and William Auty presented their recommendations during an emergency SBOE meeting that State Superintendent Glenda Ritz called after parents and educators expressed outrage at the length of this year’s test.

After reviewing this year’s ISTEP+, Roeber said the increased times came from one section.

“[English Language Arts] is the real culprit,” Roeber said.

Ritz and the board agreed to move forward with Roeber and Auty’s recommendations, which they say will shorten the test by three hours and five minutes:

1) Release only a small portion of the open-ended test items: When students take the ISTEP+ test, some of the questions are posted online after scores are posted to be used as practice or classroom preparation for the test. Those items have to go through an “operational test” (the actual, graded test students take) so the Department of Education knows they are effective. Since this year’s test is new, every question must be tested by students – whether it’s used in the part of the ISTEP+ that counts toward a student’s score or the “field test” (the part that’s goes back to the IDOE for data purposes). By not releasing every question after the fact, we get to save some of them for next year’s test. This is crucial, because questions for spring 2016 must be piloted this year. Continue Reading

IDOE Proposes Resolution To Remove Accountability From ISTEP+

The State Board of Education will meet Friday to discuss this year's ISTEP+.

The State Board of Education will meet Friday to discuss this year’s ISTEP+. photo credit: David Hartman (flickr)

The State Board of Education will consider a resolution proposed by the Department of Education that would suspend accountability for schools and teachers tied to results from the spring ISTEP+ exam. The board convenes Friday for a special meeting to address the length of this year’s test, which sparked outrage from educators and parents when the news became public last week.

In an effort to address these concerns, Governor Mike Pence signed an executive order Monday hiring a national testing consultant to recommend ways to shorten the test to the IDOE and SBOE. But the testing window for the ISTEP+ begins Feb. 25, giving the consultant, the IDOE and CTB McGraw-Hill a tight deadline to make any changes to the test.

The SBOE meeting Friday will focus only on this issue, and the resolution put forward by the IDOE attempts to address the concerns of parents and educators in a different way than the governor’s attempt to shorten the test.

The resolution asks the board to vote on the following changes to the state’s testing procedures:

  • Request that the General Assembly allow the IDOE and SBOE to suspend A-F grades for the 2014-2015 school year (which are based partially on ISTEP+ grades),
  • Ask the General Assembly to pause interventions for failing schools “due to a sixth consecutive year of placement in the lowest category or designation of school performance resulting from the hold in school categories and designations for the 2014-2015 school year,”
  • Ask the General Assembly to remove social studies portions of the 2015 ISTEP+ for fifth and seventh graders,
  • Ask the General Assembly to approve the decision not to administer the IREAD-3 test this year, to reduce the amount of testing for third graders, and
  • Not incorporate ISTEP+ scores into teacher evaluations.

Continue Reading

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