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

Meet The New State Board Of Education: Steve Yager

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Ft. Wayne, appointed former Ft. Wayne superintendent Steve Yager to the State Board of Education.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, appointed former Fort Wayne superintendent Steve Yager to the State Board of Education. (Photo Credit: Senate Republicans)

Earlier this week, Gov. Mike Pence, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announced their new appointments to the State Board of Education in response to legislation passed this session allowing the lawmakers to reconstitute the board at once.

Over the next few days, we at StateImpact will profile the five new members, explaining their professional backgrounds and what they hope to contribute to the INSBOE. We start with former Fort Wayne superintendent Steve Yager.

Since beginning his career in education in 1973, Yager has worked as a classroom teacher, school counselor, assistant principal, principal and a superintendent for more than twenty years. He retired last year, after serving more than 20 years as superintendent for both the Southwest Allen County Schools and the Northwest Allen County Schools.

Yager says when Sen. Long approached him to serve on the board, he made one thing very clear.

“We had a very frank discussion and I wanted to make sure that there weren’t any real political issues that would be expected if I were appointed,” Yager says. “Making sure that I could make educational decisions and not have to worry about politics.”

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Lawmakers Announce New State Board Appointments

Troy Albert is one of the State Board of Education members the governor did not reappoint to the board Wednesday.

Troy Albert is one of the State Board of Education members the governor did not reappoint to the board Wednesday. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Five new people will join Indiana’s State Board of Education after Gov. Mike Pence, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announced appointments Wednesday.

The new roster comes as a result of legislation the General Assembly passed this session permitting the governor and two legislative leaders to appoint or reappoint INSBOE members by June 1. The governor previously had authority to appoint all members of the board as spots became vacant, never all at once.

But after months of disagreements and arguments on the board that led to a walkout by Ritz, stalemate on important policy decisions and a lawsuit, the legislature decided it was time to reboot the board.

“Today marks a fresh start for the State Board of Education,” Pence said in a statement. “Ensuring a quality education for every Hoosier student remains of the utmost importance to our administration, and I commend the tireless efforts of the men and women who have devoted their time and expertise by serving on the Board.”

“Hoosiers can be assured that the individuals appointed today to the State Board of Education bring to the table a wealth of unique educational experiences and remain wholeheartedly committed to serving our kids, our families, our teachers, and our schools,” Pence said.

Over the last two years, the INSBOE adopted new academic standards, revamped the state’s standardized assessment and created a new A-F accountability system – but that doesn’t mean this new board will not have plenty to do.

Board spokesman Marc Lotter says his staff will immediately begin reaching out to the new members to help prepare them for their first meeting June 3. Lotter says the biggest agenda items facing the new group will be addressing components of the new state budget, including new funding and loan options for charter schools, as well as the board’s role in state testing contracts.

“We also have to establish the testing windows for next year,” Lotter explains. “I know that there are a lot of superintendents and principals that are really looking to get those dates so they can map out the academic year next year.”

Below, check out a visual representation of the political parties (blue for Democratic, red for Republican & neutral for Independent), professional backgrounds & district memberships of former, returning & new State Board of Education members.

Click on a district to see its board representative. To switch between the former and current board makeup maps, click on the main menu in the top left corner of the map and select “Former INSBOE” or “New INSBOE.”

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Pre-K Pilot Improving Quality Of Programs Statewide

The number of high quality preschool providers in the state is increasing.

The number of high quality preschool providers in the state is increasing. (Photo Credit: Sonia Hooda/Flickr)

When Gov. Mike Pence signed On My Way Pre-K, the state’s first preschool pilot program, into law ast year, the goal was to get more low-income children enrolled in high quality preschool programs to help their overall education over time. But another result of creating a program like this means more high-quality programming will emerge, and that’s exactly what the state is seeing happen.

The five counties participating in the pilot program are seeing more providers move into Level 3 or 4 on the state’s voluntary Paths to QUALITY ranking system. This doesn’t surprise Melanie Brizzi, head of early learning for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration. Brizzi says her office has seen a steady increase of providers trying to get on the ranking system since it was created in 2009, but the creation of the pilot program changed that slightly.

“We’re always seeing growth, this has just accelerated that growth,” Brizzi says.

There are four levels on the Paths to QUALITY system, and for a preschool provider to qualify for On My Way Pre-K or a similar program in Indianapolis run through the mayor’s office, the provider must be a Level 3 or 4, meaning either that they have a planned curriculum for students or are nationally accredited. Getting up to that level involves site visits from the state over time.

But because of the new programs catering to low-income three- and four-year olds, the FSSA is allowing providers in these counties to expedite the process to get to at least a Level 3 status so they can serve as many students as possible.  Continue Reading

Indiana Substitute Teacher Wins National Award

NPR’s education team profiles the recipient of the 2015 Substitute Teacher of the Year award, Josephine Brewington of Indiana.


One of the toughest jobs in education is the substitute teacher. The pay is low, schedules are unpredictable and respect can be hard to come by. But because the average teacher missed 11 days of school in 2012-2013, a sub like Josephine Brewington ends up playing a crucial role.

Read more at: www.npr.org

If Glenda Ritz Runs For Governor, What Are Her Chances?

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to reporters outside the State Board of Education meeting in July, when she engaged with board members about her duties as board chair.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to reporters outside the State Board of Education meeting in July, when she engaged with board members about her duties as board chair. photo credit: Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

After telling reporters at the end of this year’s legislative session that she will consider a run for governor, it’s looking more and more likely that state superintendent Glenda Ritz will enter the race in the coming weeks.

After a session full of education issues, including a bill that originally aimed to remove Ritz from her role as chair of the State Board of Education, Ritz expressed frustration with Governor Pence.

“After viewing the outcome of this general session, it’s caused me to have pause and actually look at how I might want to reframe what I might want to do to move education forward,” Ritz said at that April press conference.

Before she ran for superintendent, Ritz worked as an elementary school librarian, and gained massive support from teachers unions. She famously received more votes than Pence, and that support has backed her throughout the conflicts between her and Pence.

Brian Howey, publisher of Howey Politics Indiana, writes that these same supporters are encouraging Ritz to pursue the nomination for governor:

Sources tell me Ritz is finding a wide array of encouragement to challenge Pence. The school of thought here – pun intended – is that Ritz is the best candidate to accentuate the deep education divisions that exist, and exploit them to bring out a coalition of educators, their wider families and friends, and the hundreds of thousands of moms out there.

Although Ritz had overwhelming support during her 2012 campaign for state superintendent, Indiana political analyst Ed Feigenbaum says support from that election might not translate to a gubernatorial race.

“The reason that she won in the general election is because she wasn’t Tony Bennett,” Feigenbaum says. “And that’s not how she would run in a Democratic primary for governor. So I think she would have to position herself a little differently and I’m not sure that the people who ended up voting for her in the fall wouldn’t necessarily be the same people that would vote for her in the primary.” Continue Reading

Charter Board Approves Three New Charter Schools Across State

The Indiana Charter School Board met Wednesday and approved charters for three schools.

The Indiana Charter School Board met Wednesday and approved charters for three schools. photo credit: Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

At a meeting yesterday, the Indiana Charter School Board approved charters for three new schools, two in Indianapolis and one in Gary.

ACE Preparatory Academy anticipates it will open on the Northeast side of Indianapolis in fall 2016 with a special focus on literacy for its kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Anna Shults, a former Indiana Department of Education staff member, will head the school, which will be located within the Indianapolis Public Schools district. Schults consulted with former state superintendent Tony Bennett during the application process, but said at the meeting that none of the advisory committee members will serve as employees of the school.

ACE Prep hopes to eventually enroll 432 students.

The board also approved the charter for the Global Leadership Academy in Gary, which will serve only fourth and eighth grade students during the first year, but hopes to eventually serve around 1,120 students in pre-k through twelfth grade.

Katie Kirley, the school’s director, said only serving certain grades is part of a strategy to “start small and grow strategically.”

The third school approved will open in either Perry Township or Clark County and be run in party by Charter Schools USA, a Florida-based company that already helps oversee three schools in Indianapolis. The school hopes to enroll 1,445 students, grades K-8. The group originally submitted application materials for two charters – but the board ruled that only one should be granted at this time. They told the applicant they they could come back to seek their second charter, pending success at the first school.

Seven Oaks Classical School in Bloomington – a charter whose proposal stirred up many Monroe County residents and educators – withdrew its application before the meeting. Board Vice President Matt Wolf said in a statement that the group is “exploring all options” that would still allow them to open a school in Monroe County by fall 2016.

Indy Preschools Try To Keep Up With Demand Created By Scholarships

Francis Bellamy preschools is part of the Indianapolis Public Schools system, and is working to improve their program so they can accept students using new preschool scholarships offered by the city and state.

Francis Bellamy preschools is part of the Indianapolis Public Schools system, and is working to improve their program so they can accept students using new preschool scholarships offered by the city and state. photo credit: Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

Linda Hogan stands outside of the fenced in playground at Francis Bellamy preschool in Indianapolis.

Dozens of kids run around playing tag or using hula hoops and other toys. There are screeches and laughter and according to Hogan, this is the only opportunity some kids have to play outside, safely.

“There have been a lot of shootings within five miles of here,” she says. “So that’s why they tend not to be able to go outside like they would in other places.”

Opportunities like these make attending preschool important for kids from low-income families who might not otherwise get to attend preschool.

Since Francis Bellamy is part of the Indianapolis Public School district, families don’t pay tuition like at private preschools, but spots in public pre-k programs are limited and private ones are expensive.

This disparity in access to early education led to the recent push from the state to start a pre-k pilot program in five counties. It also led the Indianapolis Mayor’s office to create its own scholarship program.

Marion County is the only place in the state to have both the pilot program and a city run scholarship program, creating a supply and demand problem for preschool providers. But many in the field of early education hope Indianapolis can serve as an example to other cities on how to incorporate pre-k into the economic and education landscape.

The Push For Preschool At All Income Levels

For years, Indiana lagged behind other states when it came to educating three- and four-year-olds.

Up until a year ago, it was one of a handful of states not providing state run preschool, but last legislative session Governor Pence signed legislation creating On My Way Pre-K, a pilot program funding preschool for low-income four-year-olds in five counties. Continue Reading

Indy Pre-K Scholarship Program Holding Lottery This Week

Indianapolis' preschool scholarship program will hold a lottery this week to award scholarships to 1,300 eligibable three and four-year-olds.

Indianapolis’ preschool scholarship program will hold a lottery this week to award scholarships to 1,300 eligible three- and four-year-olds. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

The lottery for the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program (Indy PSP) happens this week, and approximately 1,300 of the more than 5,000 families who applied for the program will be chosen to receive a scholarship for their three- and four-year-olds to attend a Level 3 or 4 program on the state’s Paths to QUALITY ranking system.

Jason Kloth, the city’s Deputy Mayor for Education, says his office did not expect this many applicants, especially considering there is an estimated 6,000-12,000 eligible children in the city who qualify for the program.

“To see that kind of response in a fairly short window of time for a program in the first year of its inception is just exceptional,” Kloth says. “It’s just a testament to the great work of the United Way of Central Indiana and the Indiana Neighborhood Resource Center.”

Selected families will receive a letter next week, at which point they will have two weeks to accept the scholarship and until July to select a qualified provider.
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Bloomington Students Create Electricity By Walking On Tiles

Every time someone steps on a Pavegen tile installed at Bloomington High School South, the kinetic energy from the footstep creates a few watts of energy.

Every time someone steps on a Pavegen tile installed at Bloomington High School South, the kinetic energy from the footstep creates a few watts of energy. photo credit: Harrison Wagner / WTIU News

Bloomington High School South is the only public school in the country creating electricity every time their students walk through the hallway.

Thanks to a new installation of tiles from London-based energy technology company Pavegen, every time a student walks over the tiles, the kinetic energy from their footsteps creates a few watts of energy. Right now, that energy powers the television that displays how many watts are stored on the battery, as well as two lit display boards.

BHSS students are using the new tiles to create educational opportunities for their classmates as well as younger students. AP Environmental Science teacher and Pavegen Project Coordinator Amanda Figolah says her students have already used the tiles for science and math lessons with more than 100 elementary school students.

“They’ll actually move through stations learning about solar power and wind power. There are demonstrations at each of those stations and also just about how we produce energy now in Indiana, which is primarily coal and fossil fuels,” Figolah says. “A second piece the other rotation is working on our Pavegen tiles to experience inquiry learning.”

Figolah’s students created these lesson plans based on state math and science standards, so students create graphs and practice the scientific method by writing a hypothesis such as, “will walking or jumping on the tiles create more energy?”

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