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

Messer Leading Effort For National Student Privacy Law

A Carpe Diem student logs into a computer in the school's "learning center," where each student has his or her own workstation.

A Carpe Diem student logs into a computer in the school’s “learning center,” where each student has his or her own workstation. photo credit: Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

As education moves into the digital age, so does data about the students using technology.

From homework and lessons on the web, Google Classroom and standardized tests moving online, a lot of information about a K-12 student lives on the Internet. That fact has long worried parents and educators, and now U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., is attempting to rectify it at the federal level.

Along with Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., Messer wrote a bill addressing the issue of student data privacy. Messer and Polis had planned to introduce the bill in the House Monday, but delayed following criticism that the bill doesn’t do enough to protect student data.

Currently, student data is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a law enacted in 1974. It applies to institutions like schools and universities and the records they oversee, but doesn’t apply to the current system of education where third party companies hired by schools own student data.

When a school district hires online textbook companies or other ed-tech companies, those groups gain a lot of information about students. According to Fred Cate, Director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, there’s really only one reason a company would want access to student data.

“Nine times out of 10 the reason someone wants data is for marketing,” Cate says. “It’s really for targeting who you’re marketing to or what you’re marketing to them. So if I run a testing service or an online publisher or whatever and I can identify students by what they’re interested in, I can identify them by their proficiency, how well they do, I then know what to market to them.” Continue Reading

Indiana State Partners With Local Schools To Curb College Costs

ISU President Dan Bradley and Vigo County School Corporation superintendent Danny Tanoos announce the partnership between the two organizations to help high school students get more college credit.

ISU President Dan Bradley (left) and Vigo County School Corporation superintendent Danny Tanoos announce a partnership between the two organizations to help high school students get more college credit. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

Indiana State University and the Vigo County School Corporation announced a partnership Monday that will offer high school students in Vigo County Schools the opportunity to earn up to 30 credit hours at ISU before graduating.

The Early College program will allow high school students to enroll in classes that contribute to the five most popular majors at ISU, chosen by Vigo County School Corporation graduates: nursing, pre-business/business administration, pre-elementary education, psychology and criminology and criminal justice.

K-12 teachers approved by the university will receive and implement the curriculum from ISU. If students do not take the class through the Early College program, they can still receive Advanced Placement credit for the course.

ISU president Dan Bradley says giving high schoolers the opportunity to complete up to a year of college credit means the university won’t have as many students with large amounts of student debt.

“I think it can really help the students who are in some of the state funded programs like 21st Century [Scholars program] because it allows them to stay on track for degree completion without overloading themselves,” Bradley says. Continue Reading

Legislature: Student Loan Debt Is A Problem Best Addressed Head-On

Kathryn Johnson is a senior at Indiana University, and admits to not knowing anything about the thousands of dollars she borrowed to pay for her undergraduate degree. A bill going through the legislature seeks to reach students like Johnson before they graduate by annually updating them on their debt load.

Kathryn Johnson is a senior at Indiana University, and admits to not knowing anything about the thousands of dollars she borrowed to pay for her undergraduate degree. A bill going through the legislature seeks to reach students like Johnson before they graduate by annually updating them on their debt load. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

The typical college student can probably tell you how much a latte at the campus coffee shop costs or how much they paid for a textbook this semester. But ask about the precise amount of student debt they’ve acquired, and it’s a different story.

This lack of knowledge about debt is due in part to the fact that students who take out federal loans receive information when they first apply for the money, and then when they graduate. They don’t get any information from the federal government (who issues the loans) in the four or so years in between.

A bill approved by the House and making its way through the Senate wants Indiana colleges and universities to fill in that gap.

Student Loans: Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Indiana University senior Kathryn Johnson figured out she wanted to be a nurse last year. Her dad was hospitalized and she was fascinated by what she learned from the nurses.

“The more I talked to them and how they radiate positivity even when everything seemed so dark and dire and serious, I really appreciated how professional they could be and how uplifting they could be,” Johnson says. Continue Reading

State Board Votes To Close Dunbar-Pulaski School In Gary

Board member Tony Walker initiated the motion to close Dunbar-Pulaski middle school in Gary.

Board member Tony Walker initiated the motion to close Dunbar-Pulaski Academic & Career Academy in Gary. (Photo Credit: Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

The State Board of Education voted Thursday in favor of closing Dunbar-Pulaski Academic & Career Academy in Gary.

Dunbar-Pulaski, the only middle school in the Gary Community School Corporation, continuously received failing grades from the state over the last six years, forcing the board to take action now.

Board member and Gary resident Tony Walker proposed the motion to close the school. He says it is not financially responsible for the district to keep the school open, especially with a potential loss of state funding after the current legislative session.

Gary Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt testified to the board on the district’s efforts and future plans to improve the school to keep it open. The district recently spent more than $500,000 to improve physical needs of the building, and some board members say this is what’s wrong with keeping the school open: more money will go into keeping the old building safe rather than benefitting a student’s academic career.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz voted against the measure, along with fellow board members Cari Whicker and Sarah O’Brien, who both said they wanted to see a clear plan of what will happen to the students in the school before voting on whether to close it.

The school will likely close at the end of this academic year, displacing 650 students.

Ditching The Common Core Brings A Big Test For Indiana

As other states around the country consider pulling out of Common Core standards, StateImpact Indiana’s Claire McInerny explained how replacing the standards affected the state’s spring assessment this year.


We’ve been to school. We know how education works. Right? In fact, many aspects of learning – in homes, at schools, at work and elsewhere – are evolving rapidly, along with our understanding of learning. Join us as we explore how learning happens.

Read more at: www.npr.org

IPS: A Case Study For How State Funding Will Reach Classrooms

IPS is one of a handful of schools who will see dramatic reductions in complexity money under the proposed new funding formula.

IPS is one of a handful of schools who will see dramatic reductions in complexity money under the proposed new funding formula. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

The fate of funding for Indiana schools now rests in the hands of the Senate, after the House released its finalized version of a budget for the next two years.

As we’ve reported, the House’s proposed budget tries to close the gap in state funding between schools in affluent areas and schools with high poverty rates.

Many school districts that traditionally get more state funding from complexity money testified before the Senate school funding subcommittee Tuesday to explain the detrimental loss that the reduction in complexity money will have on their schools.

Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Louis Ferebee testified to the importance of dollars that go to low income kids. He says staff outside of teachers, like nurses, are crucial in IPS where a school nurse might be the primary healthcare provider for a kid.

Because of the reduction in complexity money proposed by the House, IPS could lose up to $18 million for the next two years. As Hayleigh Colombo of Chalkbeat Indiana reports, the IPS School Board is trying to move forward with creating its yearly budget:  Continue Reading

Issues Raised Over ISTEP+ Test Item Security

Questions over ISTEP+ test item security are being raised now that the testing window is open.

Questions over ISTEP+ test item security are being raised now that the testing window is open. (Photo Credit: James Martin/Flickr)

This year’s version of the ISTEP+ is steeped in controversy: the original length of the test exceeded 12 hours, legislation to change it last minute quickly moved through the legislature and the controversy sparked ideas of opting out for some families.

Now, it seems there are questions around security of test items, reports Rich Van Wyk of WTHR-TV:

We heard of a fourth grader in Huntington who opened his math test, raised his hand and told the teacher that he’d seen the question before.

Practice tests fourth graders used to prepare for ISTEP+ inadvertently included an actual test question. That’s a serious breach of test security.

“The test is too important to have problems with it,” said Cari Whicker, State Board of Education.

Whicker is sixth grade teacher and member of Indiana’s state board of education.

“We are just at the beginning of the testing window. I hope this isn’t a sign of more problems to come,” she said.

After so many rushed changes to this year’s test, the test consultants hired through Governor Pence’s executive order issued a report on ways to make next year’s testing process go smoother.

How Can We Reduce Student Debt? IU Uses A Letter

The legislature is considering a bill that would notify students taking out student loans annual updates on their debt.

The legislature is considering a bill that would notify students taking out student loans annual updates on their debt.    (Photo Credit: 401(K)2013/Flickr)

One of the education bills still alive in the General Assembly would require universities to annually update students in the 21st Century Scholar program or those receiving Frank O’Bannon scholarships (both state funded scholarship programs) of their current student loan debt.

The goal of the bill is help students be responsible when it comes to taking on debt to complete school.

As legislators hammer out the details of the law, we at StateImpact wanted to share what this notification might look like. Indiana University currently has a similar tactic: the school sends students an annual “debt letter” outlining how much money an IU student will owe when he or she graduates, and how long it might take to pay back.

Jim Kennedy is the Director of Financial Aid at IU and helped start these financial literacy efforts around student debt two years ago. Students who take out loans receive financial counseling before they begin school and after they graduate, as mandated by the federal government. But Kennedy says it’s the years in between when students need the most guidance. Continue Reading

New Funding Formula Now In The Hands Of The Senate

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, during a meeting of Indiana's Senate Education Committee in January.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, during a meeting of Indiana’s Senate Education Committee in January. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

By the end of the current session, the General Assembly will finalize a budget for the next two years, with education needs dominating most of the dollars.

The House already passed a budget, and today the Senate Appropriations committee began discussions on what their colleagues sent over.

In terms of school funding, the proposed budget would change how much each student receives. We’ve already explained this new version of the funding formula, but here’s the basic gist: rather than giving more money to schools with more students in poverty, the distribution among students will be more equal.

Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, presented the House budget (which he wrote) to the Senate committee Thursday. Senate appropriations chair Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, commended Brown for his work.

Under the proposed budget, complexity money – the dollars given to low income students in addition to the basic tuition money – is set to decrease. Kenley says the Senate will likely tweak the budget, including taking another look at how to adjust those complexity dollars. Continue Reading

Changes To Funding Formula Still Leave Many Districts In The Red

School districts like Indianapolis Public Schools, with high free/reduced lunch rates, will see a cut in state funding under the new formula.

School districts like Indianapolis Public Schools, with high free and reduced lunch rates, will see a cut in state funding under the new formula. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana)

A previous version of this story included incorrect free and reduced lunch data from the Department of Education. 

In Zionsville, a suburb of Indianapolis, the median household income is more than $100,000. The free and reduced lunch rate is less than four percent – the lowest in the state.

It’s also one of the lowest funded school districts in the state.

It seems counterintuitive that a school in a wealthy community is having to make deep cuts to stay out of the red, but that’s exactly what’s been happening over the last seven years.

“We lost some world languages, we lost our International Baccalaureate program at the high school level, we lost the ability to run most of our science labs for more than a year, because our class sizes exceeded the safety ratings,” says Zionsville Superintendent Scott Robison.

The district has also laid off teachers and posed multiple referendum questions to supplement its state funding. To understand why Zionsville is in this situation, you have to know how the way we fund schools has changed. Continue Reading

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