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

Senate Committee Dramatically Changes Transformation Zone Bill

The Indiana Statehouse.

The Indiana Statehouse. (Photo Credit: Indiana Department of Administration)

A bill that would have permitted school districts to create “transformation zones” as a remedy for failing schools was gutted in a Senate committee Wednesday.

The bill would have allowed school districts to assemble a group of school and community members to help turnaround schools that receive an F six years in a row under the state’s A-F accountability system. 

During the Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday, members approved amendments proposed by Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, which eliminated much of the transformation zone language and shifted the focus of the bill.

Shaina Cavazos writes for Chalkbeat Indiana what the bill looks like now:

But the bill now contains no mention of transformation zones and makes sure the Indiana State Board of Education would not be allowed to take control of an entire school district.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said the biggest changes were proposed in amendments by Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary. When they were included, it changed the entire focus.

“There’s not much left in this bill after this amendment,” Kruse said.

The bill still includes a prohibition against schools offering potential students or their families gifts with a significant monetary value. It also would grant struggling schools a “safe harbor” provision where they could get an extra year to show academic improvement before the state would intervene.

Currently, turnaround schools are paired with a third party partner to help improve student performance, but after an Evansville school district found success with the transformation zone model, other districts wanted a chance to use that model.

The newly amended bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then the full Senate. The House approved the original bill last month.

Two Indiana Colleges Create Scholarships For Undocumented Students

Brother Jesus Alonso is an administrator at Holy Cross College in South Bend, and advocates for resources to help undocumented students go to college.

Brother Jesus Alonso is an administrator at Holy Cross College in South Bend, and advocates for resources to help undocumented students go to college. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

One afternoon on his way to work, Juan Constantino’s headlight went out.

“I had no idea,” Constantino recounts. “A cop pulled a U-turn, pulled me over he said, ‘do you know why I pulled you over?’”

If Constantino were like most students, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. He probably would have been let off with a warning and told to get his light fixed. But Constantino isn’t like most students. He’s undocumented and that means he didn’t have a driver’s license.

Constantino was charged with a misdemeanor. His family gathered the money quickly and posted his bail. Constantino went home, finished his homework and went to school the next day.

For undocumented students like Constantino, the threat of deportation is always present, and creates barriers to receiving an education.

For example, paying for college is almost impossible. Without legal status, their parents often work low wage jobs, and without a social security number the student can’t apply for federal loans.­­

Wabash College and Holy Cross College in Indiana are trying to tear down some of those barriers by creating scholarships specifically for undocumented students. Continue Reading

Indiana Universities Speak Out On RFRA

After Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law Thursday, criticism from Indiana residents, local businesses, and a number of national entities descended upon the state. Among those weighing in on the subject are Indiana universities and colleges. Below are portions of statements released by university leaders regarding the law that opponents say would allow legal discrimination particularly against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Purdue President and former governor Mitch Daniels has not commented on the law, and a spokesperson for Daniels said “it is a long-standing policy of our Trustees that institutionally, we are not to take part in public debates of this kind.”

Michael McRobbie, Indiana University President

“For its part, Indiana University remains steadfast in our longstanding commitment to value and respect the benefits of a diverse society. It is a fundamental core value of our culture at Indiana University and one that we cherish. Indeed, in 2014 the trustees of Indiana University reaffirmed our commitment to the achievement of equal opportunity within the university. Continue Reading

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.

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