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

State Board Of Education Reaches Settlement In Open Door Law

The lawsuit has been ongoing for almost a year. Today's decision grants a group of private citizen more than $15,000.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The lawsuit has been ongoing for almost a year. Today's decision grants a group of private citizen more than $15,000.

The Indiana State Board of Education reached a settlement Wednesday with a group of private citizens who sued regarding the state’s Open Door Law. As we’ve reported, a judge dismissed a similar suit filed by State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, so a group of Ritz supporters filed another.

A Marion County judge approved a settlement of more than $15,000 to cover the plaintiffs’ legal fees.

The alleged violation in the lawsuit occurred last year, when Ritz said the state board held a meeting in private when they communicated about A-F grades via email.

The state’s Open Door Law is not clear about whether an email conversation counts as a meeting.

Controversial Teacher Licensure Requirements Will Move Forward

State superintendent Glenda Ritz voted to remove the "career specialist" license from REPA III, while state board member David Freitas voted to keep it.

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz voted to remove the "career specialist" license from REPA III, while state board member David Freitas voted to keep it.

The State Board of Education voted 7-3 Wednesday in favor of Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability (REPA III), a controversial set of teacher licensure requirements.

Since 2010, teachers, principals, and university educators have protested the different versions of REPA, saying it puts inexperienced teachers into classrooms and undermines a traditional education degree with pedagogy training.

Most of those opposing REPA III asked that the “career specialist” license be removed. This license, formerly known as the adjunct permit, would allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree to teach in a related field if they pass a content test and begin a program to improve their teaching skills within the first month of teaching. Continue Reading

IDOE Asks State Board To Change Flanner House A-F Grade

The Indiana Department of Education found a number of issues with ISTEP+ scores and testing practices at Flanner House Elementary School in Indianapolis.

Eric Zelenka / Flickr

The Indiana Department of Education found a number of issues with ISTEP+ scores and testing practices at Flanner House Elementary School in Indianapolis.

The Indiana Department of Education is requesting the State Board of Education change Flanner House Elementary School’s accountability score from an A to “No Grade.” The request comes after an IDOE and Office of Education Innovation investigation showed Flanner House teachers cheated on last year’s ISTEP+ tests, raising the Indianapolis charter schools passing rate from 42 percent in 2011-2012 to 95 percent last year. The school’s passing rate for this year was 56.5 percent.

This dramatic, one year increase prompted the investigation, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office, which sponsors the charter, says teachers changed incorrect answers and gave students test items before the testing window, among other testing violations.

In its memo to the State Board, the IDOE’s said its argument is, “Due to the recent invalidation of 2013 ISTEP+ data for Flanner House Elementary School the Department of Education deems the current category placement for the school an inaccurate reflection of school performance.”

The school board voted to close the school Sept. 11, and Marion County Prosecutor’s office is investigating criminal charges.

Indiana And Oklahoma: A Tale Of Two Common Core Deserters

Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin both exited the Common Core this year, but only Indiana received an extension on its No Child Left Behind waiver.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin both exited the Common Core this year, but only Indiana received an extension on its No Child Left Behind waiver. (House GOP via Flickr)

Earlier this year, Governor Pence signed legislation making Indiana the first state to exit the Common Core. A few months later, Oklahoma joined the ranks, but on Thursday the two got very different news from the U.S. Department of Education: The USED granted Indiana an extension on its No Child Left Behind waiver, which exempts the state from federal requirements and gives it flexibility with federal money, whereas the USED revoked Oklahoma’s waiver.

Oklahoma is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in this tale of NCLB waivers and the Common Core. Both Indiana and Oklahoma dropped the Common Core after adopting it, but Indiana almost immediately released its own academic standards.

In a letter to Oklahoma state superintendent Janet Barresi, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle explained standards were the reason Oklahoma didn’t get an extension:  Continue Reading

ISTA Asks Pence For Flexibility On Teacher Accountability

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said his department will allow states flexibility in tying student performance to teacher evaluations.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said his department will allow states flexibility in tying student performance to teacher evaluations.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced last week his department will allow states flexibility with factoring student test scores on assessments into teacher evaluations. In response, the Indiana State Teachers Association sent a letter to Governor Pence Tuesday requesting he seek this flexibility.

In a blog post on the U.S. Department of Education’s website, Duncan wrote about his experience speaking with teachers and principals around the country, and how many have concerns about the coming year in terms of transitioning to new standards and assessments:

I have heard from many teachers that they have not received all the support they’d want during this transition. Yet America’s teachers are making this change work – and I want to recognize and thank them for that and encourage their leadership in this time of change.

Duncan said to help teachers transition better and ensure students are still learning and not just preparing for assessments, the USED will provide flexibility options for states that request it:  Continue Reading

Indiana’s Voucher Program Best In The Country

More than 19,000 students in Indiana use vouchers to attend private school. This inclusion makes Indiana's program the best in the country.

More than 19,000 students in Indiana use vouchers to attend private school. This inclusion makes Indiana's program the best in the country.

Indiana’s school voucher program is the best in the country according to a report released Wednesday by the Center For Education Reform. In the report, Indiana ranked highest among the 15 states that have voucher programs.

Although Indiana’s voucher program is only three years old, enrollment has increased each year with more than 19,000 students currently receiving state money for private school tuition.

Kara Kerwin, President of the Center for Education Reform, says Indiana’s program is the most inclusive because it accepts any student who meets the financial requirement and not just those who come from failing schools.

Indiana's requirements for eligibility in the voucher program are some of the most inclusive in the country.

Indiana Department of Education

Indiana's requirements for eligibility in the voucher program are some of the most inclusive in the country.

The report did criticize the state’s requirement to teach certain content if the school accepts vouchers.

“One size doesn’t fit all and so dictating the content is something we look at and say ‘hey maybe that’s just a little too much overreach into the private school sector,’” Kerwin said.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz opposes the voucher program, and earlier this year the Indiana Department of Education released a report saying the program cost the state $16 million, rather than saving it $4 million as in the previous two years.

Shortened Summers Help Students But Hurt Seasonal Businesses

School corporations around the state are going back to school earlier, which hurts seasonal businesses like Holiday World Theme Park.

Bill Shaw / WTIU News

School corporations around the state are going back to school earlier, which hurts seasonal businesses like Holiday World Theme Park.

Increasingly around the state and country, the first day of school is getting earlier with some districts starting the first week of August. Research supports earlier start dates, saying it increases student retention by giving them less time over the summer to forget important information. Outside of the education community though, seasonal businesses feel the effects of the absence of free time for students during traditional summer months.

It’s not year-round school, it’s a balanced calendar

The shorter summer is because of the balanced calendar some school districts are trying. Instead of summer being about two and a half months long, the days off are spread throughout the school year. This usually means summer break is only a month and a half, but Christmas, Thanksgiving and Spring break are significantly longer.

School districts are not adopting this calendar to take summer away from kids or punish seasonal businesses; many say it’s the best thing for students.

Steve Phillips is the superintendent of Mitchell Community Schools near Bedford and says his district switched to the balanced calendar two years ago.

“I heard consistently that once students get back from a long summer, they had to take a week, two weeks, three weeks just to catch them back up to the level that they were when they left so I think there’s some merit to that concept,” Phillips says.

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New Federal Money Could Help Indiana’s Early Education Initiatives

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana State superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to early educators Tuesday at Ivy Tech in Bloomington.

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to early educators Tuesday at Ivy Tech in Bloomington.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz says Indiana will apply for a federal grant that would help establish infrastructure to create high quality preschool for all children throughout the state. Ritz spoke about the grant opportunity Tuesday during her opening remarks at the Indiana Department of Education sponsored Early Learning Summit, which gathered early educators and IDOE staff to look at the major issues facing those who teach children from birth to third grade.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the grant Ritz is talking about, which would provide $250 million to selected states. In a statement released last week, the USED describes how this grant is for states like Indiana with no universal preschool infrastructure in place:

The goal of Preschool Development Grants is to support states – including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – in building, developing and expanding voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities for children from low- and moderate-income families. The new grant program will be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

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IDOE Appoints Staffer To Help Low-Performing Schools In Gary

A turnaround operator has run Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy in Gary since the state intervened in 2012. Many schools in Gary are at risk of this.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A turnaround operator has run Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy in Gary since the state intervened in 2012. Many schools in Gary are at risk of this.

A member of the Indiana Department of Education staff will spend the year in Gary working with Gary Community Schools, which is labeled as “high risk” because of consistently low ISTEP+ scores the last few years.

Daniel Brundidge, a member of the IDOE’s Outreach Division of School Improvement staff, will serve as the liasion between the Gary Community School Corp. and the IDOE.

The IDOE said in a statement released last week that Brundidge “will be based on site and work alongside Gary Community Schools staff to oversee the implementation of federally funded programs while also serving as the chief liaison between the Department and Gary.” The statement went on to say the department hopes the partnership “will improve collaboration between the Department and Gary, while also focusing on the turnaround principles of effective leadership, school climate and culture, and effective instruction.”

Brundidge will work full time with the school corporation over the next school year.

18 States Get NCLB Waiver Extension, Indiana Continues To Wait

Indiana applied for an extension to its No Child Left Behind waiver at the end of June.

Frederick Florin / AFP / Getty Images

Indiana applied for an extension to its No Child Left Behind waiver at the end of June.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday No Child Left Behind waiver renewals for five states, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi North Carolina and Wisconsin, but Indiana is still waiting to hear about the fate of its waiver.

The U.S. Department of Education wrote in a statement Thursday:

In order to receive an extension, states must demonstrate that they have resolved any state-specific issues and next steps as a result of the Department’s monitoring, as well as any other outstanding issues related to ESEA flexibility. States could also request additional amendments to support their continuous improvement efforts.

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