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

IPS Addressing School Safety Policies And Social Media Responses

Indianapolis Public Schools wants to give consequences to students who post videos of fights online, which could lead to legal issues around the First Amendment.

Indianapolis Public Schools wants to give consequences to students who post videos of fights online, which could lead to legal issues around the First Amendment. (Photo Credit: Witer/Flickr)

After a fight between two students last week at Northwest High School in Indianapolis, Indianapolis Public School officials are meeting Monday with district principals to review student safety policies and procedures, including consequences for students who post videos of fights to social media.

Video of a fight last week between a male and female student was uploaded to YouTube, and according to IPS’s website, an updated version of the Student Code of Conduct will address students who take photos or videos of altercations between other students.

A press release on IPS’s website explains the district’s stance on taking videos of fights and posting them to social media:

[IPS Police Chief Steven Garner] said that when it comes to cell phone video and social media, there are some disturbing trends that he cautions our students to avoid. Posting video of a fight on social media is not illegal, but it could lead to legal trouble if those involved were planning the video on purpose.

“If there were suggestion the fight was staged and recorded,” said Chief Garner, “we could perhaps petition the prosecutor to consider a conspiracy to commit battery.” In that case, the photographer could face conspiracy charges as well.

Chief Garner also stressed that video of an incident is not needed to file legal charges, either. Many cases are successfully prosecuted based on witness accounts and other evidence regularly.

The release also says the new Student Code of Conduct allows for the school to suspend a student who posts a fight video to social media. But from a legal standpoint, Frank Lomonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, says this policy raises concerns about free speech protected under the First Amendment.

“I feel much more confident that a school could legally tell you not to shoot the video in the first place than they could tell you what to do with it afterward,” Lomonte says. “In other words, if the school has a policy that says ‘don’t have your phone out during school hours’ or ‘don’t be using it as a video camera during school hours’ they can probably enforce that.” Continue Reading

Data: IREAD-3 Passing Rate Dips From Last Year

The number of students passing the state’s third grade reading assessment, the IREAD-3, dropped to 84 percent from last year’s passing rate of 86 percent.

This is a preliminary rate, as students who failed can retake the test this summer.

The test has been administered since 2012, and if students don’t pass they retake third grade versions of the ISTEP+ and IREAD exams the following school year, which state officials say will likely lead to them being held back from entering fourth grade.

Search through our sortable tables that list the passing rate for individual schools as well as entire districts.

Pence Signs Bill Changing State Board Of Education Makeup

State Board of Education members Troy Albert, state superintendent Glenda Ritz and David Freitas at the May meeting.

State Board of Education members Troy Albert, state Superintendent Glenda Ritz and David Freitas at the May meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

On Thursday, Gov. Mike Pence signed Senate Enrolled Act 1 – the bill allowing the State Board of Education to elect its own chairperson starting in 2017 and give board appointments to legislators besides the governor – along with other education focused bills from the recently concluded General Assembly.

The bill originally aimed to remove state Superintendent Glenda Ritz as chair of the board, after drama and arguing that has plagued board meetings for months. But as the bill progressed through the legislative process and many spoke out against changing her role midway through her term, the measure changed direction. The board will be able to elect its own chair staring Jan. 1, 2017, after Ritz’s current term is done.

The most imminent change the law creates is who will serve on the board. Starting June 1, the governor can appoint or reappoint eight positions, and Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long can each make one. Currently, the governor appoints all positions and it’s never all at once.

Bosma and Long have both said they will likely appoint new members. Pence has not said if and who he would reappoint on the current board, so the June 3 meeting could be the first time we see some of these new members.

“These reforms will give our State Board of Education an opportunity for a fresh start as they serve our kids, our families, our teachers, and our schools,” Pence said in a statement.

As we’ve reported, Gordon Hendry, Brad Oliver and David Freitas released a statement appealing to the governor to keep their appointments.

A Fight Against Failure: Two Charters Struggle With Accountability

Options Charter School is one of the first charter schools to receive four consecutive Fs under the state accountability system. They appealed to the State Board of Education in March to stay open, and the board gave them one year to prove they are a high quality school.

Options Charter School is one of the first charters to receive four consecutive “F” grades under the state accountability system. The school appealed to the State Board of Education in March to stay open, and the board gave them one year to prove they are a high quality school. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

For years, one aspect of Unique Johnson’s personality hindered her in school.

“I’m a very quiet person and so I’m very shy at asking for help because I’m afraid someone is going to laugh at me cause I don’t understand it like everyone else,” Johnson says.

She’s a high school freshman, and since she was in fifth grade this shyness in asking for help meant she never earned anything higher than a C. In fact, mostly she earned Fs. Her ISTEP+ score always hovered on either side of passing, and in seventh grade she had to repeat two classes because of her failing score.

When she started her freshman year at Fishers High School, this trend continued.

But second semester freshman year, things changes and Johnson received an A on almost every test she took. The change? Johnson transferred to Options Charter School, a school where a lot of the students have stories similar to her own – maybe they fell behind in a traditional school, got kicked out or are struggling with personal or emotional issues and need a smaller environment to succeed academically.

It’s a school where students and teachers call each other by first name only, and students spend 30 minutes each day talking one on one time with a teacher – to catch up and make sure they’re on track. Principal Michelle Walden says this helps students feel more comfortable.

“If they feel like they belong here and they feel like they own it then they start to believe in education again and believe in themselves and we see achievement,” she says.

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Recap: Education Legislation Passed By 2015 General Assembly

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, speaks with reporters after the release of the budget.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, speaks with reporters after the release of the biennial budget. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

It was a legislative session dominated by education issues, and it’s finally over.

Since it was a budget session, legislators focused on funding. With more than 50 percent of the budget typically allocated to education, how the state funds schools remained at the center of most budget talks.

Now that the session is over and the dust has settled a little, let’s review which measures passed and what it will mean for Indiana’s students.

K-12 Funding

The budget, a brief 269-page document, contains important changes to how much money public schools will receive from the state. While legislative leaders tout this as the most money ever allocated to education (a $464 million increase), how schools get that money dramatically changed.

While the base amount given to each child went up, a separate pot of money for schools that serve low income students and students with special needs (called complexity) won’t be distributed as widely as before.

(Check your school district’s projected budget here. An important thing to remember: these dollar amounts are based on projected enrollment in these districts, so if you’re confused why a certain district is getting more or less than another, it’s probably based on that.)

In the past, a district serving lots of these students, like Indianapolis Public Schools, got more money than schools that didn’t. But at the beginning of this session, House Republicans said they wanted to close that gap and make school funding more equal.

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Glenda Ritz Considers Run For Governor, Will Decide By June

State superintendent Glenda Ritz told reporters Thursday the actions of the General Assembly this session regarding education are making her consider a run for governor in 2016.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz told reporters Thursday the actions of the General Assembly this session regarding education are making her consider a run for governor in 2016. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says she will consider running for governor in 2016, something she had previously dismissed.

Ritz says the actions of Governor Pence and the Republican-dominated legislature this session drove her to consider a 2016 campaign not for re-election for state superintendent, but rather the highest office in the state.

“Indiana does deserve better,” she says. “Perhaps the power of Indiana’s politics will see balance after the 2016 election.”

She says after this school year she will talk with her family and make a decision by June.

During the 2015 legislative session, a number of education bills moved through the General Assembly, including a new school funding formula and a restructuring of the State Board of Education.

Changing the makeup of the board was a legislative priority for Pence and the Republicans in both the House and Senate, who drafted various versions of the board in bills throughout the session. Some removed the state superintendent as the chair of the board immediately, but the final language in SB1 keeps on her through the end of her term in 2017.

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Legislative Budget Gives More Money To Students And Charters

The Indiana Statehouse.

The Indiana Statehouse. Photo Credit: Indiana Department of Administration

Before the final release of the state’s budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 later tonight, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, explained a few details regarding the new school funding formula.

As predicted, there will be a 2.3 percent increase in funding across the board, a $464 million bump over the two years, including an overall increase in per pupil funding for every student in the state.

The area where there was the most negotiating between the House and Senate was with the money given to low income students, called complexity. The budget uses the Senate’s proposal on how to define these students and fund the complexity dollar amount.

Rather than giving schools more money based on the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, as in the past, complexity money will be awarded based on children whose families qualify for one of three federal low-income services – foster care, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This measure will be phased in over the next three years.

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Federal Grant Could Improve Education In Indy Neighborhood

The federal government designated one Indianapolis neighborhood as a “Promise Zone” Tuesday, a designation that gives the low income area more access to federal grants to improve education, its economy and reduce crime.

Indianapolis was chosen out of 123 communities.

The area considered the near East side of Indianapolis, for the purpose of this designation.

The area considered the near East side of Indianapolis, for the purpose of this designation. photo credit: Google Maps

The Indy Star reports the designation is flexible and allows the community to focus on where it needs the most improvement.

Community leaders said the designation could prime the pump for grants on a number of fronts — from cleaning up polluted industrial sites to giving businesses incentives to locate in low-income areas, from fueling programs that aim to reducing school suspension rates to those that provide drug treatment and efforts to help ex-felons re-enter society.

“This is an opportunity to again reinforce that this neighborhood is growing, that it is becoming thriving, that it is a good place for businesses to locate here and that people are saying I’m betting on this community and I believe in this community,” said James Taylor, CEO of the John H. Boner Community Center, which lead the effort for the Promise Zone designation.

Other local organizations will work with the John H. Boner Community Center, including the city, United Way of Central Indiana and Near East Area Renewal.

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Compromise On SB1 Keeps Ritz As Chair Through 2016

State superintendent Glenda Ritz would remain chair of the State Board of Education under the conference committee report released Monday.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz would remain chair of the State Board of Education under the conference committee report released Monday. (Photo Credit: Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

The new format and role of the State Board of Education is taking shape as the legislative session winds down, and it appears state superintendent Glenda Ritz will keep her role as board chair under changes made to Senate Bill 1.

A conference committee for the bill released its latest report Monday, which if approved, would allow the current chair of the State Board of Education to remain in place until Jan. 31, 2017, the end of Ritz’s current term.

After that, language would require the board to elect its own chair annually from among its ranks.

The conference committee report echoes other changes we’ve seen in previous versions of SB1, including reducing its membership from 11 to nine. The governor would make only six board appointments, giving the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem each one appointee.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, chaired the conference committee and says most other states have smaller state boards of education, allowing the group to be more efficient.
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ISTA Advocates For Collective Bargaining Before End Of Session

Teachers unions are pushing to collectively bargain bonuses for teachers included in Senate Bill 566.

Teachers unions are pushing to collectively bargain bonuses for teachers included in Senate Bill 566. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Legislation coming out of this year’s General Assembly could change a lot for the day to day operations of schools, with the funding formula changing and a variety of structural changes proposed for the State Board of Education, and one thing teachers are keeping a close eye on: their collective bargaining rights for new bonuses.

In Senate Bill 566, a comprehensive education bill, one section addresses giving teachers with master’s degrees bonuses.

The current bill says a teacher is eligible for these bonuses if he or she “has earned a master’s degree from an accredited postsecondary educational institution in a content area directly related to the subject matter of a dual credit course; or another course taught by the teacher.”

It’s legislation that rewards teachers for continuing their education, according to Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, and makes them role models as lifelong learners to their students.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith says while her organization is pleased to see the legislature rewarding qualified teachers, limiting the bonuses to these parameters leaves out a whole group of teachers.

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