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.

When Half Of Your School Speaks Spanish, Try Something New

 

Elias Rojas is a first grade teacher at West Noble Primary school in Ligonier. As one of the school's few bilingual teachers, he volunteered to participate in the school's new dual language immersion program.

Elias Rojas is a first grade teacher at West Noble Primary school in Ligonier. As one of the school’s few bilingual teachers, he volunteered to participate in the school\’s new dual language immersion program. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Indiana’s schools are seeing increased enrollment in the number of English learners, pushing many schools and communities to adapt to the growing population. This can often mean there are multiple languages spoken in a classroom.

One place where English and Spanish are both heard is Elias Rojas’ first grade class at West Noble Primary School. The school is in Ligonier, a small town North of Ft. Wayne. In the district, 50 percent of the students are Latino.

This makes Rojas, who grew up in a Spanish speaking home in Chicago, an asset to the district.

“I understand how these kids come in, I understand the kind of households they come from,” he says. “I understand the fears they may be feeling, and I think I have a good understanding of how their brain is working because at one time I was right there with them.”

Formally Introducing Two Languages In The Classroom

Right now Rojas teaches these students in English and speaks Spanish if someone needs extra instruction. But starting in January, this is going to change. Rojas’ school, West Noble Primary, applied for and won a state grant for a dual language immersion program.

This kind of program means half of the school day is taught in English and half the day in Spanish. The grant is part of a pilot program approved by the 2015 General Assembly. This is the second year money was awarded, and West Noble received $85,000 to launch the new program.

West Noble Primary’s new dual language immersion program will be in two of its eight kindergarten classes. Each class will have a lead teacher, who speaks English, and a Spanish speaking teacher who works in both classrooms. The instruction, materials and conversations with teachers will be split evenly between English and Spanish.

50 percent of the students at West Noble Primary School in Ligonier are Latino, making it a perfect place to start a dual language immersion program.

50 percent of the students at West Noble Primary School in Ligonier are Latino, making it a perfect place to start a dual language immersion program. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting

Principal Brian Shepherd is excited to start it, but knows that designing new curriculum and procedures for some of his teachers is daunting.

“We’re going to get through this together, we know it’s going to be difficult,” Shepherd said. “But uncomfortable makes you grow. You don’t go through life being comfortable. So this is the right thing to do, not the easy thing to do.”

Shepherd’s taught in Ligonier schools for decades. He remembers the exact moment when he realized working with English learners would become a crucial part of his job.

In 1987 I was hired as 4th grade teacher and I can remember when the first little girl came into my room, Maria, and spoke no English,” Shepherd said. “I did not know what to do for her. I went down to the kindergarten room, got a picture book and we started pointing to pictures…then the school was very proactive and the EL program was born.”

The Next Phase For Education English Learners

For years, the English learner program served many of the Latino students that came to West Noble. But now that 50 percent of the kids come from Spanish speaking homes, Shepherd and the district decided to try something new with the immersion program.

Shepherd and the district’s EL director, Candice Holbrook, are hopeful this program will make an impact outside of the school.

“It really is reflective of the community that we serve and that we live in,” Holbrook said. “It’s an opportunity not only to promote bi-literacy but promote really bringing the community together.”

Ligonier’s tiny, a few thousand people. So a dual language immersion program in two kindergarten classes can actually make a difference.

Rojas says he’d like to see the Latino and white populations integrate more, because now, many sports split along ethnic lines as well as the churches.

“So then you have St. Patrick’s, which is right behind our school, which is where i attend and you have all of the Hispanic population pretty much,” Rojas said. “I would say of all the Hispanic population, probably 98 percent attend there.”

Rojas volunteered to teach a dual language immersion class, because he knows its benefits. He grew up in a similar program in Chicago, where being Latino was common and speaking two languages was celebrated. It wasn’t until he attended Indiana Wesleyan University that he realized that wasn’t the norm.

“That’s when I realized ‘Oh, I am a minority’,” Rojas said. “Until then, obviously I knew my ethnicity. I knew my heritage, I knew I spoke two languages. It was very much a part of my town, my city, so I didn’t feel like I stuck out.”

And Rojas wants his students, Latino and white, to have the same confidence around people from different backgrounds.

“I want them to feel equipped with and have the mentality to have a diverse mentality,” Rojas said. “To have them not see a minority and not say that’s a minority. That is a person.”

When Half Of Your School Speaks Spanish, Try Something New

 

Elias Rojas is a first grade teacher at West Noble Primary school in Ligonier. As one of the school's few bilingual teachers, he volunteered to participate in the school's new dual language immersion program.

Elias Rojas is a first grade teacher at West Noble Primary school in Ligonier. As one of the school\’s few bilingual teachers, he volunteered to participate in the school\’s new dual language immersion program. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Indiana’s schools are seeing increased enrollment in the number of English learners, pushing many schools and communities to adapt to the growing population.

This can often mean there are multiple languages spoken in a classroom. One place where English and Spanish are both heard is Elias Rojas’ first grade class at West Noble Primary School. The school is in Ligonier, a small town North of Ft. Wayne. In the district, 50 percent of the students are Latino.

Which makes Rojas, who grew up in a Spanish speaking home in Chicago, an asset to the district.

“I understand how these kids come in, I understand the kind of households they come from,” he says. “I understand the fears they may be feeling, and I think I have a good understanding of how their brain is working because at one time I was right there with them.”

Formally Introducing Two Languages In The Classroom

Right now Rojas teaches these students in English and speaks Spanish if someone needs extra instruction. But starting in January, this is going to change. Rojas’ school, West Noble Primary, applied for and won a state grant for a dual language immersion program. This kind of program means half of the school day is taught in English and half the day in Spanish.

The grant is part of a pilot program approved by the 2015 General Assembly. This is the second year money was awarded, and West Noble received $85,000 to launch the new program. West Noble Primary’s new dual language immersion program will be in two of its eight kindergarten classes. Each class will have a lead teacher, who speaks English, and a Spanish speaking teacher who works in both classrooms. The instruction, materials and conversations with teachers will be split evenly between English and Spanish.

50 percent of the students at West Noble Primary School in Ligonier are Latino, making it a perfect place to start a dual language immersion program.

50 percent of the students at West Noble Primary School in Ligonier are Latino, making it a perfect place to start a dual language immersion program. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting

Principal Brian Shephard is excited to start it, but knows that designing new curriculum and procedures for some of his teachers is daunting.

“We’re going to get through this together, we know it’s going to be difficult,” Shephard said. “But uncomfortable makes you grow. You don’t go through life being comfortable. So this is the right thing to do, not the easy thing to do.”

Shephard’s taught in Ligonier schools for decades. He remembers the exact moment when he realized working with English learners would become a crucial part of his job.

In 1987 I was hired as 4th grade teacher and I can remember when the first little girl came into my room, Maria, and spoke no English,” Shephard said. “I did not know what to do for her. I went down to the kindergarten room, got a picture book and we started pointing to pictures…then the school was very proactive and the EL program was born.”

The Next Phase For Education English Learners

For years, the English learner program served many of the Latino students that came to West Noble. But now that 50 percent of the kids come from Spanish speaking homes, Shephard and the district decided to try something new with the immersion program. Shephard and the district’s EL director, Candice Holbrook, are hopeful this program will make an impact outside of the school.

“It really is reflective of the community that we serve and that we live in,” Holbrook said. “It’s an opportunity not only to promote bi-literacy but promote really bringing the community together.”

Ligonier’s tiny, a few thousand people. So a dual language immersion program in two kindergarten classes can actually make a difference. Rojas says he’d like to see the Latino and white populations integrate more, because now, many sports split along ethnic lines as well as the churches.

“So then you have St. Patrick’s, which is right behind our school, which is where i attend and you have all of the Hispanic population pretty much,” Rojas said. “I would say of all the Hispanic population, probably 98 percent attend there.”

Rojas volunteered to teach a dual language immersion class, because he knows its benefits. He grew up in a similar program in Chicago, where being Latino was common and speaking two languages was celebrated. It wasn’t until he attended Indiana Wesleyan University that he realized that wasn’t the norm.

“That’s when I realized ‘Oh, I am a minority’,” Rojas said. “Until then, obviously I knew my ethnicity. I knew my heritage, I knew I spoke two languages. It was very much a part of my town, my city, so I didn’t feel like I stuck out.”

And Rojas wants his students, Latino and white, to have the same confidence around people from different backgrounds.

“I want them to feel equipped with and have the mentality to have a diverse mentality,” Rojas said. “To have them not see a minority and not say that’s a minority. That is a person.”

What Education Laws Go Into Effect July 1?

The Indiana Statehouse. (Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr)

The Indiana Statehouse. (Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr)

Most of the legislation passed by the General Assembly last session goes into affect July 1. Following is a list of this year’s new laws.

HEA 1002- Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship Program and Fund

This new program aims to help attract more people into teaching in Indiana classrooms. The program awards 200 college students up to $7,500 in tuition assistance each every year, as long as they study education and commit to teaching in Indiana. Students can start receiving the scholarship next summer. Continue Reading

Mishawaka Schools To Pose Two Referenda In November

Voters rejected two proposed referenda in Brownsburg school district last May. (Photo Credit: Janelle Fasan/Twitter)

Voters rejected two proposed referenda in Brownsburg school district last May. (Photo Credit: Janelle Fasan/Twitter)

The School City of Mishawaka School Board approved a proposal Monday to pose two referenda during the November election. If passed, the referenda would add $1.8 million to the district’s general fund and $13 million to improve infrastructure at the district’s schools.

Posing both a capital projects and general fund referenda is rare, with many districts choosing to pick only one for a better chance it will pass.

The district posed a referenda in 2013, asking for $28 million, which overwhelmingly failed.

Kim Kilbride of the South Bend Tribune reports what both of these referenda would cost taxpayers in the district:

If both referendums pass, the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 would pay an additional $134.66 per year until 2023. From 2024 to 2032, the tax impact would decline to $54.95 per year for the same homeowner.

Referenda are becoming a more popular way for district’s to increase their revenue stream, after property tax caps went into place in 2008 and the 2015 General Assembly passed a new school funding formula.

Now that the funding from the state to public schools is decreasing for some district’s, referenda are one of the few ways a school district can increase its funding streams. In the last few elections, the passage rate has increased as districts spend more time and money from their PACs to inform the public of what the referendum would fund.

Holy Cross College To Educate Prisoners Using Pell Grants

Holy Cross College was chosen to participate in a federal program that gives prisoners Pell grants to earn college credits and degrees.

Holy Cross College was chosen to participate in a federal program that gives prisoners Pell grants to earn college credits and degrees.(photo credit: Barbara Brosher/WTIU News).

Holy Cross College in South Bend is one of 67 higher education institutions across the country to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Program. The program uses federal Pell grant money to pay for prisoners to take degree-seeking programs behind bars.

The pilot program allows universities to partner with prisons to provide degree programs – an opportunity that’s been missing from most Indiana prisons since 2012.

The college will work with Westville Correctional Facility and Indiana Women’s Prison, both state prisons. It’s already offered associates and bachelor’s degrees for a small number of prisoners at Westville.

Holy Cross applied to participate in the federal program so it could use the Pell grant money to expand on its existing courses.

“That’s a very important part of maturity, I guess you would say, for a program offering education within prison,” said Brother Jesus Alonso, vice president for strategic initiatives at Holy Cross. “It signifies a lot for stability, commitment on behalf of the students and commitment on behalf of the institution to continue delivering what we offer in that type of setting.”

The program offers approximately $30 million in Pell grants to universities in 27 states, and expects to help around 12,000 inmates work toward a post-secondary degree.

Alonso says the assistance from the federal government is necessary to continue education programs in prison.

“It takes about $10,000 to run one course,” he said. “What that means is – providing supplies and books for students and also providing salary for our faculty.”

The Second Chance Pell Program was initiated by the Obama administration as a way to reduce recidivism lower the incarceration rate.

Preliminary IREAD Scores Show Slightly Lower Passing Rate

A lower percentage of students passed Indiana’s required third grade reading test on their first try.

The Department of Education released preliminary results from this year’s IREAD-3 exam, which show 83.8 percent of third graders passed on their first try. Last year, the percentage was 84.2.

IREAD-3 is a standardized test assessing third graders’ reading ability, and it is separate from ISTEP+.

More students took the test this year, 1,575, which may have had an impact on the passing rate. And the rate could go up, as students can retake the test in the summer. After unsuccessful  students had the chance to take last year’s test a second time, that passing rate jumped to 87.4 percent.

(Read more about the history of the IREAD-3 assessment.)

If a third grader doesn’t pass the IREAD reading test the second time, they will have to retake third grade versions of the ISTEP and IREAD exams the following school year. State officials say these students will probably also be held back from entering fourth grade.

Final passage results will be available at the end of the summer.

Ritz And Gregg Say Preschool Should Be Free For All Students

State superintendent Glenda Ritz and Democratic candidate for governor John Gregg want to create a universal pre-k program in the state.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz and Democratic candidate for governor John Gregg want to create a universal pre-k program in the state. ” credit=”Claire McInerny (Indiana Public Broadcasting)

INDIANAPOLIS — Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg and state superintendent Glenda Ritz detailed their proposal for universal pre-K Thursday. Universal pre-k would be free for all 4 year-olds, not just those from low income families.

Ritz will run for re-election in November, and the two Democratic candidates proposed the plan last week.

The state’s current pre-K pilot program, On My Way Pre-K, gives pre-K scholarships to certain families who have incomes up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level — about $31,000 for a family of four.

Ritz said she wants the program to be available for all students.

“Middle income families affording daycare and pre-K, it’s a stress on their budgets,” Ritz said.

On My Way Pre-K requires families to apply, and approval takes time. Some have identified this process as a barrier. Ritz said more students will enroll in pre-K if it’s universal.

The plan she and Gregg support would cost the state an estimated $150 million a year. The money would be allocated to 289 public schools with preschool programs.

Ritz said the Department of Education will propose this program to the legislature during the 2017 General Assembly, which is a budget year.

Gregg said this program is good education policy and hopes Republicans in the legislature recognize that.

“My fear is if you just make it income weighted, they think this is just another one of these government programs, that they would call welfare programs, and it’s not, it’s education,” Gregg said.

The program would not require families to enroll their child in preschool.

In terms of funding, both Ritz and Gregg said the state has money for the program. Their plan would pool dollars from state and federal funds, and could use money currently spent on assessment, if the ISTEP+ panel chooses a cheaper option.

Governor Pence signed the state’s current On My Way Pre-K pilot program into law in 2013. The pilot program does not have a long term funding, as its effects are currently being studied. The program launched last year in five counties.

Dual Language Programs Continue To Grow Around State

Eight Indiana schools will receive state grant money to begin or expand their own dual language immersion programs. (Photo Credit: Nathan Moorby/Flickr)

Eight Indiana schools will receive state grant money to begin or expand their own dual language immersion programs. (Photo Credit: Nathan Moorby/Flickr)” credit=”Nathan Moorby/Flickr

The Department of Education announced Wednesday the latest group of schools that will receive state money to create or expand dual language immersion programs, adding three new schools to five already existing grant-funded programs.

The goal of dual language immersion programs is to teach students to become bilingual by teaching 50 percent of their lessons in English and 50 percent in another language. These usually begin in kindergarten or first grade and ideally continue throughout elementary school.

The following schools received grants Wednesday, and the ones in bold are new recipients:

  • Batesville Primary (Batesville Community School Corp.)
  • Global Prep Academy
  • Waterford Elementary (Goshen Community Schools)
  • Landis Elementary (Logansport Community School Corp.)
  • Poston Road Elementary (MSD Martinsville Schools)
  • Pleasant Run Elementary (MSD Warren Township)
  • Eisenhower Elementary (Warsaw Community Schools)
  • West Noble Primary (West Noble School Corp.)

The 2015 General Assembly created the dual language immersion pilot program, allocating $1 million over two years for schools to create or expand a program.

Batesville Primary School received one of the first grants last year and will enroll their first class of kindergartners in its Mandarin dual language immersion program this fall. Batesville Primary principal Heather Haunert says she spent the last year conducting research on successful Mandarin programs around the country. This included traveling to Seattle, Wash. and Portland, Ore. to see how Mandarin programs there were run.

Haunert says her school chose Mandarin because of a few businesses in Batesville with Chinese connections, but also because they wanted to provide a unique experience for students in the overwhelmingly white school.

“We’re just in such a small, tiny little pocket that it’s important for them to realize that there’s a big huge world out there and they need to have as many experiences as they can,” Haunert said.

After a year of researching and planning their program, Haunert says it was exciting to receive money for another year, but they are also planning how to maintain the program after state funding runs out. They hope to have one dual language Mandarin class at grade level, through fifth grade.

Waterford Elementary in Goshen Community Schools was one of three schools that received its first state dual language immersion program grant this week. It will launch a Spanish dual-language immersion program, and will follow a two-way immersion model. This means in addition to half of the instruction being in Spanish, half of the students will also be native Spanish speakers.

Unlike Batesville, Goshen schools enroll more 51 percent Latino students, many of them speaking Spanish. Their program will not only help English speakers learn a new language, but native Spanish speakers maintain their original language while practicing English.

Karen Blaha, Goshen English Language Learner director, said the fact that non-Latino families want their students to learn Spanish is encouraging.

“When I hear those comments from families who are native English speakers, to me shows that there is an interest for the whole dual language with the Spanish and English,” Blaha said.

Blaha says her district will spend this next year developing the curriculum for the program and preparing for its official launch in the 2017-2018 school year.

ISTEP Panel Unclear On Vision For New Assessment

Gov. Mike Pence and House Speaker Brian Bosma separately announced appointments to the panel that will recommend a replacement for Indiana’s current standardized test, the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus or ISTEP. (David Hartman /Flickr)

The panel that is re-writing the ISTEP+ met for the second time Tuesday. photo credit: (David Hartman /Flickr)

The state’s ISTEP panel met for the second time Tuesday, with much of the discussion focusing on what the vision for the new assessment is. Many panel members struggled to agree on a shared goal.

The panel, established during the 2016 General Assembly, meets every month until December 2016 and will design a new state assessment to replace the ISTEP+. The 23-person panel is comprised of educators, legislators, state agency heads and business leaders.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Marilyn Moran-Townsend, CEO of CVC Communications, said the group must have a goal for the assessment before digging into issues of technology, format and contract processes. This suggestion turned out to be complicated for much of the group.

Many of the educators that spoke up during the discussion, including Ft. Wayne Community Schools superintendent Wendy Robinson, want to have a more philosophical conversation about what this test would measure and what the state wants to know about student academic achievement.

“I just don’t want to get into the weeds until I’m clear that everybody on this committee, we’re all focused on the same thing,” Robinson said. “Teachers don’t want to get rid of testing, they just want to make sure what you’re having them spend valuable time on is actually going to help them change practice to get to proficiency, because that’s the goal.”

Scot Croner, superintendent of Blackford County Schools, brought up a specific goal he wants the panel to discuss. He says whenever the subject of testing has come up in recent years, people involved in the conversation say they want it to test if a student is ready for college or career. But how that actually plays out isn’t equal. He says students in his district’s welding program perform the worst on their End of Course Assessment with a 70 percent passage rate. But these same students have the highest passing rate for their industry exam, with 96 percent passing the welding exam. Which means they are ready for a career, but that’s not reflected on any state measurement.

“It’s mind numbingly painful to think we try to create these arbitrary tests that somehow measure college and career, when to my knowledge I think we know what college readiness means in the form of a test,” Croner said. ” It’s called the SAT and the ACT.”

While Croner and others wanted to have this vision set in stone before moving forward, many at the state level, including superintendent Glenda Ritz, Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers and Representative Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, were more focused on the logistics of  format, technology and selection of a test vendor.

But discussions around these issues didn’t take place today. Before adjourning, Chair Nicole Fama asked the other 22 panel members to email her their individual visions for the test.

The panel has six more meetings before the December deadline to submit their redesign plan.

 

Draper: Expectations Have To Change Through The First Year

DSCF1876

Over the last year, we’ve followed three first year teachers – from their college graduation, through the first school year. Sara Draper taught at Helmsburg Elementary School in Brown County. To conclude the series, she and the other two teachers reflect on their first year of teaching.

For Sara Draper, teaching second grade was a long, slow journey– she likens it to running a marathon.

“It starts out and you’re feeling really great when you first start running, then by the middle you’re doing ok, you get some water,” she said. “By the end you’re exhausted but you think you can still make it because there’s only a few weeks left, or a few miles left.”

And after the last day of school, Draper had mixed emotions.

Draper’s confidence went up and down all year, and her perspective changed. When she graduated college, she says her expectations were idealistic.

“Every lesson is going to be life changing and exciting and they’re all going to be excited about it, but that’s just not realistic,” Draper said. “That can’t happen every minute of every day. It’s not always exciting and that’s something I had to get used to.”

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