Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Kyle Stokes

Kyle Stokes joined WFIU/WTIU in 2011 as an education reporter and blogger for StateImpact Indiana, a collaborative reporting venture between WFIU and NPR News. He comes to Bloomington from Columbia, Mo., where he was a producer and reporter for NPR member station KBIA-FM and NBC affiliate KOMU-TV. Originally from Minneapolis, Minn., Stokes is a proud graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and an even prouder Minnesota Twins fan.

  • Email: kdstokes@indiana.edu

Year In Review: The Most Memorable Characters Of 2013

Erin Tuttle takes notes during a statehouse hearing on Common Core. Tuttle has helped lead the charge against the nationally-crafted academic standards.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Hoosiers Against Common Core co-founder Erin Tuttle listens to testimony during a statehouse hearing on Common Core. Tuttle has helped lead the charge against the nationally-crafted academic standards.

We write about Gov. Mike Pence, Supt. Glenda Ritz and members of the State Board of Education so often they have their own dedicated pages on this site.

But if you look up, you’ll also see the tagline “from the capitol to the classroom” — a mission we really do take seriously at StateImpact.

We think telling the stories about how education policy shapes the lives of students, teachers and parents is our most important charge. So this year, we decided to focus our list of memorable characters on people, not policymakers.

Here’s a look back at the people who helped us tell the stories of education in Indiana this year: Continue Reading

Indiana’s 2013 A-F Ratings Are Out: Six Takeaways From The Long-Delayed Grades

A classroom at Evansville's Glenwood Leadership Academy.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A teacher at Evansville's Glenwood Leadership Academy leads a lesson for her second graders. The school officially earned its sixth straight F on Friday and could face state intervention as a result.

A record number of Indiana public schools earned the top grade on the state’s A-F performance rating scale in 2012-13, state education officials — finally, finally, finally — announced Friday.

The State Board of Education’s vote to make the grades official comes after months of political drama and fears of tainted test scores which threatened to delay the release of Indiana’s school letter grades into next calendar year.

Search for any traditional public, charter or private school’s 2013 letter grade on our sortable table of results.

Private schools still earned A’s at a higher rate than public schools — but that rate has slipped significantly. This year, 51 percent of private schools received the top grade, down more than 30 percentage points since 2011.

Indiana schools chief Glenda Ritz pointed out this would be the last time state officials would use the current grading formula to issue the grades. General Assembly members threw it out last session, ordering the State Board to come up with a new model next year. Continue Reading

How Important Kindergarten Has Become

Teacher Janet Craig helps students identify colors during at pre-kindergarten camp at Maple Elementary in Avon, Ind. United Way funds the camp, which is staffed by local teachers and volunteers from the Indiana University Health system.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Teacher Janet Craig helps students identify colors during at pre-kindergarten camp at Maple Elementary in Avon, Ind. United Way funds the camp, which is staffed by local teachers and volunteers from the Indiana University Health system.

Fifteen years ago, barely one-third of kindergarten teachers felt it was important their students learn to read before first grade.

Today, according to the American Institutes of Research, that number has shot up dramatically — nearly four in five kindergarten teachers now say their students should be reading.

The analysis offers a telling picture of how expectations of kindergarteners and their teachers have changed in the last two decades.

“In many ways, kindergarten is becoming the new first grade,” write Jill Walston and Kristin Flanagan at The Quick & The Ed. Continue Reading

State Board Members, Ritz Allies Take To Social Media Ahead Of Likely-Contentious Meeting

State superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to State Board of Education member Brad Oliver after returning from a recess during which her staff and representatives of the Center for Education and Career Innovation hashed out a motion for the panel to approve a conceptual framework for a new A-F grading system.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to State Board of Education member Brad Oliver after returning from a recess during which her staff and representatives of the Center for Education and Career Innovation hashed out a motion for the panel to approve a conceptual framework for a new A-F grading system.

What follows is a brief recap of the latest spat in the protracted, highly-politicized battle for control of Indiana’s top education policymaking panel.

It appears that battle is headed for a conclusive showdown on Friday, with State Board of Education members set to meet to vote on several controversial measures that could limit Indiana schools chief Glenda Ritz’s authority and empower Gov. Mike Pence’s newly-formed education agency.

Both sides are digging in. The state’s largest teachers union, the Indiana State Teachers Association, blogged that State Board members “will remove roles that State Superintendents have possessed as Chair of the board for years” at Friday’s meeting. They asked Ritz supporters to contact board members to express their concerns.

Board member Brad Oliver took to Twitter to respond, saying the ISTA was spreading “misinformation” and that Ritz herself had been involved in public discussions about board procedures. Continue Reading

As Tax Revenues Shrink, Indiana Leaders Weigh Schools’ Budgets With State’s Business Climate

Rep. Rhonda Rhoads shakes Gov. Mike Pence's hand as he takes the podium for a speech in Corydon.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, shakes Gov. Mike Pence's hand as he takes the podium for a speech at Indiana's first state capitol building.

Indiana’s property tax caps have proven fruitful for property owners, who would’ve paid an additional $704 million to local governments this year if it weren’t for the constitutionally-enshrined caps.

But property owners’ gain has also been Indiana schools’ loss — to the tune of $245 million in lost property tax revenues for districts across the state last year. (That’s up from $142 million lost to property tax caps in 2010.)

Against that backdrop, Gov. Mike Pence and top Republicans have aligned behind a proposal from the state’s business community to phase out a property tax on business equipment.

The details are still fuzzy, but without a replacement revenue source, the move would mean another hit of more than $500 million to local governments.

“I think it’s important to [phase out the business personal property tax] in a way that doesn’t disadvantage local communities or local schools,” Pence told reporters after outlining his education agenda this week. Continue Reading

EdWeek: Tony Bennett Has A New Gig

Then-state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks on the floor of the Indiana House in April 2012.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Then-state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks on the floor of the Indiana House in April 2012.

We’ve known Tony Bennett had returned to the Hoosier State since resigning as Florida’s education chief over his handling of A-F letter grades while he was Indiana’s state superintendent.

We haven’t known how Bennett was making his living — until EdWeek‘s Catherine Gewertz posted this on his next gig:

Bennett told me that he is serving as a consultant to ACT on its new Aspire testing system, working on test development, government relations (better known as lobbying), and other things.

“I’m doing everything from soup to nuts, helping them with a number of issues, giving them a chief’s perspective on things,” he said. Continue Reading

‘Give Us Time’: Parents, Community Members Ask State Board Not To Intervene At Evansville School

Carrie Hillyard, who leads the turnaround team Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation leaders created to assist five struggling district schools, speaks to State Board of Education members at a public hearing on the future of Glenwood Leadership Academy.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Carrie Hillyard, who leads the turnaround team Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation leaders created to assist five struggling district schools, speaks to State Board of Education members at a public hearing on the future of Glenwood Leadership Academy.

By the time Tamara Skinner had finished speaking, the crowd had come to its feet.

“Further intervention is not what our school needs,” the principal of Evansville’s Glenwood Leadership Academy told state education officials at a public hearing about the school’s future Tuesday night.

Skinner was one of several Evansville school leaders and community stakeholders who pleaded with State Board of Education members and superintendent Glenda Ritz for a chance to turn Glenwood around on their own.

“GLA is poised for success,” she added, “and we need time to exercise the game plan we have.”

Six straight years of low test scores — scores which rank among Indiana’s worst — have put the school at risk of state intervention or takeover. About 28 percent of Glenwood students passed statewide tests last school year, down from 37 percent in 2012.

But nearly 200 staff members, parents and community partners packed into Glenwood’s auditorium, asking the board to allow district officials to continue implementing their improvement plan — which includes, among other things, a $600,000 contract with an outside school turnaround group. Continue Reading

Governor Draws Line Between Universal & ‘Targeted’ Pre-K Program

State board member Brad Oliver, left, shakes hands with Gov. Mike Pence as he makes his way toward the podium to deliver a speech at Indiana's first state capitol in Corydon.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State board member Brad Oliver, left, shakes hands with Gov. Mike Pence as he makes his way toward the podium to deliver a speech at Indiana's first state capitol in Corydon.

Gov. Mike Pence would rather state lawmakers create a state-run preschool program targeted toward low-income families rather than a program for which all of the state’s children would be eligible.

“The evidence of success of universal pre-K is rather mixed,” Pence told reporters on Tuesday after a speech in Corydon to outline his education agenda.

The leaders of the Indiana Senate’s Democratic caucus announced in September they wanted the state to create a universal preschool option. Pence proposes to create preschool vouchers for families with incomes of up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Continue Reading

Community To Weigh In On Potential State Turnaround Plans For Evansville School

The main entrance of Glenwood Leadership Academy, a K-8 school in Evansville.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The main entrance of Glenwood Leadership Academy, a K-8 school in Evansville.

Evansville school leaders will plead their case directly to state education officials Tuesday night, hoping to convince them their newly-implemented school turnaround plan will be enough to reverse years of failing test scores at Glenwood Leadership Academy.

Nearly three-quarters of Glenwood students did not pass their ISTEP+ exams this year, requiring State Board of Education members to determine if and how they will intervene. They could hire an outside organization to step in to help improve the school — or take it over altogether.

Glenwood would be the sixth Indiana school state officials had taken over in the past three years — if state officials decide to go that route. When faced with the option to set up a “lead partnership” intervention at an Indianapolis high school last year, board members declined after district officials hired an outside school turnaround team.

But state superintendent Glenda Ritz, who has said she’s personally disinclined to launch a takeover, isn’t ruling out any of the board’s options. Continue Reading

What Could Be In Indiana’s Proposed Student Data ‘Backpack’

Sophomores Dylan Woodward (left) and Adam Bennett use their netbooks to finish an assignment in their chemistry class at Evansville's Harrison High School. By the sheer number of devices involved, the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation runs perhaps the largest "one-to-one" laptop initiative of any district in Indiana.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Students at Evansville's Harrison High School use computers in the chemistry class.

With students and teachers swimming in academic data these days, a top state lawmaker wants to create a website where parents can access all of that data at once.

Indiana House Education Committee Chair Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, will push a bill in the upcoming session to create a “data backpack,” based on a new Utah law the American Legislative Exchange Council recently highlighted as model legislation.

In Utah, the legislation ordered the creation of a secure website that will eventually allow parents to see data points from students’ grades and attendance to their statewide test scores.

With Indiana preparing to revamp or replace its current test, the ISTEP+, Behning says the time is right to begin work on a similar website here. Continue Reading

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