Rachel Morello comes to StateImpact by way of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She has worked for various news and education-related organizations across the country - but no matter the locale, you’re sure to find her sporting a Packers jersey and tuning into “Car Talk.” You can follow her on Twitter @morellomedia.
Luckily, the state has options. The U.S. Department of Education has offered all states the option for some flexibility in using accountability during transition periods for standards and assessments. In response, a Senate committee asked Indiana’s Department of Ed this session to create a list of ideas for determining A-F grades that would fit within federal restrictions, so as not to jeopardize the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver.
In order to hold onto funding for its various workforce training programs across the state, Ivy Tech Community College has until August 1 to show improvement in student success rates. State officials say the system is not meeting the thresholds for some programs, and they want to see progress before committing the money. This comes on the heels of additional pressure from lawmakers, who previously ordered a state review of Ivy Tech’s programs due to concerns over low graduation rates and declining enrollment.
The state funnels millions in federal Workforce Investment Act dollars to residents looking to improve their skills in the job market. Some take the money and go for two-year degrees, such as for a licensed practical nurse, while others attend short-term programs for industry certifications.
Accountability options: This one’s a doozy.Following a year that saw the rollout of entirely new academic standards and the first in a series of corresponding updated standardized tests, many Hoosier leaders expressed concern over how schools would be held accountable, given all the change. Luckily, the state has options. Last August, the U.S. Department of Education offered some states with waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law –
Along with their fellow board members, David Freitas and Lee Ann Kwiatkowski will be selecting a vice chair and secretary from among their ranks. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
including Indiana – the option to delay incorporating student test scores into teacher evaluations until the end of the current school year. In response, a Senate committee asked the IDOE to create a list of options regarding how schools would receive A-F grades for the 2014-15 school year. After consulting with a number of stakeholders, the department has come up with a list of 12 options. The IDOE is recommending option five from its list, “Hold Harmless,” which would assign each school the better A-F grade received between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. This option is aligned to both state statutory requirements as well as USED flexibility standards, and would not require legislative action. Since the state board has final approval of all school grades, the group needs to approve whatever option the state decides to pursue.
Focus on dual language learning: The board will talk about a few dual language initiatives this month, thanks to new legislation passed this session. Senate Enrolled Act 267 tasks the board and the Department of Education with establishing both a state certificate of biliteracy and a dual language immersion pilot program. The board will initiate rule making to establish criteria for the certificate this month, and discuss the program outline and corresponding grant application crafted by IDOE staff. The department is encouraging interested public school district and charter school administrators to submit grant applications by Friday, July 24.
Perhaps the most talked-about education item on lawmakers’ docket this session, Senate Bill 1 was the only one of countless bills introduced concerning reorganization of the State Board of Education to make it through to Gov. Mike Pence‘s desk.
Only one element of the law – one of the most crucial and controversial parts – will not go into effect next week: the ability for the board to elect its own chairperson annually. After much back and forth, lawmakers decided to hold off on enacting this part of the law until January 2017, at the end of state superintendent Glenda Ritz‘s current term. The state superintendent has historically served as board chair.
Reappointed board member Sarah O’Brien and new board member Byron Ernest at the June State Board of Education meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
The state board meets for its next meeting the day this law takes effect, July 1. The first items of new business on the agenda: electing a vice chair and secretary. According to a report from Chalkbeat Indiana, many board members have already voiced support for appointing Sarah O’Brien to the former slot:
[Board member Cari] Whicker said she believes a majority of the board will support O’Brien for vice chairwoman, based on conversations with others on the board. O’Brien’s father is state Rep. Bill Fine, R-Munster, who backed the bill to create the position of vice chairwoman.
“Certainly more than most are supportive of her,” Whicker said. “And so it would be nice to feel like that’s a consensus when we go into that meeting and not have any contention there in selecting somebody.”
A waiver would exempt the state from some provisions of the law – for example, maintaining 100 percent student proficiency in math and language arts. In order to qualify, states must meet a specific set of requirements, including plans for measuring school performance and evaluating teachers.
Additionally, as baby boomers retire they’re creating a gap in the workforce – and the education field is no exception. Principals, assistant principals and superintendents are leaving their positions, but instead of waiting for those positions to open up and going through the routine hiring process, some school districts are trying to get a head start by training teachers from the bottom up.
The Teacher Becomes The Student
It’s week one of the summer session on the Bloomington campus at Indiana University.
In a classroom on the third floor of the Wright education building, instructor Chad Lochmiller spreads materials out on two large tables. Students begin to trickle in, in groups of two or three. They take their seats, get out their pens. The instructor turns on his PowerPoint, clears his throat and starts his class on their introductions.
“Why don’t we just do name, and which school you’re at? We’ll start over here,” Lochmiller says, and motions to a woman on his right.
“Kendra Smith, AIS Diamond.”
“Anna Kirkman, AIS Diamond.”
“Jessica Hopkins, I’m at Cedar Hall.”
Teachers and staff from the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation listen as their principal certification program coordinator Chad Lochmiller (far right) explains the program syllabus. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
As you can tell, there’s something different about this group of students: they’re adults. They also already have jobs: they’re all employed in the same southern Indiana school district, the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.
They’ve come to earn their principal certification. Evansville is partnering with the IU School of Education to help prepare these 25 teachers for future leadership positions within the district.
But one southern Indiana school district is ready to whittle down their testing schedule.
Indiana students take a number of tests that are either summative or formative in nature. (Photo Credit: David Hartman/Flickr)
Among the various tests Hoosier students take each year, some are “summative” – to capture how much a student learned over the course of a year, like the statewide ISTEP+ test – and others are “formative,” which give a snapshot of what students know at a certain point in time. The focus of the latter is giving performance feedback, so teachers can modify learning activities to better student achievement.
Most of the schools in the state use tests like mCLASS, Acuity or NWEA assessments for that purpose.
Rather than require schools to test using mCLASS (grades K-2) or Acuity (grades 3-8), both of which the state pays for, schools will now be able to apply for state grant money to buy a test of their own choosing. Districts previously had to pay for the test out of their own budgets.
The board will likely decide how much grant money schools can receive for tests at their July meeting.
Mary Keck of the Herald-Times reports that the Monroe County Community School Corporation has chosen not to pursue any outside formative test for the upcoming school year, instead focusing on classroom tests:
“We are not going to self-impose a test that we don’t feel is aligned with the (state education) standards,” [MCCSC Superintendent Judy] DeMuth said.
Monroe County Community School Corp. opted to take the Acuity test in the 2014-15 school year because it was offered free through the Indiana Department of Education as a diagnostic tool for schools to find out if student learning was in line with state standards. [...]
DeMuth decided that because the state education department was in the process of developing the ISTEP test for the next school year, she wanted to be sure the exams students were given were aligned with state standards.
“We’re going to pause (Acuity) and allow teachers to continue instruction rather than administration of a test,” DeMuth said.
While students will not take Acuity, faculty will continue to follow state standards, skills the education department has determined are necessary for students to learn at each grade level. MCCSC elementary and middle school students will also continue taking common formative assessments that are created by their teachers for the purpose of gauging whether student learning aligns with state standards.
As another school year comes to an end, thousands of high school seniors throughout Indiana will walk across the stage to accept the coveted high school diploma.
Countless experts and studies say once students are awarded that piece of paper, they open themselves up to college and career opportunities that might not have been available to them otherwise.
Indiana sits at an 87 percent high school graduation rate as of 2013. (Photo Credit: Coordenação Proerd Go/Flickr)
What that diploma looks like – or more accurately, what those diplomas look like –could soon change. Indiana is poised to change the diploma requirements for students, beginning with the class of 2022 (those students entering high school in the 2018-19 school year).
The General Assembly made completion of Core 40 a graduation requirement for all students, beginning with those who entered high school in the fall of 2007. Parents can opt their students out of the requirement, if they think their student could “receive a greater benefit” from the General diploma.
The national high school graduation rate is at an all-time high: 81 percent. In Indiana, that number falls closer to 87 percent, as of 2013 – the Hoosier state ranks 7th in the nation in terms of how many students leave high school with a diploma in hand.
But, how Indiana accounts for its high school grads – and what the diplomas look like here – might be drastically different from the calculation used in Florida, Michigan or New Jersey. Our colleagues with NPR’s Education team compiled data from all 50 states to compare how they determine high school grad rates – take a look, and decide for yourself whether Indiana is among “the good, the bad or the ambiguous.”
Check out the rest of the NPR Ed Graduation Rate series on their website: npr.org/sections/ed/