Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

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Rachel Morello

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.

  • Email: rmorello@indiana.edu

Private Schools To Return Almost $4 Million In Voucher Funds

Eighty of the more than 300 schools involved in the state’s voucher system announced Wednesday they will return $3.9 million in voucher scholarship funds to the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program.

Eighty of the 317 schools that take part in Indiana's

Eighty of the 317 schools that take part in Indiana’s voucher system will return money they were overpaid by the state.

A new study on tuition and financial aid practices, released by the Indiana Non-Public Education Association, found the group overpaid those schools over the course of three years due to unintentional errors in calculating voucher costs.

John Elcesser, executive director of the INPEA, tells The Indianapolis Star that most of the errors happened because schools forgot to apply discounts for parishioners (at Catholic schools), families enrolling more than one child or employees. He adds that families were not overcharged.

Staff at IndyPolitics.org reports on the schools affected:

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Overwhelming Family Interest In ‘On My Way Pre-K’ Pilot

Updated Dec. 18, 2:40 p.m.: 

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration totaled the count to 1,800 applications received from families hoping to enroll their 4-year-old children in the first phase of On My Way Pre-K. 

The goal for this first launch in January was initially to enroll 350 children in the four participating counties. However, the FSSA is looking to expand that number to 450. After reviewing existing capacities of approved providers, the agency will determine a target enrollment for each county by the end of this week.

The full rollout of the program in August is expected to include between 1,600 and 2,000 4-year-olds in the five counties.

The chart below shows the number of applications received and how many were deemed eligible in the four counties:

Data courtesy of the Office of Governor Mike Pence

Data courtesy of the Office of Governor Mike Pence

Original post, Dec. 16, 2:33 p.m.:  

The numbers are in, and it looks like interest is high for the first phase of Indiana’s first state-funded preschool program.

The FSSA received more than 1600 applications from families interested in participating in the On My Way Pre-K pilot program.

The FSSA received more than 1600 applications from families interested in participating in the On My Way Pre-K pilot program.

More than 1,600 applications came in from families interested in taking part in On My Way Pre-K, which will launch in four of the five selected pilot counties – Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh – in a few weeks.

Applications from families interested in getting a spot in the program were due Monday.  Family and Social Services Administration spokeswoman Marni Lemons says by mid-afternoon, her agency had received just over 800 applications – a number that doubled overnight.

That number far exceeds capacity. The state originally intended to enroll between 350 and 400 children in those four communities. Lemons says due to the high interest, the FSSA is trying to see if they can make room for a few extra spaces.

Available spots for eligible children will be somewhat limited this time around, as only a portion of interested providers meet eligibility requirements to participate: specifically, a Level 3 or 4 status on the state’s Paths to QUALITY ranking system.

Interested providers have until the program’s full launch in August to reach that benchmark and submit an applicationJackson County also plans to be ready by that date.

County representatives are still in the process of determining which of those who applied fit eligibility requirements. We will update with official numbers as soon as they are confirmed by the FSSA.

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Monday Marks Deadline To Apply For On My Way Pre-K Pilot Grant

Today is the deadline for families in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties to apply to On My Way Pre-K, the state’s preschool pilot program.

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration will accept applications until 4:30 p.m. EST.

Families in four counties have until 4:30 p.m. to apply for the first wave of the state's pre-k pilot program.

Families in four counties have until 4:30 p.m. to apply for the first wave of the state's pre-k pilot program.

In order to qualify for the first wave of the program, starting in January, families in these four counties must have an income below 127 percent of the federal poverty level – a little more than $30,000 a year for a family of four. Eligible children must be four years old and planning to start kindergarten in August 2015.

Each county’s application is fairly easy to follow, and is available in both English and Spanish. But just in case you’re panicking this close to the finish line, here are some helpful tips provided by the FSSA:

  • Child information: Parents must prove their current residency in this section of the application. Suggestions include a copy of a lease, mortgage or utility bill showing a current address, or a copy of a valid Indiana driver’s license.
  • In the same section, parents must verify their child’s date of birth, which may include a copy of his or her birth certificate.
  • Income Eligibility Verification: Each parents or guardian in the household applying must list all earned gross income from work (income before taxes). If you have no earned or unearned income, the FSSA recommends that you instead explain in the space provided how your family is meeting basic needs such as food and shelter.
  • The FSSA also has an income guide available on their website, if you are unsure whether or not your family qualifies.

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U.S. Wants Measurements To Rate Teacher Training Programs

The U.S. Department of Education announced rules late last month requiring states to develop rating systems for teacher preparation programs that would track, among other things, how graduates’ students perform academically, writes Motoko Rick for the New York Times:


The federal Department of Education announced preliminary rules on Tuesday requiring states to develop rating systems for teacher preparation programs that would track a range of measures, including the job placement and retention rates of graduates and the academic performance of their students.

Read more at: www.nytimes.com

Here’s What Will Happen With CECI Responsibilities, Personnel

We might be saying goodbye to the Center for Education and Career Innovation, but the agency’s duties, responsibilities and staff will not disappear from Indiana’s education scene.

Along with her colleagues, Claire Fiddian-Green, co-director of the Center for Education and Career Innovation, will be moving out of the agency when it formally disbands Feb. 20.

Along with her colleagues, Claire Fiddian-Green, co-director of the Center for Education and Career Innovation, will be moving out of the agency when it formally disbands Feb. 20.

CECI leadership had known about the move a few weeks before Pence made his announcement, according to the governor’s communications director, Christy Denault. Plans are already in the works to finish accomplishing the agency’s goals, as the governor alluded to during his speech last week.

“Our commitment to aligning statewide efforts in education and workforce development remains undiminished,” Pence said. “I believe [CECI] has laid the groundwork necessary to accomplish these goals through other existing agencies and programs, and so we will.”

The five agencies that operated under the CECI umbrella – including the State Board of Education, the Education Roundtable, the Indiana Career Council, the Regional Works Councils and the Indiana Network of Knowledge – will continue operating and fulfilling their statutory obligations. With the exception of the Roundtable and the State Board, the others will fall under new management.

That job will go to the Department of Workforce Development, who is finalizing details with the governor’s office. Along with each agency’s responsibilities, the DWD will take on their existing staff as well.

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IDOE Budget Conversations Turn Focus Back To Assessments

When State Superintendent Glenda Ritz prepared for her presentation before the State Budget Committee Thursday, assuredly there were a number of items on which she expected questions.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz appeared before the State Budget Committee Thursday to present her department's request for 2015.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz appeared before the State Budget Committee Thursday to present her department's request for 2015.

But the item that appeared to take center stage – new state assessments – received a different kind of attention than Ritz was probably expecting.

Ritz outlined the Department of Education’s proposed budged Thursday, which included a request for $65 million for testing and remediation. This is up from $45 million from the last budget cycle.

State education leaders are still in the process of creating a new state assessment to align with the new state academic standards schools began implementing this year. This new system will include a fully operational state-run ISTEP+ test this spring, as well as a second brand-new test to be developed and put in place for the 2015-16 school year.

The State Board of Education is currently still seeking a vendor to write the test for next spring.

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What Will Indiana Miss Out On Without A Federal Preschool Grant?

Five states have been awarded federal money to increase access to high-quality preschool programs – money some say Indiana could have used.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced the grants Wednesday, as part of the White House’s Preschool Development Grants program.

Many have wondered what will Indiana will miss out on without a federal pre-k grant that has now been awarded to five other states.

Many have wondered what will Indiana will miss out on without a federal pre-k grant that has now been awarded to five other states.

Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana and Nevada will receive money specifically intended for states with either small or no state-funded preschool programs, to help them develop such initiatives. Grant amounts ranged from $2 million to $20 million; the five states’ awards combined totaled over $55 million.

Indiana was one of 16 states that fit the eligibility requirements for this grant – and a group of state education leaders had been preparing an application. But Governor Pence pulled the application in the eleventh hour, just days before it was due.

What will these other states get that Indiana took itself out of the running for?

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For State Board To Work, Eliminating CECI Is Only The First Step

“Our reputations precede us.” Arguably, for no other figure or group in Indiana’s education scene does this ring more true than for the State Board of Education.

Take a look at some of these tweets that exemplify how some people view the Board of Education:

Like it or not, the board has become known for its squabbles. Arguments tend not to stem from policy disagreements, but rather issues of authority, board procedure and miscommunication.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz frequently points to the Center for Education and Career Innovation as the source of tension. Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, created the education agency in August 2013. Ritz, a Democrat, says CECI is a shadow agency to her own Department of Education, duplicating services and clouding questions of authority. 

That’s why Governor Pence announced last week he would dissolve CECI. He says he saw it as a first step to restoring harmony on the board.

“I’m proud of the work the CECI has done in the last two years, but I am aware of the controversy that has surrounded this center since its creation,” Pence admitted. “Frankly there are too many entities with overlapping responsibilities in education at the highest levels in Indiana. For education to work in our state, it has to work at the highest levels.”

But will this move actually solve anything?

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Pence Signs Executive Order Dissolving CECI

Updated, 3:30 p.m.:

Governor Mike Pence signed an executive order Thursday afternoon, dissolving his education agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI), effective Feb. 20.

Governor Mike Pence is signing an executive order to dissolve his education agency, a group that has been a point of contention between himself and state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Governor Mike Pence is signing an executive order to dissolve his education agency, a group that has been a point of contention between himself and state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

The governor created the agency in August 2013, and it has been a point of controversy between himself and state superintendent Glenda Ritz ever since. Ritz says the agency is a threat to her own Department of Education.

Pence says his decision is the first step to get the State Board of Education working again.

“We’ve all seen the headlines, we’ve seen the confusion and even the friction at the highest levels of state government, we’ve all been frustrated” Pence says. “To maintain our momentum and implement new policies, we’ll also need to fix what’s broken in education in Indiana.”

Pence expressed pride in the work the CECI has done in the last two years, but says he is aware of the controversy that has surrounded this center since its creation.

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