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

U.S. Department of Education Grants Indiana NCLB Waiver Extension

The U.S. Department of Education extended Indiana's waiver Thursday.

Kyle Stokes

The U.S. Department of Education extended Indiana's waiver Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday it will extend Indiana’s No Child Left Behind waiver, exempting the state from requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

A loss could have meant less flexibility in how federal education dollars are spent in local schools and requirements for all students to pass reading and math exams.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz said in a statement, “During my time as Superintendent, we have adopted the highest standards in Indiana history, modernized ISTEP and begun the process to strengthen our accountability system. Additionally, we have put in place a strong and positive grassroots system of outreach and support for Indiana schools. Today’s decision by the United States Department of Education validates the work that we have done.

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Doctors: Let Students Sleep To See Better Performance

Good news for teenagers: doctors want you to sleep in during the week.

A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests middle and high schools delay the start of their day so students get the right amount of sleep.

duhe / Flickr

A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests middle and high schools delay the start of their day so students get the right amount of sleep.

A new recommendation released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages middle and high schools to push start times back, in order to align students’ academic schedules with their biological sleep rhythms.

The organization says schools should start classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Nationally, only 15 percent of high schools currently follow that guideline. 40 percent start classes before 8:00 a.m.

Ideally, researchers say, teenagers should get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Recent polls indicate that only 41 percent of middle school students and 13 percent of high schoolers do.

“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common and easily fixable public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, who wrote the policy statement. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”

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Why Are So Many Charter Schools Closing?

Two more Indianapolis charter schools have decided to give up their charters at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Two more mayor's charters in Indianapolis will close after the end of this school year.

Max Klingensmith / Flickr

Two more mayor's charters in Indianapolis will close after the end of this school year.

ADI Schools Incorporated announced Friday plans to toss out charters at Padua Academy and Andrew Academy. Both K-8 schools, authorized by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office since 2010, saw significant drops in ISTEP+ test scores this year. Padua Academy saw 39.7 percent of students pass the ISTEP+ this year, down from 52.2 percent in 2013. Andrew Academy saw a sharper decline in scores, with 31.7 percent passing this year, compared to 53.5 percent in 2013.

Come 2015-16, Padua will reopen as a Catholic school run by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which also plans to help the mayor’s office find another operator to run Andrew. The mayor’s staff and leaders at other local schools will help families decide whether their student should transfer or remain at the school after transition.

Is it just us, or does it seem like charters are having a rough go of it lately?

This announcement comes on the heels of another closing in Indianapolis – Flanner House Elementary, also one of the mayor’s charters. School board members voted last week to close Flanner House on September 11, after two separate state investigations found school officials cheated on 2013 and 2014 ISTEP+ exams.

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Dugger Receives $50,000 Donation For New Community Charter School

Residents in Dugger continue to gain support for their new community school, as the Indiana Rail Road pledged a $50,000 donation earlier this week.

The new Dugger Union Community Schools, which will occupy old school corporation buildings, will open August 25.

Bill Shaw / WTIU

The new Dugger Union Community Schools, which will occupy old school corporation buildings, will open August 25.

INRD’s donation is contingent upon the school’s ability to raise a sum-total in matching grants, or find a donor willing to fully match the $50,000 pledge. The money will help cover operational expenses and extracurricular activities.

INRD President and CEO Tom Hoback says Dugger is an important anchor for the company and its customers.

“Many of our employees and families live there, many generations have attended Union High School,” Hoback says. “I know it hasn’t been an easy year for Dugger parents and volunteers, but I’m proud and happy to see their efforts come through.”

Hoback says INRD is also pursuing options, along with partner Peabody Energy, the local carpenters union and other local employers to provide in-class training for Dugger-Union students who wish to pursue a career in vocational trade industries.

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Indianapolis Charter Closes Amid ISTEP+ Cheating Allegations

Updated 12:58 p.m.: 

A charter sponsored by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office is closing after allegations of cheating on ISTEP+ tests.

The Indiana Department of Education found a number of issues with ISTEP+ scores and testing practices at Flanner House Elementary School in Indianapolis.

Eric Zelenka / Flickr

The Indiana Department of Education found a number of issues with ISTEP+ scores and testing practices at Flanner House Elementary School in Indianapolis.

Ballard on Thursday morning accepted the decision by Flanner House Elementary Charter School’s Board of Directors to surrender its charter and close the school, effective September 11.

The Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation began investigating the school after it showed “extraordinarily high gains” on ISTEP+ tests in 2013 and 2014. OEI notified the Indiana Department of Education, requesting they conduct a follow-up investigation. IDOE has since invalidated Flanner House’s ISTEP+ results, as well as stripped the school of its “A” grade and four-star school award, received for high passing rates.

According to a press release from Ballard’s office, state officials found:

  • An unusually high number of changes from right to wrong answers on the school’s 2013 ISTEP+ tests.
  • Adult handwriting in student answers on the 2013 test.
  • Students were given test questions prior to test administration in 2014.
  • Teachers revised and edited student responses to real ISTEP questions prior to administering the 2014 test.
  • Flanner House failed to follow several testing security procedures, in particular forging testing integrity agreements in 2013.

The City and State are also referring information from their investigation to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether criminal charges may be warranted.

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Non-Teaching Personnel Now Account For Half Of District Staffs

With few exceptions, the number of staff in schools is growing, but most of them are not teachers.

According to a report published last week by the Fordham Institute, the number of non-teaching personnel in schools has increased over the last half century at a rate that outpaces even the growth of teachers and students.

The number of teachers' aides on public school staffs has increased by 130 percent since the year 1970.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

The number of teachers' aides on public school staffs has increased by 130 percent since the year 1970.

Since 1970, the total number of employees in the nation’s schools grew from 3.4 million to 6.2 million, an 84 percent increase. During that same period, the student population grew only by about 8 percent. In other words, for every four children added to American schools, districts hired three adults.

The number of teachers added has steadily increased, but what comes as a surprise to many is that non-teaching personnel have accounted for the majority of the growth on staffs. This group increased in size by more than 130 percent, and they now make up close to half of the average public school district’s workforce, counting about 3 million nationwide.

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Indiana Releases First Statewide Report On School Bullying

Indiana’s first statewide report on bullying found more than 9,400 incidents at state public schools last year.

Indiana's state public schools reported more than 9,400 bullying incidents last year.

charamelody (Flickr)

Indiana's state public schools reported more than 9,400 bullying incidents last year.

Data collected by the Indiana Department of Education shows 44 percent of cases reported during the 2013-14 academic year were verbal and 21 percent physical. The rest involved written or electronic threats, as well as social relational issues.

Emma Donnan School, a takeover school operated by Charter Schools USA in Indianapolis, reported the most incidents at 128.

Eric Weddle of the Indianapolis Star reports that close to one-quarter of the 1,000 individual schools surveyed reported no bullying incidents:

Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, author of the legislation, called the report a big step forward for Indiana’s anti-bullying initiatives.

“The whole point is to look at the education atmosphere of our children,” he said. “This is why we have the data, to give schools tools to address it.”

But Porter questioned why more than 240 schools, of the more than 1,000 individual schools in the data, reported no incidents.

When the legislation was debated, Porter said, there was concern some schools might not report to avoid “looking bad,” he said. That makes it difficult for meaningful comparisons among the schools.

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Old Dugger School Buildings To House New Community Charter School

As we mentioned yesterday, a new charter school will open in Dugger later this month, thanks to a partnership with the Indiana Cyber Charter School. And after a school board meeting last night, the new charter school has a home in two of the school district’s old school buildings.

The Northeast School Corporation School Board voted 5-0 for the sale of the former Union High School and Dugger Elementary properties at a meeting Monday night.

A new charter school in Dugger will now occupy the former Dugger Elementary school building, as well as the Union Junior/Senior High School.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A new charter school in Dugger will now occupy the former Dugger Elementary school building, as well as the Union Junior/Senior High School.

This is the same board that voted last December to close the Dugger Union Community Schools because of budget shortfalls.

The entire process began in February of this year, when the NESC school board signed a resolution to put both schoolhouses on the Indiana Department of Education’s vacant school building list. Board members finalized registration to that list on July 31, and the very next day Dugger Union Community School reps penned letters of interest in both buildings.

The transfer of the property actually took place last week – Monday’s action was simply a legal formality.

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State Officials To Visit Gary Schools, Discuss District’s Future

Educators at the Gary Community School Corporation will meet with state education officials Monday night to discuss how to help the district out of recent academic struggle.

A turnaround operator has run Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy in Gary since the state intervened in 2012. Is a similar fate in store for other Gary schools?

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A turnaround operator has run Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy in Gary since the state intervened in 2012. Is a similar fate in store for other Gary schools?

The Indiana Department of Education will host a public hearing at Dunbar-Pulaski, renamed the Gary Middle School, at 6:30 p.m. to get public input regarding the district’s future. Members of the DOE and State Board of Education staff have visited other districts in similar situations before to toss around improvement options.

Earlier this year, the Indiana Department of Education labeled GSCS a “high risk” district. Thirteen of Gary’s 16 public schools received D or F accountability grades from the state last year, and many of those had failing marks prior to that.

Indiana law requires state intervention when a schools receives six consecutive failing grades under the A-F system. Gary’s Roosevelt College and Career Academy was turned over in 2012 to private operator Edison Learning, which still runs the school.

After the most recent round of ISTEP+ testing, GCSC students in grades 3 through 8 achieved a collective 47.7 percent passing rate on both the Math and English/Language Arts portions – the lowest passing rate in the entire state.

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National Education Contractor Sues Charter School For Non-Payment

An Indiana-based virtual charter school is under fire for allegedly neglecting to pay one of its national partners.

The National Network of Digital Schools (NNDS) is suing the Indiana Cyber Charter School, alleging non-payment for services totaling nearly $600,000. NNDS filed a complaint July 25 with the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

Indiana Cyber Charter School offers virtual instruction to students enrolled around the state.

Brad Dennison / Flickr

Indiana Cyber Charter School offers virtual instruction to students enrolled around the state.

According to court documents, NNDS claims Indiana Cyber owes funds for the following services:

  • $400,000 for a loan extended to Indiana Cyber
  • $200,000 in curriculum charges
  • $6,700 for computers and equipment

NNDS also claims it was mistakenly charged close to $10,000 for Indiana Cyber employee health care premiums, and that it did not receive all scheduled payments for the school’s operating contract.

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