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

Individual State Standards Don’t Bode Well For U.S. On World Stage

So many standards, so little time.

Wide variation in state academic standards makes comparison across the country - as well as internationally - difficult, according to new research.

Connor Bleakley / Flickr

Wide variation in state academic standards makes comparison across the country - as well as internationally - difficult, according to new research.

That’s essentially the takeaway from the most recent national report on academic guidelines.

A report released Thursday by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) finds that what’s considered “proficiency” in certain subjects varies widely – not only across states, but also between the U.S. as a whole and its international counterparts.

The study compares performance standards for reading, math and science in each state with international benchmarks used in two international assessments – the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) – to gauge difficulty and global competitiveness of each state’s standards.

The results generally showed the percentage of proficient students in most states declined when compared with international students – and Indiana was no exception.

For example, 77 percent of students in the Hoosier were considered proficient based on state performance standards for 8th grade math in 2011. When those same students had their score compared to TIMSS benchmarks, only half of them (35 percent) were still considered proficient.

That means in Indiana, students only required a C- in order to be considered proficient. The same rang true for students testing in fourth grade math and reading.

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Indiana Undecided On Linking Test Scores, Accountability

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education offered some states with waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law the option to delay incorporating student test scores into teacher evaluations until the end of the current school year.

Indiana is currently in the camp of undecided on whether or not to pursue that option.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will offer flexibility to states in deciding whether to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations next year.

Center for American Progress / Flickr

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will offer flexibility to states in deciding whether to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations next year.

The feds extended Indiana’s NCLB waiver through the 2014-15 school year late last month. The subject of teacher and principal evaluations was one of four areas where the state wasn’t meeting federal expectations.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said her department will consult with other state officials prior to making a decision.

“It is in statute that teachers are evaluated in part by the state assessments and the growth component of that,” Ritz said at a press conference last month after receiving the waiver extension. “I plan on renewing that conversation with state leaders and having a conversation about that and seeing what Indiana might want to do regarding that topic.”

According to Alyson Klein at Education Week, sixteen states with waivers say they will pursue this option; at least eleven say they probably will not. States will apply for the flexibility when they reapply for waiver renewals in spring 2015:

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Extracurricular Rules May Exclude Some Homeschoolers

Whether you’re the starting quarterback or the benchwarmer on the basketball team, you learn lessons in athletics that you can’t learn anywhere else. But what if you’re not even given the chance to be on the team?

Kim Mountain addresses the members of his homeschool volleyball team, the Indy Silver Lightning.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Kim Mountain addresses the members of his homeschool volleyball team, the Indy Silver Lightning.

Last week we reported on academic regulations for homeschoolers in Indiana. In contrast to the state’s arguably lax rules for curriculum and testing, the guidelines for homeschooler participation in extracurricular activities is more restrictive than one might think.

Rules Of Play

Special subjects such as art, music or foreign language – and extracurricular activities such as sports or theater – are part of the regular school week for most students. Many homeschool families elect to supplement their everyday curriculum with courses like these in an attempt to make the school experience more “normal” for their students. But not every organization is 100 percent open to having homeschooled kids participate.

Bobby Cox is the Indiana High School Athletic Association, or IHSAA Commissioner. His organization spells out a number of minimum benchmarks homeschool students must meet in order to get involved with athletic teams at their local public high school.

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Home Work: Homeschool Families Don’t Have Many State Guidelines

Trends indicate homeschooling is on the rise across the country and in the Hoosier state.

The most recent federal stats come from the 2011-2012 school year, when according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1.8 million children were homeschooled. That’s about three percent of the school-age population.

Emily (left) and Holli Burnfield work on language arts lessons together. The girls are homeschooled, along with their younger sister Layla, in Bloomfield.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Emily (left) and Holli Burnfield work on language arts lessons together. The girls are homeschooled, along with their younger sister Layla, in Bloomfield.

In a recent report by the The Republic newspaper in Columbus, homeschool groups in Indiana have also seen an influx of members in recent years.

But there’s no way to be sure. Many states don’t keep a tally. Indiana’s Department of Education tries to keep track – parents who want to homeschool are encouraged to report their enrollment – but since it’s not mandatory, state officials say there’s no way to know if their data is accurate.

“Indiana has had a fairly long tradition of hands off in terms of regulation and oversight,” says Rob Kunzman, who heads the International Center for Home Education Research at Indiana University. “It just goes back to the setup for education oversight in our country more generally that it’s a state decision in terms of regulation of their educational system.”

More parents nowadays see homeschooling as a way to circumvent the frustrations that come with traditional schooling. But the state provides little regulation and oversight, so they’re largely left to their own devices.

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Hoosier Schools Could Plan Better For Emergencies

Indiana could do more when it comes to emergency preparedness.

A new national report places Indiana among the states considered the least prepared in the event of an emergency.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

A new national report places Indiana among the states considered the least prepared in the event of an emergency.

According to a report released Tuesday by international charity Save the Children, the Hoosier state is one of 15 states that lacks a number of elements the organization deems “standard” for addressing natural and manmade emergencies.

Save the Children’s annual National Report Card on Protecting Children in Disasters cites four minimum emergency preparedness standards states must meet: an evacuation/relocation plan, a plan for children with special needs, a family-child reunification plan, and a K-12 multiple disaster plan.

Indiana only meets the latter two criteria, putting it ahead of only 10 other states.

The Indiana Department of Education requires each of the state’s school corporations to develop a written emergency preparedness plan, in consultation with local public safety agencies. State Board of Education rules require that plan to include the following, at minimum:

  • Appropriate warning systems
  • Procedures for notifying other agencies and organizations
  • Posting of evacuation routes
  • Emergency preparedness instruction for staff and students
  • Public information procedures
  • Steps to be taken prior to a decision to evacuate buildings or dismiss classes
  • Provisions to protect the safety and well being of staff, students and the public in case of fire, natural disaster, adverse weather conditions, nuclear contamination, exposure to chemicals, or manmade occurrences (i.e. student disturbances, weapons, or kidnapping incidents)

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Sound The Alarm: Research Forces Schools To Contemplate Start Time

Sleep more and sleep in – that’s the advice doctors are giving teenagers.

Students at Noblesville High School will start their school day a bit later next year, after administrators examined research showing sleep can positively impact teenage students' performance.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Students at Noblesville High School will start their school day a bit later next year, after administrators examined research showing sleep can positively impact teenage students' performance.

As we reported last week, a new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages middle and high schools to push back their start times to align students’ academic schedules with their biological sleep rhythms.

AAP research as well as a number of other studies shows that adolescents should ideally get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Recent polls show only 41 percent of middle schoolers and 13 percent of high school students do.

Even the U.S. Secretary for Education, Arne Duncan, has acknowledged older students’ need for more zzz’s, in an interview on The Diane Rehm Show:

“Mornings are very difficult. You know, they’re not awake. They’re groggy. They’re not able to pay attention in class. If we were able to start later and if they were able to be more focused, if they were able to concentrate in class, that’s a really good thing. So often education, we design school systems that work for adults and not for kids. I think this is just another example of that.”

Some schools in Indiana are moving to adhere to these later start times; for others, it’s a distant dream.

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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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