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

More Issues During Second Round of ISTEP+ Stress Tests

If this week’s back-and-forth over the length of the spring test wasn’t enough, more drama regarding ISTEP+ emerged Thursday morning.

A number of schools encountered technical troubles during the second round of statewide readiness tests, or “stress tests” around 10:20 a.m. Thursday – just like they did during the first round in January. This time, the majority of computers froze up about 20-25 minutes into the online testing period.

This is the second time tech troubles have plagued Indiana students during ISTEP+ stress this year. (Photo Credit: WSU Vancouver/Flickr)

This is the second time tech troubles have plagued Indiana students during ISTEP+ stress this year. (Photo Credit: WSU Vancouver/Flickr)

Mitchell Community Schools technology director Sam Klawitter says this is at least a small improvement, but that he obviously still has concerns.

“It was not pretty, but not as catastrophic as last time,” Klawitter says. “Almost all of our students were able to limp along and were able to complete all 20 questions. We powered through and kept students in labs and classrooms beating on it until they were able to finish.”

Thursday’s test was originally supposed to take place a few weeks ago, but was rescheduled after the original failures.

ISTEP+ technology has been watched closely since 2013, when 78,000 students taking the actual graded test experienced disruptions.

Ritz Supporters Storm Social Media To Protest Board Legislation

Updated 5:13 p.m.: The Indiana House of Representatives passed House Bill 1609 Monday, setting into motion changes to allow State Board of Education members to elect their own chair, rather than automatically assigning that responsibility to the state superintendent.

The beginning of what many lawmakers referred to as “an education session” of the Indiana General Assembly has focused less on education policy and more on governance.

A crowd member shows her support for State Superintendent Glenda Ritz during July's State Board of Education meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

A crowd member shows her support for State Superintendent Glenda Ritz during July\’s State Board of Education meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Multiple bills making their way through both the House and Senate aim to restructure the State Board of Education, after months of tension between state superintendent Glenda Ritz, board members and Gov. Mike Pence. Most of this legislation proposes removing the superintendent from her position as board chair – a spot that state official has traditionally, automatically assumed upon election into office.

Take a look at the different measures up for discussion:

  • SB 1: Reduces the number of board members from 11 to 9. Removes the requirement that the state superintendent automatically chair the board.
  • SB 24: Grants Indiana’s governor the authority to appoint the state superintendent of public instruction after January 10, 2021. Superintendent is currently one of five statewide elected positions.
  • SB 452: Allows board members to elect a chairperson annually from within their ranks.
  • SB 453: Changes appointment procedures for SBOE members. Allows the governor and various state legislators to appoint board members.
  • HB 1201: Increases the number of board members from 11 to 13. Sets forth qualifications for members appointed by the governor.
  • HB 1486: Allows the state board to appoint an “executive director.”
  • HB 1609: Removes Ritz as board chair, allows board members to elect a chairperson each year.

This has unsurprisingly upset many voters, who have taken to social media to express their concern.

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How One Indiana Program Models Obama’s Plan For Skills Training

It’s been six years since businesses suffered from the country’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Now that the economy is back on track, some employers say they can’t fill jobs fast enough.

President Barack Obama is encouraging colleges and universities to acknowledge the need and find a way to help fill it. Pushing that message was one focus of his trip to Indiana last week.

“We want to make our community colleges even better and more responsive, and more attuned to what’s going in the marketplace,” Obama told a crowd at the Indianapolis campus of Ivy Tech Community College last Friday. “The reputation of the school is going to be determined by, when the graduates come out, do they have the skills they need to do the job?”

President Obama is encouraging colleges and universities to focus on offering more skills-based job training. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

President Obama is encouraging colleges and universities to focus on offering more skills-based job training. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

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When Testing Technology Fails, Students Fear They Will Too

If you’ve ever suffered from a recurring nightmare, you know how stressful it can be.

These dreams are often associated with feelings of terror and extreme anxiety. In some cases, the fear of reliving those circumstances can even become debilitating.

Students in a number of Indiana’s schools suffered a shared nightmare a few years ago that has reared its head once again: technology problems on the online portion of the ISTEP+, the state’s standardized test.

This time around they got relatively lucky – problems occurred on a preliminary dry run, not the actual, graded assessment. But it still had an effect on test-takers.

Driven by the fear of encountering trouble a third time, schools and state officials are taking steps to deal with the issue so that it won’t happen again – when it really matters.

What happened? 

Just a few weeks ago, students at Mitchell Community Schools logged in online to try out this year’s ISTEP+ practice test. About five minutes in, some kids started noticing problems. And only two minutes after that, everybody’s tests had stopped working. beachball

This was not the first time Mitchell students – along with their peers in many other districts – had problems with ISTEP+ technology. Back in 2013, multiple school corporations had to suspend testing after students had trouble logging into the test website. This time around, the issues were very similar, if not identical.

Sam Klawitter, technology director at Mitchell Schools, explains that the load on systems at CTB/McGraw Hill – the test vendor – was wildly more than they had anticipated. He equates that to a lack of preparation on CTB’s side, seeing as schools fill out a readiness survey for the vendor as well as the IDOE beforehand, providing information including the number of work stations to be used for testing.

“There should have been some foreknowledge of the types of loads that they would see during the statewide readiness test,” Klawitter says. Continue Reading

Pence: Let’s Prepare Students For Career As Well As College

Updated, 3:17 p.m.: 

Gov. Mike Pence is taking his message promoting career and technical education national.

Gov. Mike Pence (far left) testifies before a Congressional committee Wednesday. (Photo Credit: @GovPenceIN/Twitter)

Gov. Mike Pence (far left) testifies before a Congressional committee Wednesday. (Photo Credit: @GovPenceIN/Twitter)

Pence testified before a congressional committee on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, presenting examples of what’s going on in Indiana to help all students succeed, whether they’re ultimately headed for college or career.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce heard from the governor as one of four speakers at a hearing titled “Expanding Opportunity in America’s Schools and Workplaces.”

“We want our high schools to work for all our kids regardless of where they want to start in life,” Pence said. “This is not about a ‘Plan A’ and a ‘Plan B’ – this is about two ‘Plan As’.”

The governor introduced the committee to his goal of a five-fold increase in the number of Hoosier high schoolers graduating with an industry-recognized credential by 2020. He said he thinks career and technical education should be a priority in every high school.

“For those students who are not bound for the traditional four-year college, we must still ensure that they can thrive in their future careers,” Pence said.

Pence touted recent growth of investment in career and vocational programs in Indiana schools, as well as the creation of both the Indiana Career Council and the Indiana Regional Works Councils – two groups that have laid out strategic plans to build school-community partnerships.

The governor’s examples served to reinforce a point he drove home toward the end of his testimony: education should be primarily a state and local function.

“To the extent that this Congress can give states more freedom, more flexibility to innovate, our children, our states and our people will be the beneficiaries,” Pence told committee members.

Both Pence and President Barack Obama have emphasized the connection between schools and the workforce in their respective annual budgets.

Pence has continued his call for additional funding for career and technical education at the K-12 level. Just yesterday, the president asked for $200 million for a new initiative he’s calling the “American Technical Training Fund,” a program that would expand opportunities for school-employer partnerships in higher education.

Along those same lines, Obama plans to visit Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis this Friday. He is slated to talk about “how to prepare Americans to earn higher wages and the importance of keeping good, high-paying jobs in America.”

Obama’s Proposed Budget Emphasizes Higher Education

Despite reports that a majority-Republican Congress likely means President Barack Obama’s budget proposal will be “dead on arrival,” he is pushing for more spending in many areas, including education. 

President Barack Obama's 2016 budget proposal details $70.7 billion in spending for the Department of Education. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)

President Barack Obama\’s 2016 budget proposal details $70.7 billion in spending for the Department of Education. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)

If President Obama gets his way, the federal Department of Education will get $70.7 billion in funding for fiscal year 2016. That’s $3.6 billion more than the agency currently receives.

Education spending only makes up part of President Barack Obama’s nearly $4 trillion plan, but it’s a significant chunk of change. We won’t take you through every cent, but here’s one thing you should keep an eye on: higher education. Getting a degree (and helping students pay for it) is one item taking center stage for Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, in this budget session, to the tune of $4.3 million. 

Here are a few ways they plan to help out:

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Is Second Grade Too Early To Take A State Test?

A common complaint among parents today is that their kids take way too many tests.

There are multiple sittings for state assessments, along with college entrance exams in high school – not to mention the unit tests students already take in different classes.

And since the spring of 2011, kids in Indiana have also taken the IREAD 3, an evaluation given as part of a reading deficiency remediation plan. Right now, it’s students in third grade who take that assessment.

Now, one senator has proposed what she sees as a remedy for all the testing. Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, wrote Senate Bill 169, which would move the IREAD assessment to second grade.

Houchin says this will alleviate the stresses of testing for third graders, who take the ISTEP+ for the first time that year, too.

Senate Bill 169 would move the IREAD-3 test from third to second grade. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education/Flickr)

Senate Bill 169 would move the IREAD-3 test from third to second grade. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education/Flickr)

Houchin’s bill only adds to controversy surrounding IREAD-3.

Currently, every third grader has two chances to pass the high-stakes exam. Students who don’t pass on their first try in March are given the chance to pass a retake after a few months of remediation work. Students who don’t pass on second attempt have to retake third grade versions of the ISTEP+ and IREAD exams the following school year.

Some state officials argue this could lead to students being held back from entering fourth grade, despite language in the law establishing the test that calls for holding students back only “as a last resort.”

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Don’t Expect Many Surprises In Obama’s State of the Union

Unlike many of his predecessors before him, President Barack Obama has let his hand show in the weeks leading to his seventh State of the Union address Tuesday night – so, we’re confident we can fill you in on some of what to expect.

President Barack Obama delivers his seventh State of the Union address Tuesday night. (Photo Credit: Talk Radio News Service/Flickr)

President Barack Obama delivers his seventh State of the Union address Tuesday night. (Photo Credit: Talk Radio News Service/Flickr)

Education issues certainly took center stage in Governor Mike Pence’s annual State of the State address last week. President Obama has said he will lay out details on a few major school-related initiatives, but the topic will be one of many receiving air-time.

This year, the commander in chief tried something new, laying out some of the policies he intends to introduce in his annual address ahead of time, during trips across the country.

That’s why, a few weeks ago, he traveled to Tennessee with Vice President Joe Biden to announce what he called one of the most important proposal he’ll make Tuesday night: a new initiative aimed at making community college tuition free. We’ve already explained this idea in-depth, but here’s a basic rundown:

  • To qualify, a student must maintain a 2.5 GPA and attend school at least halftime, and
  • The president intends to help pay for those through a tax plan that would raise about $200 million over the next ten years.

It’s expected the president will unveil further logistics for the plan in his speech.

Video courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov

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Dollars and Sense: What Will Obama’s Education Budget Look Like?

‘Tis the season: budget season.

As Hoosiers wait for the Indiana General Assembly to come out with a finalized state budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, America still awaits a budget proposal from President Barack Obama. Members of the Obama administration have hinted at details of his budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, due out sometime next month.

President Barack Obama unveils his 2016 budget request sometime in February. (Photo Credit: mirsasha/Flickr)

President Barack Obama unveils his 2016 budget request sometime in February. (Photo Credit: mirsasha/Flickr)

If history repeats itself, we might expect the president to increase his funding request for the federal Department of Education in 2016. Last year, he requested an appropriation of $68.6 billion – an increase of $1.3 billion from 2014, and almost $3 billion more than in 2013.

Education spending makes up about four percent of the annual national budget, according to the Federal Education Budget Project.

The USED’s elementary and secondary programs serve approximately 50 million students in close to 17,000 school districts annually. Department programs also provide assistance to more than 13 million postsecondary students.

Here in Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence named education as one of four main priorities in his recommended budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. K-12 and higher education spending combined would make up about 60 percent of that budget.

As we’ve reported, Pence’s initiatives for Hoosier schools would work toward two larger goals: getting 100,000 more students in B or better schools and achieving a five-fold increase in high schoolers graduating with an industry-recognized credential, both by the year 2020.

How do the governor’s plans for Indiana measure up against the president’s?

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