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

State Board Kicks Off Flexibility Discussions for A-F Grades

Doors have closed on the 2014-15 academic year – a year of great change – but state officials are just beginning to figure out what it all means for schools.

In a monthly meeting jam-packed with hefty agenda items, the State Board of Education spent time discussing how they’ll deal with school accountability for the past year.

State Board of Education members Byron Ernest (left) and Eddie Melton listen to presentations during the board's July meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Board of Education members Byron Ernest (left) and Eddie Melton listen to presentations during the board\’s July meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

When Indiana dropped Common Core in 2014, the state rolled out an entirely new set of academic standards and an updated ISTEP+ test to match. Student scores are often low the first year an exam is introduced, which has many Hoosier leaders concerned over how schools would be held accountable.

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.

IDOE staff released a list of 12 options for calculating school accountability grades for the 2014-15 school year, which State Board members began discussing at their meeting Wednesday.

The board eventually needs to approve whatever option the state decides to pursue, since the group has final approval of all school grades.

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Ivy Tech Under Pressure To Prove Student Progress, Keep Funding

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.

Read more at: www.southbendtribune.com

New Legislation Will Keep State Board Busy This Month

State Board of Education member Vince Bertram and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during the a meeting in June 2015. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Board of Education member Vince Bertram and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during the a meeting in June 2015. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Summer may be in full swing, but school issues are still front and center following the conclusion of the Indiana legislature’s 2015 “education session.”

The State Board of Education gathers Wednesday in Indianapolis for its monthly meeting, with a long list of discussion items stemming from recently passed legislation. This is only the second time the group has convened with five new board members.

The newbies had a pretty light agenda for their first go-around – this time the to-do list looks a bit more substantive:

  • Board “elections:” As we explained last week, one of the provisions in the new law restructuring the board calls for members to appoint a vice chair and secretary. These people will work alongside the current chair, state superintendent Glenda Ritz, to facilitate board business. Many state education experts – and some board members – have their money on Avon schoolteacher Sarah O’Brien for the vice chair post, but in reality any of the 10 appointed members could end up in either position.
  • 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)

    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.

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Check Out The Education Laws That Go Into Effect July 1

Lawmakers passed 25 school-related bills during the 2015 "education session." (Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr)

Lawmakers passed 25 school-related bills during the 2015 “education session.” (Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr)

The Indiana General Assembly passed 259 laws this year, most of which go into effect July 1 to correspond to the fiscal year.

Legislators took a special interest in school-related issues during what they dubbed the “education session” – 25 of the measures they passed dealt with the way districts operate.

Some of these laws are new. Others, such as State Board of Education reorganization, have been discussed in the past but never acted upon, and some laws, like failing school interventions, are updates to existing laws.

Explained in detail below are 10 of those laws we think are important. Don’t worry – we listed the others below. Did we miss any? If so, let us know in the comments section.

1. State Board of Education governance (SB 1)

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.

Elements of several similar measures – most notably House Bill 1609Senate Bill 452 and Senate Bill 453 – made it into the final version of this one, overarching bill.

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.

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.”

2. School funding formula  (HB 1001)

The state’s new biennial budget includes numerous education-related pieces, most notably a major overhaul to the school funding formula.

We’ve already reported on several of the new items in the upcoming budget: check out our stories on specific student population benefits and charter school building funds.

3. Standardized testing study (SB 62)

Lawmakers will decide whether or not to keep the state's current ISTEP+ testing system. (Photo Credit: James Martin/Flickr)

Lawmakers will decide whether or not to keep the state\’s current ISTEP+ testing system. (Photo Credit: James Martin/Flickr)

The measure allows a summer study committee to discuss the possibility of replacing Indiana’s statewide ISTEP+ standardized testing program with an alternative assessment.

By federal mandate, every state needs a standardized test to match its academic standards. Hoosier lawmakers have generated multiple versions of ISTEP+ to pair with the new Indiana Academic Standards since Gov. Pence pulled out of the Common Core in 2014.

Advocates of replacing ISTEP+ say using a national assessment would save money and eliminate all the run-around involved in creating another new state-specific test.

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Indiana Waiting On Three-Year NCLB Waiver Extension

Its time once again for Hoosier education officials to play the waiting game.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Indiana has requested a flexibility waiver from the federal government for No Child Left Behind, the national law issuing across-the-board requirements states have to follow in order to receive federal funding.

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.

Indiana’s Department of Education submitted its application for a three-year renewal this spring. The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday it will renew waivers for seven states and Washington, D.C. – but the Hoosier state was not on the list just yet.

Reports say state officials should hear back by late summer or early fall.

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Schools Look Within Walls To Find Future Leaders

Schools in Indiana – and across the country – are changing rapidly.

Along with new sets of standards, testing programs and systems for tracking accountability, districts regularly deal with an evolving workforce. Thanks to technology and other constraints, some school jobs don’t look like they used to, and others have a shorter lifespan due to the pressures of working in what’s become a somewhat stressful environment.

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)

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.

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Monroe County Students Will Not Take Acuity Test Next Year

The number of standardized tests a student takes each year has grown larger across the country – and so has distaste for the practice.

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)

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.

As we’ve reported, this month the State Board of Education decided schools may choose their own formative assessment. This came out of a condition in the state’s new two-year budget.

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.

MCCSC students will take the ISTEP+ test during the 2015-16 school year. That assessment is required since scores count in the state’s formula for calculating A-F school accountability grades.

Indiana Contemplates Changing High School Diplomas

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 graduation rate as of 2013. (Photo Credit: Coordenação Proerd Go/Flickr)

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).

Changes would be made based on a proposal from the Core 40 Subcommittee, a subset of the Indiana Career Council made up of various stakeholders from the business, K-12, higher education, school administration and other communities. The General Assembly established the group in 2014 and charged them with making recommendations to the State Board of Education.

Right now, Indiana offers students their choice of four diplomas:

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.

Core 40 is currently the minimum college admission requirement for all of Indiana’s public four-year universities.

The subcommittee, headed by both state superintendent Glenda Ritz and commissioner of higher education Teresa Lubbers, recommends continuing with only three diplomas:

As they are drafted, not every local school district is required to offer every type of diploma.

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Take A Peek Behind Indiana’s High School Graduation Rate

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/


The nation’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high – 81 percent. It was such big news, President Obama touted it in his State of the Union address. So what’s the truth behind this number?

Read more at: www.npr.org

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