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.
Here are just a few of the items they’ll look into:
IPS Turnaround: District officials from Indianapolis Public Schools will update the board on progress at its turnaround academies – Emma Donnan Middle School, Emmerich Manual High School and T.C. Howe High Schools, all operated by Charter Schools USA. Most prominent in this discussion will likely be Arlington High School – a takeover school that returned to IPS management this year. Fellow education reporter Eric Weddle is embedded at Arlington this school year – check out his series of stories from inside the halls here. We’ll run another story from Weddle on what he expects from this conversation on the blog tomorrow.
Testing Committee: The board will begin the process to assemble a standing committee that will oversee the development and operation of statewide tests going forward. Although the board has mobilized this type of group during periods of transition in the past, according to a resolution on the board’s website, Indiana has received “expert recommendations” that the state should establish a permanent four to six member group including “individuals who have specific expertise.” The group would provide technical advice to both the State Board and Department of Education on matters such as test design and assessment of special populations (think English language learners and students with special education needs).
Speaking of tests, it doesn’t look as though the board will have much to discuss about the process of releasing ISTEP+ scores from the 2014-15 school year.
Board spokesman Marc Lotter says the board hopes to approve subsequent A-F school accountability grades during its inaugural 2016 meeting in January. After that, schools will be able to complete teacher evaluations and receive their annual state-assigned performance grant distributions.
The State Board meets Wednesday beginning at 9 a.m. Anyone interested can watch the proceedings live online.
Think about your favorite teachers. What drew you to them?
Maybe they helped you enjoy a subject you didn’t particularly like, or made you feel comfortable in a new classroom setting. In short, you most likely felt like they could relate to you.
Having teachers who can work with a wide range of student experiences is especially crucial to ensure success for children who come from diverse backgrounds. But it can also be difficult to find those teachers – especially in Indiana’s current educational environment.
Many of the students Sarah Laptiste meets as kindergarteners at Clinton Young Elementary School will stay in her classroom until they go on to middle school around age eleven.
A map of all the home countries of students and their families graces the bulletin board outside Clinton Young Elementary School ELL teacher Sarah Laptiste’s classroom. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
“Some of the kids, I remember when they were born – I’ve had all their brothers and sisters,” Laptiste says with a smile, reflecting on her 11 years at the school. “Fifth graders I have in here, I remember when they were in kindergarten. There’s a lot of history between us and I know their parents very well. We’ve been together a long time.”
This relationship and the continuity it provides makes Laptiste different from all the other “regular” teachers her students encounter. It also makes her well-suited to deliver the kind of instruction these specific students need: learning the English language.
Laptiste is one of two certified English Language Learning, or ELL, instructors at her school – along with an ELL facilitator, two ELL aides, and a translator. Of the approximately 700 K-5 students attending Clinton Young, about 30 percent are classified as English learners. In total, nearly one-third of the 15,000 kids Perry Township serves district-wide are ELL students. For the most part, these students’ primary languages include Spanish and Burmese, or Chin, a language spoken in southern Asia.
Clinton Young is part of the Metropolitan School District of Perry Township, a corporation on the south side of Indianapolis that’s home to a large concentration of Chin people. As a state, Indiana lays claim to one of the largest populations of people from Burma, also known as Myanmar, outside of the country itself.
Other cities and towns are in similar situations. The Hoosier state houses emigrants from Mexico, India, China and the Philippines, just to name a few.
According to the national Center for Immigration Studies, one in five Americans speaks a language other than English as home – that’s 63.2 million people, and growing. That applies to 22 percent of school-age children.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
House Speaker Brian Bosma elaborated on the plan for House Bill 1002, which he will co-sponsor with Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, a former school superintendent, and House Education Committee chair Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis. The bill will advocate for a program first brought to legislators’ attention by State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry, as a way to encourage more people to go into teaching.
As we reported when Hendry introduced his plan in August, the Next Generation Hoosier Educator Scholarship program would give Indiana’s top high school students an opportunity to earn a full ride scholarship to any accredited in-state school of education, so long as they spend five years teaching in an Indiana classroom after graduation – one more year than the four Hendry originally proposed.
“Our program’s going to say five years, which is related to the statistic on keeping teachers in the classroom – there’s bona fide evidence that they tend to stay [after five years],” Bosma says.
Hendry says he’s pleased the legislature is including his plan as part of the 2016 education agenda.
“I look forward to helping make this plan a reality,” Hendry said in a statement. “Making sure there are great teachers in every classroom is critically important to the future of our state, and it’s something we can all work together to solve.”
Bosma says there may be available funds to pay for the scholarships beginning this year, despite the fact that 2016 is not a budget session.
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, says he and his party are on board with finding ways to recruit more teachers into Hoosier classrooms.
“That’s not an ideological thing, we all want good teachers who are happy doing their jobs,” Pelath says. “There’s probably different ways to go about that. I think the discussions there have to be around what’s actually going to be the most effective in bringing that about.”
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
Pelath says he hopes the Republican-led House will listen to Democratic state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who has been working with her Blue Ribbon Commission to determine best practices for recruiting and retaining Indiana teachers. Pelath says he wants to be a voice for Ritz’s ideas in his chamber.
As students and teachers creep toward Thanksgiving break and the end of their first academic semester, state policymakers are preparing for their own “term” to begin.
The 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly begins in January, but before legislative leaders call the group to order they have some preliminary business to attend to – primarily, defining the issues they plan to address. Lawmakers and other policy leaders say education will be an important agenda item.
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has been leading a group of educators in identifying potential solutions to Indiana’s teacher shortage. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
House Bill 1002 – the House’s second priority, after transportation – will highlight solutions for teacher recruitment. House Speaker Brian Bosma says he will work with Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, to sponsor the bill, which will focus on attracting the state’s best and brightest into the teaching profession.
“That’s one step,” Bosma says. “Licensing, open borders for excellent teacher from other states – it’s all part of the picture.”
Indiana policymakers are focusing a lot of their attention lately on the different diploma options offered to Hoosier high school students. After the original draft for new choices came down from a committee of educators and business leaders, members of the public had a lot to say about he proposed changes – so much so that the State Board of Education decided to send them back to the drawing board. Over the next two weeks, we’re taking a deep dive into some of the ideas that have been brought forth, why they are so controversial and what they mean for preparing Indiana’s students to be college- and career-ready. Check out our previous stories on arts and math requirements, as well as how the new options would impact students’ choices.
The amount and type of classes required of Hoosier high school students will change beginning in 2018, based on a new slate of diplomas Indiana policymakers are expected to finalize as soon as April.
Without getting into too many nuances (i.e. whether social studies credits must be split among U.S. History, Geography, Economics, etc.), here’s a general look at how the amount and distribution of credits would change for each of Indiana’s diplomas:
Along with students themselves, the people helping them craft their schedules will bear the brunt of the pressure to make these changes work.
As we’ve reported, guidance counselors have an increasingly tougher – and more demanding – job. In addition to plenty of other duties, they’re charged primarily with keeping track of and meeting with students from eighth grade forward to draw a plan across their high school careers.
Listening to Bluffton High School Guidance director Jodi Leas tick off the list of considerations needed to do so would make anyone dizzy.
Bluffton High students study in their school library. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
“It’s not just, ‘oh, you need this class so you take that class.’ It’s like, okay, how many kids need this class? How does that fit in the puzzle of the schedule? How is that going to work, because it’s going to affect this teacher?” she explains. “It’s a puzzle.”
Like Leas, many school counselors will have to rethink how they piece that puzzle together based on which new courses are added or eliminated from different diplomas. And as you can see above, the credit requirements in general will increase for each option, based on the current draft of options.
But similar to the problem schools face with increased math requirements, the pressures they’ll face with increased credit provisions can’t simply be solved by adding more staff.
Indiana policymakers are focusing a lot of their attention lately on the different diploma options offered to Hoosier high school students. After the original draft for new choices came down from a committee of educators and business leaders, members of the public had a lot to say about he proposed changes – so much so that the State Board of Education decided to send them back to the drawing board. Over the next two weeks, we’re taking a deep dive into some of the ideas that have been brought forth, why they are so controversial and what they mean for preparing Indiana’s students to be college- and career-ready. Check out our previous stories on arts and math requirements.
Bluffton High School senior Jacob Ehle will graduate next May. After that, he has a very specific – and unique – idea for his future.
“I plan to attend the University of Saint Francis [next year] and study radiologic technology,” Ehle says confidently, explaining that people with this background take X-rays, MRIs and tech scans in hospital settings.
But this wasn’t always the plan.
“I started out with a bunch of things. At first I wanted to do law enforcement/criminal justice, then I moved to physical therapy assistant, and now I’m at radiologic technology,” Ehle lists.
Arriving at this decision took some time, as well as trial and error. Ehle has taken his fair share of elective classes that helped him land on his intended major – everything from weightlifting to law enforcement to foods and nutrition. He says the ability to try his hand at all of these subjects added a lot to his high school experience.
“It really gave me a great idea of what I wanted to do after high school,” Ehle says. “I thought I wanted to go into criminology, took that class – it was good, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I got to kind of got to move around and see what type of area fit me.”
With only two months left in the calendar year, Indiana schools are now one step closer to finally seeing their standardized test results from last spring.
The State Board of Education continued discussion of the 2015 ISTEP+ test at its regular meeting Wednesday. Members approved cut scores (the pass/fail line) at a special meeting last week, but saved decisions about how this year’s scores would fall along that line for this session.
State Board of Education members Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, Eddie Melton and David Freitas listen during the group’s November meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
You’ll remember policymakers raised a red flag back in October, expressing concern over differences in difficulty between the online and paper/pencil versions of the annual assessment. A test expert examined the data and confirmed that differences did in fact exist, and tended to work in favor of students completing their test on paper, except in a few instances involving math questions.
That’s why expert Derek Briggs recommended the board consider awarding bonus points to students who completed the more difficult mode. And that’s what the board voted to do.
In most cases, adjustments will be made for students who completed the online exam, or those who completed paper versions with more complicated math problems. Indiana Department of Education testing director Michele Walker says no student’s score should go down as a result, but some could see a boost of up to nine points.
Walker adds that score adjustments will not change the timeline for releasing scores to schools, which could happen as early as December 8.
The timeline for completing and releasing 2015 scores has already been delayed numerous times. Outgoing test vendor CTB alerted the board to grading issues in August, and the process has stretched out further ever since.
And calculating those accountability grades is something else Derek Briggs brought to the board’s attention. Last week, state Superintendent Glenda Ritz said her Department of Education would need to contact their federal counterparts to see whether taking the kind of action Briggs recommended regarding bonus points is within the realm of possibility for accountability under Indiana’s No Child Left Behind waiver.
Ritz says the feds okayed the state’s score adjustment system, but the conversation about what Indiana does with accountability is ongoing.
But voters bucked the norm by approving more than half of those measures. Typically, researchers say, referenda have a better chance of passing in May, since pro-referenda voters aren’t the majority of those who turn out for fall ballots boasting big races such as mayoral contests or city council races.
Source: Indiana Department of Local Government Finance
Indiana lawmakers implemented property tax reform in 2008, which resulted in a smaller portion of tax revenue distribution to school corporations. That’s why local school corporations tend to turn more to voters now to help foot the bill for construction and other projects.
Including Tuesday night’s results, just over half of the 128 school-related measures brought forth in Indiana since 2008 have passed. Check out our referenda scorecard to see how voters weighed in on those measures.
State Board of Education member Steve Yager. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
But Tuesday morning, one board member Steve Yager submitted a resolution that, if approved, would send these diplomas back to the drawing board.
During the process of gathering input and public comment on the proposed changes, board members have expressed differing opinions on a number of items that would change.
As a result, board member Steve Yager submitted a resolution asking that his colleagues return the recommendations to the group that developed them. He’s hoping the Core 40 Subcommittee will reconsider the following changes:
Provide draft course descriptions for courses including Math 10, Quantitative Reasoning, Applied Math, and Personal Financial Responsibility
Redefine the term “College and Career Readiness Focus” to better reflect the goal of directed electives, while maintaining the academic flexibility of students
Rename the “College and Career Ready” and “Workforce Ready” diplomas so not to label or limit future educational and career options of students
Define the “graduation capstone” requirement in a manner to provide maximum flexibility to local districts and to account for current local practices
Reinstate the option of a “general diploma”
Provide an operational and fiscal impact analysis of the proposed changes to Indiana high schools
Yager isn’t the only board member who has expressed his dissatisfaction with the recommendations the way they stand for vote come Wednesday. Gordon Hendry took to Twitter Monday night to voice his concern:
#INSBOE: I will not support the proposed diplomas @ Wed mtg; need to go back to drawing board esp re languages, fine arts, spec ed & honors