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.
Last week, Governor Mike Pence announced the five counties chosen to participate in the state’s first pre-k pilot program, which is scheduled for a full launch next July.
Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana
Students at a Jump Start program in Seymour work with their teacher on learning the alphabet.
Schools in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties plan to have the program up and running for the 2015-16 school year. That means they have exactly 12 months to prepare – and already the clock seems to be ticking rather quickly.
Of the counties selected, only Jackson is considered a rural area. With a population of more than 43,000 people, the southeastern Indiana county consists of four distinct towns, the largest of which is Seymour. Pre-k has recently become a topic of interest there, as well as in each of the outer lying towns – Brownstown, Crothersville and Medora.
“There’s a push to really see if we can move that needle up,” says Dan Hodge, executive director of the Jackson County Education Coalition. “I think everybody understands why it’s important, it’s just the logistics of getting it done.”
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard unveiled a new initiative Wednesday that will fund preschool for children from low-income families, as well as boost the quality of local providers.
Michael Hickey / Getty Images
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard unveiled a new plan to reduce crime in the city which includes funding for quality preschool.
Ballard introduced the five-year program as part of a new plan to curb violence in the city. He said efforts to fight crime start with “prevention,” making sure at-risk kids have access to quality early childhood education programs.
“We, as society, can no longer keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results,” Ballard said in a statement. “The institutions that support the family have not kept up with changes in family structure and the culture. And the crime that cities across America are experiencing today is a direct result of it.”
Ballard argues that high-quality early preschool not only makes the city safer, but also improves academic, socioeconomic, behavioral and health outcomes for children living in poverty.
A-F accountability panel co-chairman Steve Yager listens as Claire Fiddian-Green and Steve Baker discuss their ideas about measuring student growth.
Bennett called the system “confusing,” and he’s not the only one. Current policymakers think something should be done to correct that.
So, like many other things in Indiana’s education system these days, A-F policies are getting a makeover. A panel of policymakers from the state’s Department of Education and the governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation is in talks to tweak those policies, to make them clearer for schools and families.
The group released a timeline in June about where the state plans to move with the new system. Emphasizing student growth is a priority, according to Claire Fiddian-Green, special assistant for education innovation to Governor Mike Pence.
“Let’s measure how close a student is to being on target, or whether they’re above target, and if they’re below target, just how below target are they,” Fiddian-Green says.
Indiana’s commissioner for higher education went before a U.S. Senate committee today, to stress the importance of funding higher education and explain the state’s plan to boost college degree attainment.
Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana
Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers prepares for the December meeting.
Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties will participate in Indiana’s pre-K pilot program aimed at preparing low-income four-year-olds for success in school.
Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana
Students play a bingo game to help improve their counting skills at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.
Parents in those counties will now be eligible for state funds that they can use to send their children to a “quality” preschool–one that is either a Level 3 or 4 on the state’s Paths to QUALITY rating system.
“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Governor Pence in a statement. “The State looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”
Pence also recognized the 13 other finalists, thanking them for their commitment to Indiana’s children.
The program is on track for a full launch by July 2015.
New data shows Indiana children are making strides in education, despite persisting poverty.
Indiana ranks 29th in the nation in education, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Bookranks Indiana 26th nationally in education, moving the state up from 34th last year.
The rankings are based on a few components. The first is improvement in scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the “nation’s report card.” Indiana saw an 11 percent increase in the number of students below proficient in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math.
Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, says the Indiana Department of Education deserves some credit for the upswing, especially in the wake of a sudden transition from the nationally crafted Common Core Standards to state-specific academic standards.
“[They have] done a wonderful job as the standards have changed with creating resource documents to help teachers find other tools and materials online that can be useful towards teaching these standards,” Stanczykiewicz says.
Despite gains, many students still lag behind academically. Nearly two-thirds of 4th graders still perform below the proficient level in reading; the same goes for 8th graders’ performance in math.
Indiana is one of the few states hitting the mark for national special education framework.
Corie Howell (flickr)
Indiana is one of fifteen states that met requirements for the national special education framework this year.
The U.S. Department of Education last month announced a shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs. The department will now focus less on state compliance factors – such as timelines for evaluations - and more on how well those students are being taught.
The new framework, known as Results-Driven Accountability, will still take compliance indicators into account, but will also include educational outcome measures for students with disabilities, such as their performance in reading and math on state assessments and the achievement gap between such students and their peers.
With those changes in mind, the federal department determined annual state performance under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. “IDEA” requires the Department to place states in one of four categories: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention or needs substantial intervention.
Based on data collected for the 2012-13 school year, only 15 states fell into the “meets requirements” category, including Indiana. That’s less than half the amount that met the mark last year under the old framework.
More than half of the states were categorized as “needs assistance.”
Arlington High School will be open this year, and Indianapolis non-profit EdPower will continue to operate the school, despite fears that it might close.
Arlington High School, a takeover within the Indianapolis Public School system, will remain open through the 2014-15 school year.
The turnaround school operator, also known as Tindley Accelerated Schools, indicated as early as last summer that it might not be in a financial position to operate the failing school for the 2014-2015 school year.Marcus Robinson, EdPower’s Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer, sent a letter to State Superintendent Glenda Ritz in June requesting $2.4 million, and followed up at the State Board of Education meeting in early July.
The charter network that funds and oversees Arlington has enough money to keep the school running for at least another year with some help. Indianapolis Public Schools intends to provide some cost-neutral services, such as grounds work and building maintenance, to help offset some of the costs in the budget as well.
The city of Indianapolis will also work with other area non-profits to gain additional support.
The network plans to aggressively recruit students for future years.
Community members pack the gym at Lincoln School for a public meeting about the school's failing accountability scores.
Superintendent Glenda Ritz and members of the Department of Education and State Board of Education staff, including SBOE Executive Director Robert Guffin, heard public comment at both Lincoln Elementary and McGary Middle School, to solicit input on how to better serve students.
The meeting – required by law since both schools have received failing accountability grades five years in a row – focused on five options for improving the schools’ performances:
Merge with another school.
Assign special management teams to operate all or part of the schools.
Implement recommendations from the IDOE for improving the schools.
Implement other options for improvement expressed at the hearing.
Revise the schools’ plans in the areas of procedures and operations, professional development or intervention for teachers and administration.
Over the past decade, an increasing percentage of teachers have either moved to another school or left the profession altogether.
An increasing number of teachers is leaving the workforce each year.
A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education shows that roughly half a million U.S. teachers move or leave the profession each year. That’s a turnover rate of about 20 percent compared to 9 percent in 2009.
State-by-state analysis found that 7 percent of Indiana’s teachers left between 2008-09.
That rate of attrition is relatively high compared to some other careers, according to a similar study released by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Teachers had significantly less turnover than secretaries, child care workers or correctional officers. On the other hand, teachers leave their jobs at about the same rate as police officers and considerably more often than nurses, lawyers and engineers.
And it’s costing school districts, large and small. Thousands of dollars walk out the door each time a teacher leaves because schools have to pay for recruiting, the hiring process, and training new teachers.
Attrition costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually. Those teachers that left Indiana? Its estimated their departures cost the state between $20 million and $45 million.