The Inside Out class at Indianapolis Re-entry Educational Facility meets. The class is part of an international program that brings college students and incarcerated people together to learn. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)
INDIANAPOLIS — To get to the classroom inside Indianapolis Re-entry Educational Facility, IREF, you go through a metal detector, a set of locked doors and across a long, open yard.
Behind another set of doors, class is in session.
Sitting in a circle, students discuss their designs of an ideal facility that helps incarcerated people transition back into society. They’re working on their final project for this class, held behind bars, on the criminal justice system.
The class is part of the international Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, a program that brings college students and incarcerated people together with one goal: learning.
Here, half of the students are “inside students,” people incarcerated here at IREF. The other half are “outside students,” college students from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Together, they’re inside and out. Inside-Out.
“I’m the most talkative person in the class actually,” Dariek says, with a laugh.
Dariek’s currently incarcerated, but being released soon, so we aren’t using his last name.
“Man, this is best thing that has happened to me in the entire 18 years I have been incarcerated,” Dariek says. “I went to college in prison but I didn’t experience the college thing, like with the students.”
Dariek speaks to his Inside-Out classmates. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)
In the early 2000s, Indiana had one of the largest college degree programs for incarcerated adults, by percentage, in the nation. People inside Indiana prisons received about 1,000 degrees a year.
In 2010, much of that began to be phased out. A 2011 law restricted state funding for college programs.
“We had up to 400 college professors going into prisons everyday to teach college programs,” says John Nally, Indiana Department of Correction education director.
Nally says prison education now focuses primarily on job-training and GED programs.
“You know, we like to say we’re training Indiana’s future workforce,” he says.
But some worry this is turning Indiana prisons into “intellectual deserts.” Continue Reading →
“That’s my goal for every year, is just to be better than the person I was last year.”
GCSC administrators work with education consultant Irving Jones over the summer. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
One could argue that’s a sentiment any school administrator would be happy to hear from his or her teachers. And it’s one the Gary Community School Corporation is emphasizing to help improve its current situation.
While the rest of Indiana struggles with a teacher shortage, we don’t know what that will look like in Gary. One has to wonder: with the way the district and its city have been struggling, how much talent will they actually be able to recruit?
For the first time in 20 or 30 years, a big group of Gary’s teachers are moving on, creating openings for new blood. So this year, Superintendent Pruitt and other GCSC administrators are making sure all district teachers – young and old, new and returning – are on the same page.
You got to get out of what you think and what you been doing for 40 years and we gotta move over here, or else you need to go home. Getting just that mindset – fixed mindset to a growth mindset, so that people can see us someplace else.
To many, Dr. Cheryl Pruitt stands out among other important Gary residents and benefactors, including Oprah, the Jackson 5 and Magic Johnson. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
A sneak peek…
Dr. Cheryl Pruitt is a product of the district she now heads. During the course of her career, she has also taught and served as an administrator at several Gary schools. She says she never planned to become superintendent – it’s one of those things that “just kind of happened.” And, she says, it’s home.
Despite her love for the city, she’s not in denial about the problems its school district faces.
I’m probably not the traditional superintendent, because I have debt, I have funding, I have education – and then I have the negative publicity, the vouchers, the charters, the takeover – it kind of all just goes together in my head.
By now, you’ve likely heard this headline: Indiana – like many other states all over the country – is facing a teacher shortage.
As we’ve reported, the number of first-year educators granted a Hoosier State license dropped pretty dramatically last year. Across the nation, fewer people are becoming teachers than in past years, too. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the U.S. fell by about 30 percent between 2010 and 2014.
For the most part, people agree this drop could represent a troubling trend. Where they tend to disagree is in what’s causing it, and what the appropriate response should be.
Everyone, even the national media, has an opinion. Long story short: officials mulling over what to do about Indiana’s situation usually lie in one of two camps.
On one side, there are those who see the shortage as a problem that can be addressed most effectively on the front end, when teachers first enter school as students. They see it as a matter of what teaching trainees pay for their education versus the return on that investment once they get a job.
Gordon Hendry listens during a State Board of Education meeting earlier this spring. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
Indiana State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry sits on this side of the issue. He says he thinks he has a solution that will get more of the state’s best and brightest into Hoosier classrooms: do something about their low salaries.
“There’s been a substantial rise in the cost of getting a higher education in our state. When you weigh that against the teacher salaries, I think the formula is a little out of whack,” Hendry says.
Mallory Rickbeil and her boyfriend Chris Stearly want to buy a home, but Rickbeil’s student debt is preventing them from moving forward with that decision. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)
The path to a college education has gotten pretty complicated.
The American job force is increasingly demanding a college degree, and at the same time it’s becoming more and more unaffordable to get one. Tuition is increasing and grants and financial assistance aren’t keeping pace. Young people are taking out thousands of dollars to get just a bachelor’s degree, and as we’ve reported, Indiana has one of the highest rates of college graduates defaulting on their student loans.
With the millennial generation carrying more student loan debt than any other, what does this do to the overall economy, as millennials move toward marriage and home buying? How will their habits change the landscape of higher education?
First Comes Love, Then Comes…Debt Payments?
Mallory Rickbeil and Chris Stearly just moved into a new house in Bloomington. This is the second place they’re renting together, and it’s an upgrade from their previous home.
“There’s so much space,” Rickbeil says. “Chris and I were looking around being like, ‘we have too much space.’”
Roominess aside, the new house has one huge flaw: it’s not theirs.
“Chris and I have the same objective of wanting to have a house that we own, and at this point Chris is much more capable of doing that than I am – in a large part because of my student loans,” Rickbeil says.
Rickbeil owes thousands of dollars in student loan debt for a master’s degree she finished three years ago. She pays around $500 a month, which makes it tricky to make ends meet, let alone save for a house, something she and Chris are ready to do.
Momentum is so great that programs are popping up in places you might not otherwise expect them – like the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The IMA has offered summer classes and supplemental educational programming for years, but this is the first time it is hosting a group of young children for a year-long classroom experience. And like many of these other institutions, the IMA has a lot to consider in starting this type of educational program.
Children and adults alike have had opportunities to experience the IMA beyond its galleries and exhibits for years. The museum offers an array of courses ranging from creative indoor workshops to interactive adventure sessions at one of its many garden and outdoor facilities.
There is also plenty of programming for school groups, who often schedule their own field trips to the museum. Heidi Davis-Soylu, the IMA’s manager of academic engagement and learning research, noticed that one such local group took frequent advantage of these events, and decided it was worth forging a partnership.
Art supplies line the countertop in a preschool classroom at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
A toddler art program came out of that collaboration with St. Mary’s Child Center, which expanded and evolved into what has now become the IMA preschool.
“We learned a lot about working with toddlers in the art galleries – what’s the good ratio? How do we make this a space where they feel like they belong, but they also know how to be quiet in the hallways if we need to?” Davis-Soylu explains. “Bringing in the arts is a great natural fit for early childhood education.”
So beginning this week, just as the museum is opening to the public, a gaggle of three- and four-year-olds is leaving the building at the end of their school day. This group of seven makes up the IMA’s very first preschool class.
“As the largest art institution in the state and as in schools cutbacks are happening for art education are happening, we’re charged with that task to play that role,” Davis-Soylu says.
These institutions saw a pretty big swing in their favor in the state’s new biennial budget: they can now receive additional money to pay for things like buildings, technology, and transportation – money they couldn’t previously access.
Not everyone likes charter schools, or believes that they should be handed public funds, but others say the move could serve as a pretty big incentive to not only to draw more charter schools into Indiana, but to keep the schools that are already here – and their traditional counterparts – performing at a high level.
Mariama Carson stands in an empty parking lot on Commercial Drive, off of I-465 on the north side of Indianapolis. She looks up at a building that sits on the south end of the lot, among a series of strip malls. This particular space sits between a small Chinese restaurant and an abandoned H.H. Gregg grocery store.
A vacant space at 3695 Commercial Drive that Mariama Carson is considering for her proposed charter school, set to open in 2016. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
“A former Hobby Lobby,” Carson explains. “That’s what I know it as. I was a teacher down in this area, and I remember coming here to get crafts and things for the classroom.”
Carson, a former school principal in Pike Township, points to a different sign now atop the building entrance: “For Lease: Space Available, 56,000 square feet.” She says the space might be an option for Global Prep Academy, the proposed charter school she hopes to run.
“I think they’re waiting for it to be revived, and I’m hoping that this kind of space would be great for a school to revive the area,” Carson says.
3695 Commercial Drive has been empty for a long time; the last time Carson says she remembers coming in for craft supplies was maybe 10 years ago. In fact, five or six other retail spaces beside it also boast bold-faced “For Lease” signs.
Despite the vacancies, Carson says this area – dubbed the “International Marketplace” – is exactly the type of environment she’s been looking for to house her proposed K-8 school for dual language learners.
“The International Marketplace collectively is the most diverse pocket in the entire state of Indiana,” Carson recounts. “Wanting to have a school that’s in close proximity to the demographics we’re going after, it’s this place.”
But there is a major factor standing in her way: cost.
“The total for the whole project from the renovation standpoint was like $4.5 million – that’s just renovation, not even for the building,” Carson says. “To buy it is like over a million dollars.”
These are the some of the more than 60 skills five-year-olds are expected to learn now in Indiana’s public kindergartens:
Count to 100 by ones,
Solve real-world problems that involve addition and subtraction, and
Understand how a nonfiction book is organized.
They’re the same skills that could cause a student to struggle during first grade if they haven’t been exposed to them earlier.
Should kindergarten be mandatory for Hoosier kids? (Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)
“I am hoping they are going to be able to read and write and do their math and be able to count and recognize numbers,” says Karen Berman, a 24-year kindergarten teacher at Greenbrier Elementary in Washington Township. “We are doing a lot with number sense and it’s unbelievable.”
Students in Berman’s class use interactive technology, shout out fractions during group number games and learn how the government works.
Kindergarten, Berman says, is the new first grade.
“I think you have to mandate kindergarten,” Berman says. “What difference does it make if you put them in pre-k and they don’t go any further? And then go to first grade – they are still going to be behind. Yes, you have to have the pre-k, there is no question about it, but you have to mandate kindergarten.”