Former state superintendent Tony Bennett delivers a speech in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)
One storyline we never expected to continue for as long as it has: the recurring presence of former state superintendent Tony Bennett.
As we reported last summer, an ethics case against the former state official resulted in a $5,000 fine. The State Ethics Commission approved the settlement regarding allegations that Bennett used state resources during his 2012 re-election campaign, as discovered in a series of emails obtained by the Associated Press in 2013.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said Friday that the state will not file criminal charges in connection with either portion of the ethics case.
“No evidence was presented to justify criminal charges, and prosecution on each of these issues is declined,” Curry said in a statement. “I would note that submission of the same Inspector General materials to the U.S. Attorney’s Office likewise did not result in any Federal criminal charges.”
This week, Indianapolis Public Schools announced it is cutting back on some of its music program offerings – and not everyone is happy about the changes.
(Photo Credit: Loyola Fine & Performing Arts/Flickr)
The shift comes as a result of tweaks to the district’s staffing system. Right now, many IPS schools share music educators, who split their time between multiple buildings. This means some schools – specifically those with lower enrollments – don’t have a dedicated, full-time music teacher.
The new “model” seeks to streamline this, giving each school its own full-time music teacher. It’s a change taking place at the elementary school level only.
IPS spokesperson Kristin Cutler says no school will lose music entirely, but some may lose specific classes based on who they keep on for the full-time position.
“Some people are licensed to teach general and vocal music education, some people are licensed [for] instrumental music education, some people are licensed for both, so that would be the determining factor in if the offerings at a school change,” Cutler explains. For example, she adds, a school may keep its general music classes, but lose a band or orchestra program if the teacher is not certified in instrumental education.
Schools with higher enrollments will also be given an additional financial allocation that can be used to hire a second music teacher to support programming and scheduling needs. Cutler says that decision will be left up to individual school principals.
Indiana education officials have agreed to sign a contract with Pearson to operate the ISTEP+ beginning in the 2016 school year. (Photo Credit: Robbie/Flickr)
Testing company Pearson – slated to run Indiana’s statewide ISTEP+ tests beginning in 2016 – is facing criticism over security of assessments it handles in other states.
Education officials in Minnesota canceled statewide science exams Thursday after an apparent cyberattack on Pearson’s system Wednesday. This is the second time testing has been suspended due to hacks in less than a month.
POLITICO‘s Caitlin Emma summarizes the state’s response to the situation:
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius is now questioning whether Pearson can adequately serve as vendor.
“It is simply unacceptable and unfair to subject students and teachers to this kind of uncertainty in a high-stakes testing environment,” she said on Wednesday. “After the April 21 suspension, Pearson added additional security measures to prevent this type of disruption. Given the need to suspend testing today, I have questions about Pearson’s ability to follow through on their assurances.”
Cassellius said her department will talk to districts today about next steps.
Pearson representatives said in a statement that student data had not been compromised.
Indianapolis’ preschool scholarship program will hold a lottery this week to award scholarships to 1,300 eligible three- and four-year-olds. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
The lottery for the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program (Indy PSP) happens this week, and approximately 1,300 of the more than 5,000 families who applied for the program will be chosen to receive a scholarship for their three- and four-year-olds to attend a Level 3 or 4 program on the state’s Paths to QUALITY ranking system.
Jason Kloth, the city’s Deputy Mayor for Education, says his office did not expect this many applicants, especially considering there is an estimated 6,000-12,000 eligible children in the city who qualify for the program.
“To see that kind of response in a fairly short window of time for a program in the first year of its inception is just exceptional,” Kloth says. “It’s just a testament to the great work of the United Way of Central Indiana and the Indiana Neighborhood Resource Center.”
Selected families will receive a letter next week, at which point they will have two weeks to accept the scholarship and until July to select a qualified provider. Continue Reading →
Congress is in the process of overhauling No Child Left Behind – the nation’s cornerstone education law – and has been since the beginning of the year. The process of taking an idea from a bill to a law is long and arduous, as lawmakers working on NCLB have discovered – they currently find themselves at an impasse. See if you could endure the task: test your skills with EdWeek’s “Choose Your Own Legislative Adventure” game.
Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have been trying to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act since the beginning of January. So far, it’s the most serious attempt to overhaul the law since it was last rewritten back in 2001 and branded as the No Child Left Behind Act, the current iteration of the federal K-12 law.
All that craziness can really take its toll on students, teachers, and especially administrators – the people tasked with making sense of statewide programs and mandates for individual school districts.
One of the biggest items for them to tackle: finances.
Like many families, Indiana schools piece together budgets of their own. Instead of paying for groceries, they set aside funds for school lunches; rather than save up for a new car, they count pennies for transportation costs. But unlike the average household, a school district rarely sees a regular income – that number depends on a number of changing factors, including whether voters approve a referendum agreeing to pay extra taxes, or how the state legislature decides to calculate state funding.
What challenges does that create for schools already dealing with tight budgets?
All nine schools in the Brownsburg Community School Corporation have received an “A,” the top state ranking, over the past three years. The district has also remained at the top as far as performance on the state standardized ISTEP+ test, and teachers say their relationships with students and families remain positive.
The district is doing so well, in fact, that people have expressed interest to Brownsburg Superintendent Jim Snapp about moving to the area simply for the schools.
“We’re going to continue to do great things, it’s just going to be a little bit harder on the facilities,” Snapp says.
Every time someone steps on a Pavegen tile installed at Bloomington High School South, the kinetic energy from the footstep creates a few watts of energy. photo credit: Harrison Wagner / WTIU News
Bloomington High School South is the only public school in the country creating electricity every time their students walk through the hallway.
Thanks to a new installation of tiles from London-based energy technology company Pavegen, every time a student walks over the tiles, the kinetic energy from their footsteps creates a few watts of energy. Right now, that energy powers the television that displays how many watts are stored on the battery, as well as two lit display boards.
BHSS students are using the new tiles to create educational opportunities for their classmates as well as younger students. AP Environmental Science teacher and Pavegen Project Coordinator Amanda Figolah says her students have already used the tiles for science and math lessons with more than 100 elementary school students.
“They’ll actually move through stations learning about solar power and wind power. There are demonstrations at each of those stations and also just about how we produce energy now in Indiana, which is primarily coal and fossil fuels,” Figolah says. “A second piece the other rotation is working on our Pavegen tiles to experience inquiry learning.”
Figolah’s students created these lesson plans based on state math and science standards, so students create graphs and practice the scientific method by writing a hypothesis such as, “will walking or jumping on the tiles create more energy?”
Indianapolis Public Schools wants to give consequences to students who post videos of fights online, which could lead to legal issues around the First Amendment. (Photo Credit: Witer/Flickr)
After a fight between two students last week at Northwest High School in Indianapolis, Indianapolis Public School officials are meeting Monday with district principals to review student safety policies and procedures, including consequences for students who post videos of fights to social media.
Video of a fight last week between a male and female student was uploaded to YouTube, and according to IPS’s website, an updated version of the Student Code of Conduct will address students who take photos or videos of altercations between other students.
[IPS Police Chief Steven Garner] said that when it comes to cell phone video and social media, there are some disturbing trends that he cautions our students to avoid. Posting video of a fight on social media is not illegal, but it could lead to legal trouble if those involved were planning the video on purpose.
“If there were suggestion the fight was staged and recorded,” said Chief Garner, “we could perhaps petition the prosecutor to consider a conspiracy to commit battery.” In that case, the photographer could face conspiracy charges as well.
Chief Garner also stressed that video of an incident is not needed to file legal charges, either. Many cases are successfully prosecuted based on witness accounts and other evidence regularly.
The release also says the new Student Code of Conduct allows for the school to suspend a student who posts a fight video to social media. But from a legal standpoint, Frank Lomonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, says this policy raises concerns about free speech protected under the First Amendment.
“I feel much more confident that a school could legally tell you not to shoot the video in the first place than they could tell you what to do with it afterward,” Lomonte says. “In other words, if the school has a policy that says ‘don’t have your phone out during school hours’ or ‘don’t be using it as a video camera during school hours’ they can probably enforce that.” Continue Reading →
The number of students passing the state’s third grade reading assessment, the IREAD-3, dropped to 84 percent from last year’s passing rate of 86 percent.
This is a preliminary rate, as students who failed can retake the test this summer.
The test has been administered since 2012, and if students don’t pass they retake third grade versions of the ISTEP+ and IREAD exams the following school year, which state officials say will likely lead to them being held back from entering fourth grade.