Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

IDOE Budget Conversations Turn Focus Back To Assessments

When State Superintendent Glenda Ritz prepared for her presentation before the State Budget Committee Thursday, assuredly there were a number of items on which she expected questions.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz appeared before the State Budget Committee Thursday to present her department's request for 2015.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz appeared before the State Budget Committee Thursday to present her department's request for 2015.

But the item that appeared to take center stage – new state assessments – received a different kind of attention than Ritz was probably expecting.

Ritz outlined the Department of Education’s proposed budged Thursday, which included a request for $65 million for testing and remediation. This is up from $45 million from the last budget cycle.

State education leaders are still in the process of creating a new state assessment to align with the new state academic standards schools began implementing this year. This new system will include a fully operational state-run ISTEP+ test this spring, as well as a second brand-new test to be developed and put in place for the 2015-16 school year.

The State Board of Education is currently still seeking a vendor to write the test for next spring.

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What Will Indiana Miss Out On Without A Federal Preschool Grant?

Five states have been awarded federal money to increase access to high-quality preschool programs – money some say Indiana could have used.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced the grants Wednesday, as part of the White House’s Preschool Development Grants program.

Many have wondered what will Indiana will miss out on without a federal pre-k grant that has now been awarded to five other states.

Many have wondered what will Indiana will miss out on without a federal pre-k grant that has now been awarded to five other states.

Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana and Nevada will receive money specifically intended for states with either small or no state-funded preschool programs, to help them develop such initiatives. Grant amounts ranged from $2 million to $20 million; the five states’ awards combined totaled over $55 million.

Indiana was one of 16 states that fit the eligibility requirements for this grant – and a group of state education leaders had been preparing an application. But Governor Pence pulled the application in the eleventh hour, just days before it was due.

What will these other states get that Indiana took itself out of the running for?

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For State Board To Work, Eliminating CECI Is Only The First Step

“Our reputations precede us.” Arguably, for no other figure or group in Indiana’s education scene does this ring more true than for the State Board of Education.

Take a look at some of these tweets that exemplify how some people view the Board of Education:

Like it or not, the board has become known for its squabbles. Arguments tend not to stem from policy disagreements, but rather issues of authority, board procedure and miscommunication.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz frequently points to the Center for Education and Career Innovation as the source of tension. Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, created the education agency in August 2013. Ritz, a Democrat, says CECI is a shadow agency to her own Department of Education, duplicating services and clouding questions of authority. 

That’s why Governor Pence announced last week he would dissolve CECI. He says he saw it as a first step to restoring harmony on the board.

“I’m proud of the work the CECI has done in the last two years, but I am aware of the controversy that has surrounded this center since its creation,” Pence admitted. “Frankly there are too many entities with overlapping responsibilities in education at the highest levels in Indiana. For education to work in our state, it has to work at the highest levels.”

But will this move actually solve anything?

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Out Of State Student Enrollment Could Affect Higher Ed Funding

The campus of Indiana University East / Ivy Tech Community College / Purdue University College of Technology in Richmond.

The campus of Indiana University East / Ivy Tech Community College / Purdue University College of Technology in Richmond.

The number of out of state students at large Indiana universities, mainly Purdue and Indiana University, are increasing, causing concern for some in the legislature.

Forty-three percent of IU-Bloomington’s freshman class are out of state or international students, and 44 percent of the undergraduate population at Purdue are not Indiana residents.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairs the Senate Appropriations committee and told the Associated Press of his disappointment in these increases, saying it hurts the mission of state-run universities and could affect funding the legislature allocated for higher education institutions this session.

“I’m concerned,” said Kenley. “Both of those universities, since their inception, were started for the benefit of Indiana [residents] and Indiana students. So we need to be true to those missions.”

IU-Bloomington spokesperson Mark Land says leaders at IU understand these concerns, but says qualified, Indiana residents will not lose a spot at IU-Bloomington to an out of state student. Land says IU-Bloomington is only one campus in the IU system, and has a different mission from the regional campuses in Kokomo, South Bend, New Albany, Gary and Richmond. Continue Reading

A New Wave Of Transforming Schools: The Transformation Zone

IDOE Director of Legislative Affairs John Barnes, IPS Superintendent Louis Ferebee and State Board of Education member Brad Oliver discuss the new plan for failing schools at the BDG Legislative Conference.

Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury), IPS Superintendent Louis Ferebee and State Board of Education member Brad Oliver discuss the new plan for failing schools at the BDG Legislative Conference.

One of the biggest accomplishments from Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting was a recommendation from the board to the governor and legislature regarding turnaround efforts for failing schools.

The board accepted the recommendation from its turnaround committee to overhaul the way the state intervenes in failing schools.

The recommendation includes a few big changes. First, the board will now intervene after four consecutive years of receiving a D or F, rather than six years of consecutive Fs.

The recommendation was approved with a 9-2 vote, with Cari Whicker and state superintendent Glenda Ritz voting against it, citing issues with certain parts of the plan.  Continue Reading

Pence Signs Executive Order Dissolving CECI

Updated, 3:30 p.m.:

Governor Mike Pence signed an executive order Thursday afternoon, dissolving his education agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI), effective Feb. 20.

Governor Mike Pence is signing an executive order to dissolve his education agency, a group that has been a point of contention between himself and state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Governor Mike Pence is signing an executive order to dissolve his education agency, a group that has been a point of contention between himself and state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

The governor created the agency in August 2013, and it has been a point of controversy between himself and state superintendent Glenda Ritz ever since. Ritz says the agency is a threat to her own Department of Education.

Pence says his decision is the first step to get the State Board of Education working again.

“We’ve all seen the headlines, we’ve seen the confusion and even the friction at the highest levels of state government, we’ve all been frustrated” Pence says. “To maintain our momentum and implement new policies, we’ll also need to fix what’s broken in education in Indiana.”

Pence expressed pride in the work the CECI has done in the last two years, but says he is aware of the controversy that has surrounded this center since its creation.

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Pre-K Pilot Preview: How Are Counties Finding Participants?

The clock is ticking.

Indiana’s pre-k pilot program launches in four of the five participating counties in January, a little less than a month away. But many leaders in those counties say they’re still finalizing the details – crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s of fundraising, getting providers up to speed and children into the classrooms.

Timeline Troubles?

The Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) released applications for providers who want to participate on November 12, and grant applications for eligible families went out the following week. Those are due December 15.

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Let It Snow Or Let It Go? State Board Talks eLearning Option

On an agenda packed with policy recommendations and legislative agenda discussions, the item that got the most attention at Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting focused on eLearning.

The conversation started last month, when district officials in the Twin Lakes School Corporation announced on Facebook that the Indiana Department of Education had approved its application to hold “eLearning Days” to replace traditional snow make-up days. Board member Brad Oliver immediately took to his own social media accounts to question why the board had not been involved in the decision to offer this option.

IDOE Director of eLearning Candice Dodson speaks before the State Board of Education.

IDOE Director of eLearning Candice Dodson speaks before the State Board of Education.

Oliver reiterated his comments at Wednesday’s meeting.

“My concern is not with the value of eLearning,” Oliver said. “My concern is that schools are being permitted to expand the use of eLearning in a way that constitutes a substantial policy change in Indiana’s attendance requirement.”

State code requires 180 instructional days per school year.

“I don’t understand why such an expansion of eLearning would not be taken back through the Indiana General Assembly to ensure we have sufficient legislative direction with respect to virtual attendance,” Oliver added.

Board member Dan Elsener echoed that sentiment. He added that while eLearning might be a good enhancement for classroom activities, he doesn’t see it as a replacement for an instructional day.

“We have no business reducing school days,” Elsener said. “It may be convenient in the short-term, but…that’s not leadership.”

According to IDOE guidance, school corporations may allow students to complete their classwork online during snow days.

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Turnaround Efforts Take Center Stage At State Board Meeting

State superintendent Glenda Ritz and members of the State Board of Education focused on turnaround efforts during their monthly meeting in December.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz and members of the State Board of Education focused on turnaround efforts during their monthly meeting in December.

The end of the calendar year means some clarity for the state’s failing schools as to how they’ll move forward with turnaround efforts.

At their meeting Wednesday, the State Board of Education heard recommendations from an outside consultant as well as the board’s three-person committee on School Turnaround.

That committee has spent the fall meeting with leaders from the state’s nine ‘failing’ schools, and compiled a list of options for the board to consider. We’ve already reported about those options, but here’s a recap of the highlights:

  • Approve the “transformation zone” – allowing the school corporation in question to develop its own turnaround plan to operate under varying degrees of state oversight – as a primary turnaround strategy. Such a model is currently working well in the Evansville-Vanderburgh school district, and it’s been recommended as an option for Indianapolis Public Schools as well.
  • Eliminate the “Lead Partner” model. Under this option, an external partner contracted by the state works with a district in a limited capacity to operate certain aspects of the school. To date, all original Lead Partners have withdrawn from the turnaround academies they operated.
  • Allow the state board the ability to assume management over failing school corporations as a last resort.
  • Modify the current statute to allow for earlier state intervention in failing districts and schools. The method for doing so would mean a big change to existing rules – namely, allowing the board to implement turnaround strategies for schools that receive a D as well as an F, and move the intervention timeline up to assist schools after they’ve received four consecutive F’s, instead of the current six.
  • Establish a board-specific turnaround unit to manage state intervention activities.

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