Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Arlington High School A “Top Concern” For Education Department

After three years under management of a private charter company and nearly a decade of chronic failure, Arlington Community High School has returned to Indianapolis Public Schools. It’s the first school under state intervention to transition back to its home district and school leaders are under pressure from the community and state to make it work. In the series A New Day, WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle is spending a year reporting from inside the school on its successes and challenges.

Arlington High School (Photo Credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI Public Media)

Arlington High School (Photo Credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI Public Media)

Arlington Community High School is a “top concern” of the Indiana Department of Education due to its ongoing turbulent atmosphere, an education officer told the State Board of Education Wednesday.

Rachael Havey, the Indiana Department of Education’s intervention school coordinator, described a Monday visit to the Northeastside school, where she witnessed masses of students roaming the hallways during class and after passing periods.

“They are just having a lot of difficulties with behaviour in the building,” said Havey, who also observed a handful of classrooms. “It is a concern for sure.”

Arlington is the first school under state intervention to begin a transition back to its home district, Indianapolis Public Schools. During the past three years the 7-12 school was managed by Tindley Accelerated Schools, a charter operator contracted by the state. Tindley ended the contract after a dispute over funding.

Arlington staff have struggled to set a consistent tone on student behavior since the 2015-16 school year began. Around 630 students are enrolled and more than half of those students did not attend Arlington last year.

Violence, marijuana use and vandalism have been regular occurrences in the 380,000-square-foot school. WFYI News has previously reported on the extant of challenges for students, teachers and staff at the school.

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Online ISTEP+ Scores Could See As Much As A Nine-Point Boost

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)

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.

Only after that will the board be able to calculate school A-F accountability grades, which also factor into districts’ educator evaluations and teacher pay decisions.

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.

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State Board Votes To Rework New Diploma Requirements

Board member Steve Yager proposed the resolution that requires a re-write of the new diploma requirements.

Board member Steve Yager proposed the resolution that requires a rewrite of the new diploma requirements. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana).

New high school diploma requirements that drew criticism for a variety of reasons will head back to the drawing board after the State Board of Education voted to postpone any action that would put the diplomas into effect.

Last week, the board held a special meeting to hear hours of public testimony regarding various changes to the diploma options. Those included a reduction in diploma choices, an increase in overall credits, an increase in math credits, limits on fine arts credit requirements, graduation capstones and a set of classes to make kids “college and career ready”.

Because of pushback on many of the new changes, board member Steve Yager proposed a resolution that sends the diplomas to a new committee for reevaluation of credit changes and requirements. The board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz will now create a committee to come up with new proposals, and says she will create separate task forces that will focus on the specific areas of concern (special education, fine arts, etc.) that will report to the larger committee.

The Core 40 Committee, a group of educators, university officials and business executives, created the original diploma changes, and Ritz says many of the concerns brought forward by the public were raised in this group’s original discussions.

“The Core 40 committee actually addressed and wrestled with all of the items that have been brought forth to us, so they’re not new topics,” Ritz says. “We’ve heard from a lot of constituencies regarding the topics so I think we’re just going to do further refinement, make sure we have clarity, keep bringing it back to the board and I think that’s our goal.”

Ritz will immediately begin assembling the new committee to rewrite the diplomas, and says she expects to bring new proposals back to the board by April.

Legally, the board needed to take action on the new diplomas by Dec. 1, so the vote adopting the resolution meets the requirement.

The new diploma types go into effect for the 2018-2019 school year, and Ritz says this rewrite will not push back that implementation date.

Uncharacteristic For November, Most Referenda Pass

Four of seven school-related ballot measures passed during Tuesday’s municipal elections, a much larger proportion than Indiana normally sees in November polls.

Trends persisted as Hoosiers in only seven districts saw referenda on their local tickets.

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.

Show rows.
School Corporation
Tax rate
Total amount
Percent yes
Percent no
Greater Clark County Schools11/3/2015Construction$0.39$109,200,000Fail24.93%75.07%
East Noble School Corporation11/3/2015Construction$0.34$38,800,000Pass63.24%36.76%
Whitley County Consolidated Schools11/3/2015Construction$0.59$85,000,000Pass61.78%38.22%
Fremont Community Schools11/3/2015General Fund$0.19Pass55.57%44.43%
Lake Station Community Schools11/3/2015General Fund$0.61Fail27.90%72.10%
North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation11/3/2015General Fund$0.47Fail31.49%68.51%
Zionsville Community Schools11/3/2015General Fund$0.24Pass67.28%32.72%

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.

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Yager: State Board Not Ready To Approve Diplomas

Yesterday, we informed you that the State Board of Education will vote on new high school diploma recommendations at their meeting Wednesday.

Steve Yager, State Board of Education member (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

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:

The board must take action on the proposed diploma items by Dec. 1. Interested viewers can watch the board meeting online beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Busy State Board Schedule Continues With Diploma, ISTEP+ Decisions

Indiana education policymakers had a busy month in October, and before the year comes to a close they still have much to do in preparation for the 2016 legislative session beginning in January.

The State Board of Education convenes for its regular monthly gathering Wednesday at the Statehouse, following a special meeting last week. They’ll follow up on two big items from that session: high school diplomas and 2015 ISTEP+ results.

Vince Bertram will meet with the rest of his State Board of Education colleagues Wednesday at the Statehouse. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Vince Bertram will meet with the rest of his State Board of Education colleagues Wednesday at the Statehouse. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Along with a special task force co-chaired by state Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers, the board has been gathering input on a new set of diplomas for Indiana high school students. The updates would, among other things, condense the state’s four current diploma options into three, increase the amount of credits required to graduate and give students opportunities to earn college credit or work experience prior to leaving high school.

The board is set to vote on the proposed slate of diplomas Wednesday. If approved, they would be implemented beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

As far as the ISTEP+ is concerned, the board will discuss if and how they’ll grade students differently based on whether they took the online or paper/pencil version of the annual statewide exam.

After comparing the two test types, researcher Derek Briggs proposed the board account for differences in difficulty by awarding bonus points to students who completed the online version. Briggs also suggested the group consider whether it would be wise to adjust school A-F accountability grade calculations based on which format students took.

This will build on further A-F discussions that will be brought to the board by the Stakeholder Design Committee, a group of about 20 teachers, principals and other educators who have worked over the last six months to look at Indiana’s evaluation policies and offer recommendations for improvement.

Indiana’s accountability system has received a lot of attention of late, specifically in connection with the upcoming (but continually delayed) release of 2015 scores, which are predicted to be lower with the advent of new statewide standards.

Just last week, Gov. Mike Pence said he hopes the State Board will carefully consider how they tie test performance to teacher evaluations and bonuses, a caution Superintendent Ritz has already expressed numerous times.

Members of the public can tune in to Wednesday’s meeting live online, beginning at 9 a.m.

IPS Board Approves Plan To ‘Reinvent’ How Schools Operate

The Indianapolis Public Schools Board approved a framework Thursday that starts the reinvention of the district from a traditional school corporation of top-down management into a network of autonomous schools, including schools run by independent companies.

"My IPS" sign hangs in the school board chambers. (Photo Credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI Public Media)

“My IPS” sign hangs in the school board chambers. (Photo Credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI Public Media)

District leaders say this gives individual principals or management teams power to craft a unique culture, set academic goals and in some instances, operate outside of collective bargaining agreements for teachers.

IPS has already begun to sign pacts with charter school companies to share buildings and services and to restart one elementary school with long-time academic failures. Two recent state laws have paved the way for these changes.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said earlier Thursday that the status quo has not worked and the district “D” grade by the state is proof.

“We are definitely reinventing ourselves — but we have to… The fundamental challenge that the commissioners and I share is we don’t have a great school in every neighborhood. In a district with 80 percent poverty that should be at the forefront and it is,” he said. “You don’t hear parents come to the podium and say they want their child in a failing school — it is the opposite. I think this is the plan that will help create the options for every child.”

Yet some are questioning whether the district-wide push to give all schools more freedom from district constraints and allow new schools be created by outside groups will negatively impact poor and minority children — the majority of IPS’ student enrollment.

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Digital Badges Offer Students Opportunity To Show What They Know

If you’ve ever been a scout or you’re big into video games, you’ve probably earned your fair share of badges. Nowadays, applications like FourSquare and Fitbit grant users badges for hitting milestones or celebrating different achievements in travel and fitness.

They look something like this…

(Photo Credit: Official Girl Scouts Website)

(Photo Credit: Official Girl Scouts Website)

Whether you successfully learned how to build a proper fire, ran your first mile or finally moved onto “Level Four,” it’s an award you can proudly display to advertise your accomplishment to family and friends.

In recent years, the method of badging has translated into the academic setting. More schools in Indiana and across the country are granting badges to help students and teachers show what they know.

How do badges work?

A transcript is one of a student’s most valuable assets, whether they’re high school seniors trying to get into college or university students looking for their first job. The classes listed on that piece of paper tell admissions counselors and potential employers where a learner’s knowledge lies.

But beyond course titles and final grades, there isn’t much else. No description of what type of work a student completed, how they performed in class activities or what type of rapport they had with their professors and classmates.

That’s where digital badges come in.

More Indiana schools are awarding these badges to supplement – or even replace – traditional class credit. including pilot programs at universities in the state such as IU, Notre Dame and Purdue.

A (Photo Credit: Daniel Hickey/Matt Kaiser)

The badge a student would earn for completing Hickey’s Educational Assessment course. (Photo Credit: Daniel Hickey/Matt Kaiser)

“They’re a way of recognizing accomplishment or learning, and it’s digital, which means it can be shared on the Internet easily, like you can post it on Facebook,” says learning sciences professor Daniel Hickey. He has studied and developed digital badges for students in his own classes at Indiana University.

In most cases, students are earning badges to show they’ve completed online courses, or certain sections of those courses. They’re then able to display them on their LinkedIn page or online portfolio to present to admissions counselors or potential employers.

Students in Hickey’s Educational Assessment course earn badges that, on first glance, look similar to the kind mentioned earlier, in video games or smartphone applications:

Students also earn a badge for completing each individual section of Hickey’s course. (Photo Credit: Daniel Hickey/Matt Kaiser)

Students also earn a badge for completing each individual section of Hickey’s course. (Photo Credit: Daniel Hickey/Matt Kaiser)

But these badges go a step above the norm. What makes them unique signifiers is that they recognize things that can’t be listed on a school transcript – intangible skills like teamwork, professionalism, leadership or organizational skills.

“They have a lot of evidence in them,” Hickey explains, ticking off a list on his fingers. “Virtually all the work the students did, all their interactions with their peers, the number of times their peers promoted their work as being exemplary, their performance on the exam.”

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Indiana Improves Rank With Performance On Nation’s Report Card

The nation’s report card came home Wednesday.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a test taken by students from all 50 states, and is widely considered the standard for comparing student achievement across the country.

The test demonstrates what American fourth and eighth graders can do in math and reading. The current version of the federal No Child Left Behind law requires NAEP be administered every other year – the last time students took it was in 2013.

(Photo Credit: Alex McCall/WFIU News)

(Photo Credit: Alex McCall/WFIU News)

As a whole, the country wasn’t too happy about how U.S. students fared this time around. For the first time in more than 20 years, scores dropped in fourth-grade math, as well as math and reading for eighth graders.

But here in Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence applauded Hoosier students for their performance.

Indiana students scored the same or better than the national average in all four categories. The state maintained its fourth place national ranking for fourth-grade math, and jumped up from 19th place in 2013 to now 11th for eighth-grade math. In reading, the Hoosier state ranked 10th for fourth-grade reading and 16th for eighth-grade reading, up from 15th and 27th, respectively.

“Every Hoosier should be proud that Indiana’s kids and teachers have once again outperformed their peers in this year’s ‘national report card’,” Pence said in a statement. “It is clear that by raising education standards in Indiana, we are setting the bar high for Hoosier students.”

The rankings may look impressive, but Indiana’s actual scores have not changed all that much. NAEP data analysts say the state didn’t see any significant score gains in any of the four categories from the 2013 exam.

On top of that, only half of the state’s students sit at or above proficient in fourth-grade math, 40 percent in fourth-grade reading, 39 percent in eighth-grade math and 37 in eighth-grade reading.

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State Board Discusses Changes To Indiana Diploma Requirements

State Board of Education member Cari Wicker at Wednesday's special meeting. The SBOE had its last discussion around new diplomas to be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year.

State Board of Education member Cari Whicker at Wednesday’s special meeting. The board had its last discussion around new diplomas to be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

The State Board of Education met Wednesday for a special meeting to discuss the proposed changes to Indiana’s high school diploma requirements.

The board did not take action during the meeting. Members must take a vote regarding the proposed changes by Dec. 1.

Representatives from the state’s Commission for Higher Education presented the new diplomas and reasoning behind the changes before the board heard public testimony. The proposed changes reduce the number of diplomas a student may receive from four to three and increases the overall number of credits it takes to graduate.

Below is a table the ICHE presented to the board that shows the current diplomas and how many credits a student must complete to earn it, compared to the proposed new diplomas:   Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 11.02.04 AM Another notable change is the requirement of more math credits. All diplomas require students to take eight credits of math, essentially making students take a math class every year of school. A new requirement included in “College and Career Ready” electives is a financial literacy class, which the ICHE said has been met with strong public support.

One of the more controversial changes that much of the public comment focused on had to do with the lack of fine arts requirements in the diplomas. The current Core 40 and Honors Core 40 diplomas require world languages and fine arts classes in some capacity, whereas the new diplomas suggest these classes only for students who want to go on to a four-year college.

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