Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Career Council Meets To Discuss Core 40 Requirements

The amount of classes Indiana high schoolers must take to graduate could be changing as the state explores more rigorous requirements to earn a diploma.

The Indiana Career Council met Monday to discuss proposed changes to the default diploma option, known as Core 40.

As we reported last week, there are four types of diplomas for Hoosier high schoolers:

  • the general diploma (the most basic)
  • the Core 40
  • Academic Honors
  • Technical Honors

The proposed changes would offer three, combining the two honors diplomas.

The new default, referred to as the College and Career Ready Diploma, would require at least 44 credits, up from 40.  Students would be required to take more math, science, and social studies classes and two new classes will become mandatory – a career prep class and a financial literacy course.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says a major focus will be new college and career readiness sequences – pathways students can follow in a variety of areas, including career and technical education and fine arts.

“Making sure that we really have good, robust plans going forward for students and they really can map out where it is that they think they’re going to be headed,” Ritz explains,

Ritz says the proposed changes should be finalized by December and presented to the General Assembly, which would have to adopt them into law.

The changes wouldn’t take effect until the 2018-2019 school year.

Monroe County Students Will Not Take Acuity Test Next Year

The number of standardized tests a student takes each year has grown larger across the country – and so has distaste for the practice.

But one southern Indiana school district is ready to whittle down their testing schedule.

Indiana students take a number of tests that are either summative or formative in nature. (Photo Credit: David Hartman/Flickr)

Indiana students take a number of tests that are either summative or formative in nature. (Photo Credit: David Hartman/Flickr)

Among the various tests Hoosier students take each year, some are “summative” – to capture how much a student learned over the course of a year, like the statewide ISTEP+ test – and others are “formative,” which give a snapshot of what students know at a certain point in time. The focus of the latter is giving performance feedback, so teachers can modify learning activities to better student achievement.

Most of the schools in the state use tests like mCLASS, Acuity or NWEA assessments for that purpose.

As we’ve reported, this month the State Board of Education decided schools may choose their own formative assessment. This came out of a condition in the state’s new two-year budget.

Rather than require schools to test using mCLASS (grades K-2) or Acuity (grades 3-8), both of which the state pays for, schools will now be able to apply for state grant money to buy a test of their own choosing. Districts previously had to pay for the test out of their own budgets.

The board will likely decide how much grant money schools can receive for tests at their July meeting.

Mary Keck of the Herald-Times reports that the Monroe County Community School Corporation has chosen not to pursue any outside formative test for the upcoming school year, instead focusing on classroom tests:

“We are not going to self-impose a test that we don’t feel is aligned with the (state education) standards,” [MCCSC Superintendent Judy] DeMuth said.

Monroe County Community School Corp. opted to take the Acuity test in the 2014-15 school year because it was offered free through the Indiana Department of Education as a diagnostic tool for schools to find out if student learning was in line with state standards. [...]

DeMuth decided that because the state education department was in the process of developing the ISTEP test for the next school year, she wanted to be sure the exams students were given were aligned with state standards.

“We’re going to pause (Acuity) and allow teachers to continue instruction rather than administration of a test,” DeMuth said.

While students will not take Acuity, faculty will continue to follow state standards, skills the education department has determined are necessary for students to learn at each grade level. MCCSC elementary and middle school students will also continue taking common formative assessments that are created by their teachers for the purpose of gauging whether student learning aligns with state standards.

MCCSC students will take the ISTEP+ test during the 2015-16 school year. That assessment is required since scores count in the state’s formula for calculating A-F school accountability grades.

Indiana Contemplates Changing High School Diplomas

As another school year comes to an end, thousands of high school seniors throughout Indiana will walk across the stage to accept the coveted high school diploma.

Countless experts and studies say once students are awarded that piece of paper, they open themselves up to college and career opportunities that might not have been available to them otherwise.

Indiana sits at an 87 percent graduation rate as of 2013. (Photo Credit: Coordenação Proerd Go/Flickr)

Indiana sits at an 87 percent high school graduation rate as of 2013. (Photo Credit: Coordenação Proerd Go/Flickr)

What that diploma looks like – or more accurately, what those diplomas look like –could soon change. Indiana is poised to change the diploma requirements for students, beginning with the class of 2022 (those students entering high school in the 2018-19 school year).

Changes would be made based on a proposal from the Core 40 Subcommittee, a subset of the Indiana Career Council made up of various stakeholders from the business, K-12, higher education, school administration and other communities. The General Assembly established the group in 2014 and charged them with making recommendations to the State Board of Education.

Right now, Indiana offers students their choice of four diplomas:

The General Assembly made completion of Core 40 a graduation requirement for all students, beginning with those who entered high school in the fall of 2007. Parents can opt their students out of the requirement, if they think their student could “receive a greater benefit” from the General diploma.

Core 40 is currently the minimum college admission requirement for all of Indiana’s public four-year universities.

The subcommittee, headed by both state superintendent Glenda Ritz and commissioner of higher education Teresa Lubbers, recommends continuing with only three diplomas:

As they are drafted, not every local school district is required to offer every type of diploma.

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Take A Peek Behind Indiana’s High School Graduation Rate

The national high school graduation rate is at an all-time high: 81 percent. In Indiana, that number falls closer to 87 percent, as of 2013 – the Hoosier state ranks 7th in the nation in terms of how many students leave high school with a diploma in hand.

But, how Indiana accounts for its high school grads – and what the diplomas look like here – might be drastically different from the calculation used in Florida, Michigan or New Jersey. Our colleagues with NPR’s Education team compiled data from all 50 states to compare how they determine high school grad rates – take a look, and decide for yourself whether Indiana is among “the good, the bad or the ambiguous.”

Check out the rest of the NPR Ed Graduation Rate series on their website:

The nation’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high – 81 percent. It was such big news, President Obama touted it in his State of the Union address. So what’s the truth behind this number?

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Ritz Roundup: A Superintendent’s Run For Governor & Other Links

As we reported last week, state superintendent Glenda Ritz is running for governor.

The announcement didn’t come as a surprise, but it did raise questions about the educator’s experience outside school policy and her ability to appeal to voters on those other topics.

A supporter holds his sign supporting state superintendent Glenda Ritz during her announcement she will run for governor in 2016. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

A supporter holds his sign supporting state superintendent Glenda Ritz during her announcement she will run for governor in 2016. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Ritz has two years under her belt as Indiana’s schools chief – the 2015-16 school year marks her third at the helm. A lot has happened since she took office: Indiana left the Common Core and wrote new academic standards, the ISTEP+ changed (and will soon change again), and schools will soon be graded under a new A-F accountability model.

As you might expect, we’ve done a lot of reporting about Ritz’s involvement in those and other school-related subjects, as well as her responses to big news that happened outside Hoosier classrooms. So as she makes her run for the state’s top post, refresh yourself and get caught up on where the politician stands.

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New Pre-K Program To Open In High Need Indy Neighborhood

The number of high quality preschool providers in the state is increasing.

The number of high quality preschool providers in the state is increasing. (Photo Credit: Sonia Hooda/Flickr)

Early Learning Indiana will open a new preschool this fall initially serving up to 80 students, creating more options for parents using On My Way Pre-K and Indianapolis Preschool Scholarship Program scholarships.

The new program will be a Level 3 on the Paths to QUALITY ranking system, which qualifies it for the state- and city-run voucher programs.

The center will be run through Eastern Star Church on the city’s East side, a high need area for pre-k. Currently there are only 10 providers who qualify for the state and city programs, meaning low-income families in the area have few affordable options for high quality preschool.

Jason Kloth oversees the mayor’s pre-k program and says getting more options for families in this area will help widen the reach of these programs.

“In parts of the East side there are higher concentrations of families and children who are living in poverty and who would be, in the absence of the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program, unable to afford the cost of a high quality program, which is why there are fewer options located there,” Kloth says.

Kloth says the overall goals of On My Way Pre-K and the mayor’s program are to improve the communities where they educate students, and the current lack of options on Indianapolis’ East side take that opportunity away from children who live there.  Continue Reading

Testing, Data Dominate Summer Study Committees’ Education Agendas

The 2015 “education session” may be over, but Indiana legislators still have some school-related work to finish.

The Indiana House of Representatives meets on the last day of the 2015 session. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

The Indiana House of Representatives meets on the last day of the 2015 session. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

A number of legislative study committees will meet over the summer break to discuss topics that lawmakers decided during session need further investigation.

What’s on their plate this go-around? State testing requirements, preschool special education services, school corporations’ data reporting requirements and property taxes.

Following up on discussions of Senate Bill 566, the Interim Study Committee on Education will consider whether Indiana should replace the statewide ISTEP+ standardized testing program with an alternative assessment.

This continues years of debate, both in Indiana and on the national scale, over standardized testing. To comply with federal mandate, Indiana education officials have been developing multiple updated versions of the ISTEP+ over the last few years to match new state standards adopted after Gov. Mike Pence pulled out of the Common Core in 2014 – and it has been anything but smooth sailing.

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Will Ritz’s 2012 Supporters Translate To The Governor’s Race?

State superintendent Glenda Ritz talks to reporters after announcing her candidacy for governor.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz talks to reporters after announcing her candidacy for governor Thursday. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Now that state superintendent Glenda Ritz is officially running for governor, the question is whether the grassroots support she garnered in 2012 during her campaign for superintendent can translate to a larger office.

For many supporters, like Kristina Frey, a parent from Washington Township Schools in Indianapolis, supporting Ritz for governor is a no-brainer. Frey voted for Ritz in 2012 and followed her career as she led the Department of Education and State Board of Education. Frey says Ritz’s leadership skills were definitely tested the last three years, but she was impressed with how Ritz handled herself.

“I don’t believe that she is the source of any problems and conflict on the State Board of Education,” Frey says. “I believe that conflict is primarily rooted in genuine policy and philosophical differences, I don’t believe it’s necessarily just an issue of bad leadership or bad personalities on either side, and I also believe that a lot of the tension and issues were not caused by or the fault of Glenda. I believe a lot of them were rooted in Governor Pence’s actions to set up the CECI group.”

Frey also says she is excited to support Ritz as a candidate because after working as a librarian in MSD Washington Township schools, the candidate understands the struggles of everyday working families.

Not all Democrats in the state have the same mindset at Frey, and believe her candidacy puts Democrats in a tricky spot. Tony Cook writes in the Indianapolis Star that the divide is much bigger than support of voters:

Her supporters believe the superintendent of public instruction — with her impressive grassroots operation and high-profile clashes with Republican Gov. Mike Pence — represents the party’s best chance to win back the state’s top post.

But many Democrats fear that her entrance into the race could cause a damaging inner-party rift at a time when Pence is more vulnerable than ever. [...]

Fractures are already beginning to show.

The state’s building trades unions including the Indiana State Building and Construction Trades Council and Indiana District Laborers Council are lining up behind Gregg. He’s the mustachioed former Indiana House speaker who narrowly lost to Pence in 2012 with a quirky campaign that emphasized his moderate credentials as a “gun-totin’, Bible-quotin’ Southern Indiana Democrat.”

But if Ritz can gather the kind of support she did in 2012, she stands a chance. Andrew Downs, Director of the Mike Downs Center For Politics, says that although governor and state superintendent are very different jobs, the campaigning could look similar. Continue Reading

Ritz: ‘I’m The Best Candidate For Governor’

Despite constant clashes with Gov. Mike Pence over the last two years, State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says her decision to run for governor isn’t personal; it’s because of significant differences with Pence over how to move Indiana forward.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz announced her gubernatorial campaign at an event at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz announced her gubernatorial campaign at an event at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Ritz Thursday officially became the third person to enter the Democratic primary, calling herself the “best candidate” to beat the governor.

She says she made the decision to challenge Pence after this past legislative session, pointing to efforts to strip power from the Department of Education and shift it to the GOP-controlled State Board of Education. She also cited what she calls the “disaster” created by Republican leadership over the religious freedom restoration act.

“We must respect the personal and civil rights of all of Indiana’s citizens and bring forward legislation that respects the rights of all Hoosiers,” Ritz said.

The current state superintendent will face off in the primary against former House speaker John Gregg and longtime state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage. And the State Superintendent says, despite spending most of her career in the education arena, she has quite a bit of knowledge in a variety of areas.

“As my campaign unfolds, you’ll see a great many topics…policy pieces written,” Ritz says. “I plan to talk to Hoosiers all over the state of Indiana to gather input.”

In a statement, state Republican Party Chair Jeff Cardwell roundly criticized Ritz, saying she “doesn’t have a successful track record of leading those in her own department, let alone managing contracts or implementing effective policies.”

Glenda Ritz: How Education Could Play Into A Bid For Governor

Updated 2:09 p.m.:

Education just became a much bigger part of the 2016 race for Indiana governor.

Current state superintendent Glenda Ritz will announce her bid for governor Thursday. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Current state superintendent Glenda Ritz announced her bid for governor Thursday. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz announced her campaign for governor at an event in Indianapolis Thursday morning. The educator spoke first at Ben Davis High School, followed by a series of appearances scheduled around the state, according to her Facebook page.

Ritz’s announcement has excited many of those who supported Ritz in her 2012 run for the state’s schools chief  – but others say the former librarian and first-term executive official is stepping outside her wheelhouse.

How can the lifelong educator translate her experience into a campaign?

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