Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What Education Laws Go Into Effect July 1?

The Indiana Statehouse. (Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr)

The Indiana Statehouse. (Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr)

Most of the legislation passed by the General Assembly last session goes into affect July 1. Following is a list of this year’s new laws.

HEA 1002- Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship Program and Fund

This new program aims to help attract more people into teaching in Indiana classrooms. The program awards 200 college students up to $7,500 in tuition assistance each every year, as long as they study education and commit to teaching in Indiana. Students can start receiving the scholarship next summer. Continue Reading

Chasing The Dream: Investing For The Long Haul On Indy’s Far Eastside

LaToya Tahirou stands behind her daughter Lamya Hale at their Carriage House East apartment. Lamya will enter the sixth grade at PLA @ 103 in August. She likes the school because “teachers are close to you, and they love you.” (Photo by Eric Weddle, WFYI)

LaToya Tahirou stands behind her daughter Lamya Hale at their Carriage House East apartment. Lamya will enter the sixth grade at PLA @ 103 in August. She likes the school because “teachers are close to you, and they love you.” (Photo by Eric Weddle, WFYI)” credit=”

When Lamya Hale started at School 103 last August as a fifth grader, the experience began like others she toughened out at city schools.

Hale was bullied by other students. At 103, she says, it caused her to break down crying a few times a week during class. But then something different happened when a teacher stepped in.

“She taught me to just stay strong and not worry about anything else,” the 11-year old said recently. “That is what I like about that school. The teachers are close to you, and they love you.”

That interaction made Lamya’s mom, LaToya Tahirou, very happy. Even though School 103 was just a few blocks from their Carriage House East apartment on the Far Eastside, Tahirou hadn’t considered it until last year.

Unaware of the school’s past history, Tahirou was surprised by its strong pull to engage parents — not just get them in the door but make them feel like they had something at stake in the school’s success.

Tahirou says a high quality school is a vital piece to changing her neighborhood — one of the city’s most dangerous.

Right now, she says, people feel like they have one option to improve their lives — moving to a township or northward to the suburbs.

But she doesn’t accept those options.

Continue Reading

Mishawaka Schools To Pose Two Referenda In November

Voters rejected two proposed referenda in Brownsburg school district last May. (Photo Credit: Janelle Fasan/Twitter)

Voters rejected two proposed referenda in Brownsburg school district last May. (Photo Credit: Janelle Fasan/Twitter)

The School City of Mishawaka School Board approved a proposal Monday to pose two referenda during the November election. If passed, the referenda would add $1.8 million to the district’s general fund and $13 million to improve infrastructure at the district’s schools.

Posing both a capital projects and general fund referenda is rare, with many districts choosing to pick only one for a better chance it will pass.

The district posed a referenda in 2013, asking for $28 million, which overwhelmingly failed.

Kim Kilbride of the South Bend Tribune reports what both of these referenda would cost taxpayers in the district:

If both referendums pass, the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 would pay an additional $134.66 per year until 2023. From 2024 to 2032, the tax impact would decline to $54.95 per year for the same homeowner.

Referenda are becoming a more popular way for district’s to increase their revenue stream, after property tax caps went into place in 2008 and the 2015 General Assembly passed a new school funding formula.

Now that the funding from the state to public schools is decreasing for some district’s, referenda are one of the few ways a school district can increase its funding streams. In the last few elections, the passage rate has increased as districts spend more time and money from their PACs to inform the public of what the referendum would fund.

Holy Cross College To Educate Prisoners Using Pell Grants

Holy Cross College was chosen to participate in a federal program that gives prisoners Pell grants to earn college credits and degrees.

Holy Cross College was chosen to participate in a federal program that gives prisoners Pell grants to earn college credits and degrees.(photo credit: Barbara Brosher/WTIU News).

Holy Cross College in South Bend is one of 67 higher education institutions across the country to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Program. The program uses federal Pell grant money to pay for prisoners to take degree-seeking programs behind bars.

The pilot program allows universities to partner with prisons to provide degree programs – an opportunity that’s been missing from most Indiana prisons since 2012.

The college will work with Westville Correctional Facility and Indiana Women’s Prison, both state prisons. It’s already offered associates and bachelor’s degrees for a small number of prisoners at Westville.

Holy Cross applied to participate in the federal program so it could use the Pell grant money to expand on its existing courses.

“That’s a very important part of maturity, I guess you would say, for a program offering education within prison,” said Brother Jesus Alonso, vice president for strategic initiatives at Holy Cross. “It signifies a lot for stability, commitment on behalf of the students and commitment on behalf of the institution to continue delivering what we offer in that type of setting.”

The program offers approximately $30 million in Pell grants to universities in 27 states, and expects to help around 12,000 inmates work toward a post-secondary degree.

Alonso says the assistance from the federal government is necessary to continue education programs in prison.

“It takes about $10,000 to run one course,” he said. “What that means is – providing supplies and books for students and also providing salary for our faculty.”

The Second Chance Pell Program was initiated by the Obama administration as a way to reduce recidivism lower the incarceration rate.

What The Supreme Court’s Decision Means For Affirmative Action In Indiana

Legal experts say the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action this week was narrow, meaning schools like Indiana University won’t have to change. The Court reaffirmed its stance that race can be considered, among a number of factors, when choosing which student submissions to accept. (TexasGOPVote/Flickr)

Legal experts say the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action this week was narrow, meaning schools like Indiana University won’t have to change. The Court reaffirmed its stance that race can be considered, among a number of factors, when choosing which student submissions to accept. (TexasGOPVote/Flickr)

After the Supreme Court upheld an affirmative action program at the University of Texas, legal experts in Indiana say it likely won’t have a major effect on local school enrollment.

The Supreme Court Thursday ruled in favor of the University of Texas allowing the school to continue their affirmative action program. Abigail Fisher, who is white, was not accepted into the school in 2008. She’s since argued that she was discriminated against based on her race.

Legal experts say the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action this week was narrow, meaning schools like Indiana University won’t have to change. The Court reaffirmed its stance that race can be considered, among a number of factors, when choosing which student submissions to accept.

“[Affirmative action] is not about ensuring success for people, it’s about providing opportunity and access to opportunity for people,” said David Johnson, Indiana University’s vice provost for enrollment.

Colleges are not required by law to consider race when accepting students, but Indiana University does. Johnson said race will remain one of many factors considered as part of a holistic process.

“It’s very clear that a diverse learning environment provides a quality education for all involved, not just the underrepresented students or majority students,” Johnson said.

Professor of law at IU’s Maurer School of Law Kevin Brown said he thinks the driving force behind affirmative action should be globalization.

“As our kids come more and more into contact with people from other countries, other cultural backgrounds, they really need a totally different set of skills,” Brown said.

Since one Supreme Court chair remains empty, Brown warned that the coming presidential election could have an impact.

If Hillary Clinton is elected, Brown said, affirmative action is probably safe. But with a possible Donald Trump presidency, it could be challenged again.

Steve Sanders, associate professor of law at IU’s Maurer School of Law, said the nature of what affirmative action could be up for debate — is it to make up for past inequities or to ensure diversity in on current college campuses?

Sanders said the Supreme Court’s interpretation gives one specific view.

“The purpose of affirmative actions is not to make up for social disadvantage, it’s not to ensure African-American and Latino needs,” Sanders said. “It’s really concerned with the institution’s needs.”

Affirmative action programs in Indiana and around the country was the subject of WFIU’s Noon Edition this week.

Listen to the entire show and hear from lawyers and college administrations about the state of affirmative action in Indiana. They touched on the role of changing demographics, root causes for affirmative action and the role of the Supreme Court.

WFIU’s Drew Daudelin contributed to this report.

A Growing Role For School Counselors In Indiana, But Funds Needed

In this file photo, Mark Mazarella hosts a panel discussion and exhibit at the 55th Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association. School counselors address students' social-emotional, academic and college-and-career readiness needs. (ArmyStrongPA/Flickr)

This 2011 file photo is from a panel discussion at the 55th Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association. School counselors address students’ social-emotional, academic and college-and-career readiness needs. (ArmyStrongPA/Flickr)

School counselors help students improve their academics, address emotional needs and prepare for college and careers. Still, they’re a profession that often floats under the radar in the education world.

Indiana currently has a higher student-to-counselor ratio than most states. There’s currently one counselor for every 639 students statewide.

A new report from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says school superintendents and principals have favorable views of school counselors, but can’t always hire counselors when students need them.

“In Indiana we have a funding shortage for the number of school counselors that are truly needed at the schools,” said Jen Money-Brady, Indiana School Counselor Association president-elect. “We have enough counselors to fill those roles, it’s just finding the funding to be able to have the position available.

Brandie Oliver with Butler University’s School of Education helped author the Chamber of Commerce report. She agrees funding is a challenge.

She also says it’s important for school’s to embrace the evolving role of school counselors.

“Today’s counselor is definitely different from the counselor 20 years ago,” Oliver said. “School counselors address social-emotional need, academic needs and then college-and-career readiness needs.”

And that involves reaching students in a way counselors didn’t 20 years ago — addressing student trauma, toxic stress and other needs.

“When we think about college-and-career we have to think about it holistically,” Oliver said. “And so is student that’s kind of in crisis or worrying about trauma, are they really going to be able to look futuristically at their college-and-career?”

But challenges remain for school counselors to address the “career” part of “college-and-career readiness,” according to Oliver.

“Many counselors might feel pretty equipped with how to prepare and guide those students for college pathways,” Oliver said. “But there’s still a gap in knowledge and skills for students that are not going to pursue a traditional four-year college.”

Oliver says this can, in part, be remedied through increased access to data and other student tracking tools.

The Chamber of commerce report says the presence of school counselors positively impact a school’s climate and student emotional needs.

As Inequalities Grow, Rich Parents Spend More On Children’s Education

A new report finds that in the past four decades wealthier families have chosen to spend more on out-of-school enrichments, while spending from less wealth families has remained the same. (Lauren Chapman/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

A new report finds wealthy families’ spending on “education extras” has rocketed yet remained level in other income groups.  (Lauren Chapman/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Here’s a no-brainer: Not all learning happens at school.

Toys, games, books, puzzles, crafts and after-school activities from bird-watching to basketball expand our knowledge and our capacity to learn — and most of that happens out of the classroom. But, with a price tag attached to each opportunity, access isn’t equal for all children.

And that divide is growing.

In the past four decades, spending on “education extras” has rocketed from wealthy families yet remained level in other income groups.

According to new research published in a journal from the American Educational Research Association, spending on childcare and learning enrichment goods for children younger than 6 years old has grown significantly among the wealthiest U.S. households since the 1970s. At the same time, it’s remained stagnant for all other income groups.

Using data from a federal survey, the report finds that the wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. households tripled their spending on extracurricular items and experiences. Spending went from $3,000 in the early 1970s to $9,000 in 2010. Continue Reading

Indiana Ranks 40th In Preschool Enrollment

In this file photo, students at a pre-kindergarten camp in Avon, Ind., play a counting game. Indiana lags behind most other states in enrolling young students in school programs. (Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

In this file photo, students at a pre-kindergarten camp in Avon, Ind., play a counting game. Indiana lags behind most other states in enrolling young students in school programs. (Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

Although most Indiana students do attend kindergarten, students are not required by law to go to school until age seven.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count data book, a national report on child wellbeing, reports Indiana ranks 40th in the nation for preschool enrollment: parents of 60 percent of Indiana’s three and four year olds say their children are not in school. Only 10 states have fewer young children in school programs.

According to some experts, missing out on those early years is a big deal.

“Success starts early,” said Kent Mitchell of Early Learning Indiana. “You know kids who start behind stay behind.”

Early Learning Indiana is an preschool provider and advocate.

Preschool students may learn early math, language skills and life skills, like how to sit still or take instruction.

“Those experiences literally help to shape the architecture of a child’s brain,” said Mitchell.

Access to preschool has been a major platform point in the upcoming election, as we previously reported.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz wants to see preschool available to all Indiana kids — and says it should be at the front of lawmakers’ minds as they enter the 2017 legislative session.

The $150 million proposal to expand preschool in every district in the state would be less than one percent of the state’s annual budget, Ritz said. She says it’s among the Department of Education’s top policy priorities heading into the next legislative session.

Ritz’s plan would comprise of public-private partnerships paid for from existing state funds, federal grants and private contributions.

In response, Gov. Mike Pence has said the state should focus funds on students with certain income qualifications, not all students.

Under the state’s existing preschool pilot program, families are only eligible if they have incomes up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level — about $31,000 for a family of four.

“When it comes to disadvantaged kids the benefits of opening doors of access to early childhood education is very significant,” Pence said. “And that’s where we’ll focus.”

Pence also said under any state-funded preschool program, students should be able to use those resources in public, private or faith-based preschool programs.

Want To Address Teachers’ Unconscious Biases? First, Talk About Race

Ayana Coles sits with her students at Eagle Creek Elementary School.  At Eagle Creek, students of color make up 77 percent of the student body. Yet, all but four of the school's 37 staff are white. Coles has led conversations about race with colleagues throughout the year. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Ayana Coles, rights, sits with students at Eagle Creek Elementary School. At Eagle Creek, students of color make up 77 percent of the student body, and all but four of the school’s 37 staff are white. Coles has led conversations about race with colleagues throughout the year. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

INDIANAPOLIS — As Ayana Coles gazed at the 20 teachers gathered in her classroom, she knew the conversation could get uncomfortable. And she was prepared.

“We are going to experience discomfort — well, we may or may not experience it — but if we have it that’s OK,” said Coles, a third grade teacher at Eagle Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis.

At Eagle Creek, students of color make up 77 percent of the student body. All but four of the school’s 37 staff are white. Throughout this past year, Coles has led a series of after-school discussions with teachers about race.

“We talked about unquestioned assumptions,” Coles said to her colleagues at the meeting. “Like some parents or groups of people have no value of education, or their parents are uneducated, their parents don’t have money.”

Her goal? Create a common understanding of race and power, with the hopes that teachers acknowledge, then address how that plays out in the school.

But getting there means first exploring often-taboo topics: race, power and teachers’ biases.
Continue Reading

Preliminary IREAD Scores Show Slightly Lower Passing Rate

A lower percentage of students passed Indiana’s required third grade reading test on their first try.

The Department of Education released preliminary results from this year’s IREAD-3 exam, which show 83.8 percent of third graders passed on their first try. Last year, the percentage was 84.2.

IREAD-3 is a standardized test assessing third graders’ reading ability, and it is separate from ISTEP+.

More students took the test this year, 1,575, which may have had an impact on the passing rate. And the rate could go up, as students can retake the test in the summer. After unsuccessful  students had the chance to take last year’s test a second time, that passing rate jumped to 87.4 percent.

(Read more about the history of the IREAD-3 assessment.)

If a third grader doesn’t pass the IREAD reading test the second time, they will have to retake third grade versions of the ISTEP and IREAD exams the following school year. State officials say these students will probably also be held back from entering fourth grade.

Final passage results will be available at the end of the summer.

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