Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Evansville Has The Secret Recipe To School Turnaround Success

Glenwood Leadership Academy in Evansville if one of the districts failing schools. After one year in the district's Turnaround Zone, GLA has reduced office referrals, increased IREAD scores and are getting more students closer to passing the ISTEP+.

Claire McInerny (StateImpact Indiana)

Glenwood Leadership Academy in Evansville is one of the district's failing schools. After one year in the district's Turnaround Zone, GLA has reduced office referrals, increased IREAD scores and are getting more students closer to passing the ISTEP+.

Last year, the school district in Evansville did something unheard of. They had five schools consistently receiving F’s from the state, and some of those schools were performing so poorly that the state was on the verge of taking them over. So the superintendent, teachers union and community came up with a plan that is exceeding expectations: they accepted that some of their schools needed intervention and made themselves open to help.

One of those five schools, Glenwood Leadership Academy, is showing rapid growth and could serve as an example for other schools in similar situations.

GLA has been in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation’s “Transformation Zone” for one complete school year, and now that it’s almost halfway through this current school year, the State Board of Education thought it was a good time for a check up.

“Glenwood Leadership Academy, I don’t think under my definition, is not a failing school anymore,” board member Tony Walker said. Continue Reading

Bartholomew County Residents Will Not Pay For Local Pre-K

A controversial referendum to fund pre-k scholarships for low-income four-year-olds in Bartholomew County failed.

Pre-K 4 All committee member Dave Barker and BCSC Superintendent John Quick wait for election results to come in Tuesday night. The referendum lost by a little more than 1,200 votes.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Pre-K 4 All committee member Dave Barker and BCSC Superintendent John Quick wait for election results to come in Tuesday night. The referendum lost by a little more than 1,200 votes.

Fifty-four percent of voters said no to a property tax increase that would have raised $12.6 million over seven years. This marks the second time the ballot measure has lost – voters also said no back in 2012.

The race was much tighter this time around. The margin of loss was just over 1,200 votes, as opposed to almost 2,000 in 2012.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation Superintendent John Quick says he’s disappointed in the outcome, but pleased that his community has started discussions about pre-k.

“I think we’ve raised the bar for pre-kindergarten in this community and around the state by having this conversation,” Quick says. “Our goal was to go from good to great, and it didn’t work out this time but we’ll have to just go back to the drawing board. We’ll keep the conversation going.”

Quick and others say the issue felt different this year than in 2012. They cited a change in ballot language which allowed for a more precise description of what the tax money would be used for, as well as increased community outreach efforts had them optimistic for a win.

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The ABC’s (And D’s And F’s) Of Wednesday’s State Board Meeting

School accountability grades will be the item to watch at this month’s State Board of Education meeting, following a delayed release in mid-October.

The State Board of Education is expected to release 2014 A-F school grades Wednesday, after they delayed doing so during last month's meeting.

ludwg / Flickr

The State Board of Education is expected to release 2014 A-F school grades Wednesday, after they delayed doing so during last month's meeting.

Board members decided to hold off on releasing A-F grades during their Oct. 15 meeting, after expressing concern over a handful of data calculation errors. The scores had previously been released to schools and the media on an embargo, which board members voted to sustain until they could get an outside review of the errors.

For added clarity, here’s how Chalkbeat Indiana‘s Scott Elliott described the errors in question:

The state has seen controversy around its A-F system in the recent past. A panel of experts is currently working to tweak the system for upcoming years — that group will also give an update on their progress at Wednesday’s meeting.

The agenda is pretty packed, so here’s a quick look at some of the other big items on the docket:

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Indiana Department of Education Website Down, Apparently Hacked

The IDOE website will be down temporarily while department Information Technology staff address an apparent hack.

Taylor Davis / Flickr

The IDOE website will be down temporarily while department Information Technology staff address an apparent hack.

Access to the Indiana Department of Education website went down Monday morning, due to an apparent hack.

A department spokesman said in a statement that there’s no sign any data hosted on the site had been compromised.

The hack apparently came due to a vulnerability in Drupal, the web development platform used for the site’s online content. Organizations including Harvard University, MIT and Warner Brothers Records also use Drupal for their websites.

According to a WISH-TV report, some users received a unique error message:

The message said the site had been hacked by the Nigeria Cyber Army, a group that in the past couple days listed on its Facebook page a number of government websites it had hacked. It’s unclear how long the site had been giving the message. As of 7 a.m., the site was no longer loading the message and still wasn’t loading the DOE’s actual site.

The Department’s Information Technology staff has taken the website down temporarily while this issue is addressed. Staff say they anticipate the site will be down at least through the rest of the day.

Education Cheat Sheet: What Voters Should Know At The Polls

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

StateImpact Indiana

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

Who’s ready for Nov. 4?

We’ve spent the past few days showing you how education will play into this year’s mid-term election, namely the presence of charter schools, a particularly timely pre-k referendum, and a who’s who of educationally-minded campaign donors.

The good news is that as voters, the power to shape what happens over the next few years is in your hands — who you elect could determine what education policies are selected, whether in the state legislature or on your local school board. So before you head to the polls and paste on your “I Voted!” sticker, skim through this list of items you should keep in mind when filling out your ballot:

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Sortable Table: Who’s Funding Your Representative?

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

StateImpact Indiana

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

A few days ago, we told you education could be the biggest issue facing voters at the polls Tuesday in an otherwise lackluster mid-term. Today, we’ve gathered some evidence to prove that point.

Below is a sortable table of campaign donations to both state Senate and House candidates from education focused organizations: PACs, unions and individuals who are key stakeholders in Indiana education.

As you look through the tables, you’ll see there are significant donations from these organizations, and in the case of many candidates, education related donations funded most of the campaign.

There are two donors the fueled the most money into Republican and Democratic candidates: IPACE and HQE (how they’re represented in the table). Indiana Political Action Committee for Education, IPACE, is the political action committee affiliated with the Indiana State Teachers Association and are mostly funding Democratic candidates. On the other side, Hoosiers for Quality Education, a PAC affiliated with the Institute for Quality Education, is funding Republicans who advocate for school choice. Continue Reading

‘Four Is The New Five’: Pre-K On The Ballot In Bartholomew County

Shirts, signs and stickers are among the items Pre-K 4 All volunteers distribute to community members to spread the word about Bartholomew County's pre-k referendum.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Shirts, signs and stickers are among the items Pre-K 4 All volunteers distribute to community members to spread the word about Bartholomew County's pre-k referendum.

At a recent community gathering in Columbus, hundreds of people are milling about making small talk. Robin Hilber is standing outside, folding a stack of green shirts. Each sports the phrase “Lead the Way With Pre-K.”

Hilber ruffles through the shirts and a few piles of other campaign materials.

“We’ve got yard signs, we’ve got buttons that also have the same logo on them, and then we also have business cards,” Hilber lists. “It’s important to vote ‘yes’ for pre-k!”

Hilber is a volunteer with Pre-K 4 All, a community group working to promote the passage of a preschool-related referendum on this November’s ballot – an issue all too familiar to county residents.

As we’ve reported, the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation is asking voters to raise property taxes to fund pre-k for approximately 450 low-income four-year-olds living in the district.

Taxes would increase by 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for seven years. That amounts to roughly $16 extra per year for a taxpayer with a $100,000 home. The levy would bring in about $12.6 million dollars to fund scholarships and allow the county’s existing public pre-k program, Busy Bees Academy, to continue operating and even expand.

Residents faced this request before in 2012 when they voted no on the referendum. But this time around, Hilber and her team are campaigning harder; they are putting out yard signs, canvassing neighborhoods and attending community events to get the word out.

“We weren’t quite as vocal, so we’ve decided to go out there and really inform people of the issue,” Hilber explains.

Pre-k is a hot topic across the state, and the renewed interest could help Bartholomew County’s cause. But there is much more for community members to consider.

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How Charter Schools Are Present On The Ballot

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

StateImpact Indiana

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

In the circle of school choice supporters nationwide, Indiana is known as a place with pro school choice laws and expansive options. But as charter schools expanded throughout the state and more school voucher money became available, so did controversy.

Now, charter schools are becoming a political platform for candidates in the state.

Indianapolis as a case study

Let’s first look at the Indianapolis Public Schools school board race in which ten candidates are running for three open spots on the board.

Indianapolis has one of the largest populations of charter schools in the state, with 40 residing within city limits. Because charter schools receive state funding just like public schools, the funding of charter schools within IPS’ district will be a relevant issue for those elected.

This emphasis on how charters will interact with IPS schools is evident in the candidates’ campaign financial filings. Charter advocates and PACs donated to multiple candidates. Christel DeHaan (founder of Christel House Academy of Tony Bennett scandal fame) donated $3,000 to David Hampton and $2,000 to Mary Ann Sullivan who are both running for the at-large position.

Charter advocacy groups based on the East Coast

including Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now and Leadership for Educational Equity donated a collective $13,200 to the candidates.

So that’s $18,200 of charter school supporter money funneled into a public school board race.

Charters advocates are funding General Assembly candidates

Republicans running for the General Assembly are seeing an influx in donations the last few weeks from Hoosiers for Quality Education, the new PAC name for Hoosiers for Economic Growth and parent organization to the Institute for Quality Education. The group is an Indiana based pro school choice advocacy group, and in the state senate race alone, HQE donated around $107,500 to Republican candidates.

Democrats are receiving education-related donations as well, but not from charter school advocates. We’ll look at that money later in the week.

The topic of charter schools is now ammunition for the debates between Republicans and Democrats in the state. In a statement back in July, Democrat Jeff Sparks who is running for state representative in District 62, blasted Republicans for their forgiveness of $91,000,000 in charter school debt.

Julie Berry, a Democrat running for state senate in District 45, has made education the flagship issue of her campaign. She writes on her campaign website that improving the state’s public schools are her priority if elected.

“Public schools are struggling in southern Indiana, and throughout the state, with fluctuating budgets, due in part to vouchers and charter schools,” Berry writes. “The majority of Indiana’s students will remain in public schools and it is our duty to maintain and improve Indiana’s public school system.”

Sparks and Berry are just two examples of candidates discussing charter schools in their campaigns, and it’s clear the subject is a polarized issues, with Republicans in the state supporting school choice and Democrats opposing it.

Could Education Be The Biggest Issue At The Polls This Year?

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

StateImpact Indiana

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

Here at StateImpact, education is the priority — and it seems those running for public office in Indiana this year agree.

The typical attitude toward midterm elections is lackluster when there isn’t a presidential race pulling people to the polls. And although voter turnout will most likely still be abysmal next Tuesday, we’re here to tell you if you want to vote with education in mind, this election is a great opportunity to do so.

This week we’re going to dive into some of the education issues at play in local and state elections across the state. We’ll look at charter schools, a pre-k referendum on the ballot in Columbus, how much money is funneled into school board races and the call from Republican leaders to change the school funding formula.

Political analyst Ed Feigenbaum says polling data from both sides, as well as independent polls, shows education is the top issue for voters.

“Unlike the past several cycles when jobs and the economy were the top issue or issues, this year, education is the top issue,” Feigenbaum said. “And when you drill down a little bit deeper, the key concern is education funding.”  Continue Reading

Study: Voluntary Donations To Schools Are Widening Funding Gap

An IU study shows wealthy school districts are raising more money through non-profits organizations like PTA groups, which widens the gap between rich and poor schools.

401(K) 2013 (flickr)

An IU study shows wealthy school districts are raising more money through non-profit organizations like PTA groups, which widens the gap between rich and poor schools.

A report released this week from education researchers at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs shows voluntary donations to school districts is widening the funding gap between rich and poor districts.

The study, written by SPEA associate professors Ashlyn Aiko Nelson and Beth Gazley, looked only at non-profit groups like Parent Teachers Associations, Booster Clubs and local foundations. They excluded large foundations that donate to schools around the country, because they wanted to track local money donated to local schools.

Nelson says they wanted to look at these types of donations because of the widening gap between wealthy and low-income districts. Currently in Indiana, money raised from income and sales taxes are pooled by the state and allocated to districts on a per-pupil basis using a school funding formula. The state does this as a way to keep funding for all schools equal, but donations through non-profit organizations provides a different way to create inequality.

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