Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Unpacking What “College And Career Ready” Really Means

Think about what it might mean to “get ready.”

When you prepare to leave the house in the morning, you might take a shower or pour yourself a cup of coffee. If you’re gearing up for a job interview, you might dry clean your suit or update your resume.

What you do depends on which situation you’re preparing for – which is part of the issue with the phrase “college and career ready.”

It’s one of the most common expressions in modern-day education lexicon. Most states – including Indiana – boast “college and career ready” academic standards, and emphasize preparation for both pathways as the end goal of a student’s K-12 education.

But what does the term mean, exactly? How a student “gets ready” for college could be very different from how they prepare to go directly into the workforce – is it possible to be ready for both at the end of one’s K-12 experience, or are those objectives at odds with one another?

A Vocabulary Lesson

To better understand the phrase, let’s break it down – or rather, let’s see how state and national education leaders define it:

CCR Definition

Among the fifty states’ definitions, the College & Career Readiness & Success Center at the American Institutes for Research finds the following common components:

  • Academic knowledge
  • Critical thinking and/or problem solving
  • Social and emotional learning, collaboration, and/or communication
  • Grit/resilience/perseverance
  • Citizenship and/or community involvement

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President Obama Signs Student Aid Bill of Rights

President Obama Tuesday signed what he called the “Student Aid Bill of Rights,” to help college students manage the process of dealing with student loans. The executive action directs federal agencies to take steps to help borrowers pay back their loans quicker, protect themselves, and get assistance when needed.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst 1 of 5. U.S. President Barack Obama signs a presidential memorandum, a Student Aid Bill of Rights to Help Ensure Affordable Loan Repayment, in the Oval Office in Washington, March 10, 2015.

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IPS: A Case Study For How State Funding Will Reach Classrooms

IPS is one of a handful of schools who will see dramatic reductions in complexity money under the proposed new funding formula.

IPS is one of a handful of schools who will see dramatic reductions in complexity money under the proposed new funding formula. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

The fate of funding for Indiana schools now rests in the hands of the Senate, after the House released its finalized version of a budget for the next two years.

As we’ve reported, the House’s proposed budget tries to close the gap in state funding between schools in affluent areas and schools with high poverty rates.

Many school districts that traditionally get more state funding from complexity money testified before the Senate school funding subcommittee Tuesday to explain the detrimental loss that the reduction in complexity money will have on their schools.

Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Louis Ferebee testified to the importance of dollars that go to low income kids. He says staff outside of teachers, like nurses, are crucial in IPS where a school nurse might be the primary healthcare provider for a kid.

Because of the reduction in complexity money proposed by the House, IPS could lose up to $18 million for the next two years. As Hayleigh Colombo of Chalkbeat Indiana reports, the IPS School Board is trying to move forward with creating its yearly budget:  Continue Reading

Issues Raised Over ISTEP+ Test Item Security

Questions over ISTEP+ test item security are being raised now that the testing window is open.

Questions over ISTEP+ test item security are being raised now that the testing window is open. (Photo Credit: James Martin/Flickr)

This year’s version of the ISTEP+ is steeped in controversy: the original length of the test exceeded 12 hours, legislation to change it last minute quickly moved through the legislature and the controversy sparked ideas of opting out for some families.

Now, it seems there are questions around security of test items, reports Rich Van Wyk of WTHR-TV:

We heard of a fourth grader in Huntington who opened his math test, raised his hand and told the teacher that he’d seen the question before.

Practice tests fourth graders used to prepare for ISTEP+ inadvertently included an actual test question. That’s a serious breach of test security.

“The test is too important to have problems with it,” said Cari Whicker, State Board of Education.

Whicker is sixth grade teacher and member of Indiana’s state board of education.

“We are just at the beginning of the testing window. I hope this isn’t a sign of more problems to come,” she said.

After so many rushed changes to this year’s test, the test consultants hired through Governor Pence’s executive order issued a report on ways to make next year’s testing process go smoother.

How Can We Reduce Student Debt? IU Uses A Letter

The legislature is considering a bill that would notify students taking out student loans annual updates on their debt.

The legislature is considering a bill that would notify students taking out student loans annual updates on their debt.    (Photo Credit: 401(K)2013/Flickr)

One of the education bills still alive in the General Assembly would require universities to annually update students in the 21st Century Scholar program or those receiving Frank O’Bannon scholarships (both state funded scholarship programs) of their current student loan debt.

The goal of the bill is help students be responsible when it comes to taking on debt to complete school.

As legislators hammer out the details of the law, we at StateImpact wanted to share what this notification might look like. Indiana University currently has a similar tactic: the school sends students an annual “debt letter” outlining how much money an IU student will owe when he or she graduates, and how long it might take to pay back.

Jim Kennedy is the Director of Financial Aid at IU and helped start these financial literacy efforts around student debt two years ago. Students who take out loans receive financial counseling before they begin school and after they graduate, as mandated by the federal government. But Kennedy says it’s the years in between when students need the most guidance. Continue Reading

Senate State Board Legislation Goes Deeper Than House Version

Not all General Assembly lawmakers are sold yet on the Senate’s plan to overhaul Indiana’s State Board of Education.

The Senate’s state board legislation, SB1, goes much further than its House counterpart, which only removes State Superintendent Glenda Ritz as automatic board chair. While allowing the board to elect its own chair, the Senate bill gives legislative leaders the power to appoint four members of the board.  It also eliminates two members of the board, reducing it to nine.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Brandon Smith/IPBS)

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Brandon Smith/IPBS)

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, says he hasn’t decided whether to back that plan.

“Still a little curious as to the elimination of the representation from congressional districts, the geographic dispersal, and whether it should just be the governor’s appointments or the legislature should be involved as well,” Bosma says.

Senate Republican leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne, says he thinks his chamber’s plan is more balanced than the House bill.

“It shows that we really are looking at the functioning of the board itself and how can we get maybe a better operating board without pointing fingers at any one person and saying, ‘If we make this one change, that changes everything,’” Long says.

The House bill would keep current state board members in place, while the Senate version would require members be reappointed, should they wish to continue serving.

New Funding Formula Now In The Hands Of The Senate

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, during a meeting of Indiana's Senate Education Committee in January.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, during a meeting of Indiana’s Senate Education Committee in January. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

By the end of the current session, the General Assembly will finalize a budget for the next two years, with education needs dominating most of the dollars.

The House already passed a budget, and today the Senate Appropriations committee began discussions on what their colleagues sent over.

In terms of school funding, the proposed budget would change how much each student receives. We’ve already explained this new version of the funding formula, but here’s the basic gist: rather than giving more money to schools with more students in poverty, the distribution among students will be more equal.

Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, presented the House budget (which he wrote) to the Senate committee Thursday. Senate appropriations chair Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, commended Brown for his work.

Under the proposed budget, complexity money – the dollars given to low income students in addition to the basic tuition money – is set to decrease. Kenley says the Senate will likely tweak the budget, including taking another look at how to adjust those complexity dollars. Continue Reading

Deadline Approaches To Apply For State, Federal Financial Aid

Next Tuesday, March 10, marks the deadline for college-bound students in Indiana and across the U.S. to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. Colleges use information from the FAFSA to determine their scholarship awards – Indiana has nearly $300 million in state aid available this year – which is why Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers and her counterparts around the country are encouraging potential students to complete the form on time.

As the due date approaches, our colleagues with NPR’s Education team take a closer look at the form and how some lawmakers hope to simplify the application process.

Look closely. Buried deep in President Obama’s 2016 budget (Page 41) is a proposal to cut up to 30 questions from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The Obama administration has already done a lot to make the FAFSA easier – if not shorter.

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Changes To Funding Formula Still Leave Many Districts In The Red

School districts like Indianapolis Public Schools, with high free/reduced lunch rates, will see a cut in state funding under the new formula.

School districts like Indianapolis Public Schools, with high free and reduced lunch rates, will see a cut in state funding under the new formula. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana)

A previous version of this story included incorrect free and reduced lunch data from the Department of Education. 

In Zionsville, a suburb of Indianapolis, the median household income is more than $100,000. The free and reduced lunch rate is less than four percent – the lowest in the state.

It’s also one of the lowest funded school districts in the state.

It seems counterintuitive that a school in a wealthy community is having to make deep cuts to stay out of the red, but that’s exactly what’s been happening over the last seven years.

“We lost some world languages, we lost our International Baccalaureate program at the high school level, we lost the ability to run most of our science labs for more than a year, because our class sizes exceeded the safety ratings,” says Zionsville Superintendent Scott Robison.

The district has also laid off teachers and posed multiple referendum questions to supplement its state funding. To understand why Zionsville is in this situation, you have to know how the way we fund schools has changed. Continue Reading

How Can Indiana Improve the ISTEP+ Next Year?

Students across Indiana are in the middle of taking the spring ISTEP+ – a shorter test than was expected, thanks to quick action from state officials, guided by two national consultants.

Two national consultants recommend a series of quick steps to improve next year's ISTEP+ test. (Photo Credit: Kate Parker/Flickr)

Two national consultants recommend a series of quick steps to improve next year’s ISTEP+ test. (Photo Credit: Kate Parker/Flickr)

Gov. Mike Pence released Edward Roeber and Bill Auty’s full review of the test Monday. The two men compiled their report within a matter of days after the governor hired them to aid in trimming the test last month. The document contains recommendations for immediate implementation in this spring’s test, as well as ideas for the state moving forward.

“We believe that implementing our long-term recommendations will improve the design and implementation of the ISTEP+ program in the future,” the report reads. “We remain willing to assist in and perhaps monitor efforts to implement these recommendations.”

As a refresher, the feds required Indiana to create a new test this year, after the state pulled out of the Common Core and PARCC last April. State leaders hope to better align the state test to state standards so they can create a more refined assessment for 2016 and beyond.

How can they do so? Let’s look at the short- and long-term fixes Roeber and Auty suggest…

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