Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What’s The Status On No Child Left Behind?

You may have heard national news outlets talk a lot in recent weeks about the federal No Child Left Behind act.

We’ve summarized the law before – it plays into different aspects of education here in Indiana, most importantly expectations for student testing and federal funding for state schools.

Right now, Congress is talking about reworking the measure, and as the process nears completion we thought it would be a good time for a refresher: what is NCLB, how are lawmakers hoping to reshape it and what could potential changes mean for national and local education?

What is No Child Left Behind?

No Child Left Behind is an extensive federal statute that lays the groundwork for school funding in Indiana and across the country. (Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

No Child Left Behind is an extensive federal statute that lays the groundwork for school funding in Indiana and across the country. (Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

NCLB is the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (or ESEA – we know, lots of acronyms), the nation’s cornerstone education law. ESEA was established for the purpose of establishing accountability and high standards for learning, as well as emphasizing equal access to education to minimize achievement gaps between different groups of students.

The extensive federal statute also sets out the structure for funding primary and secondary education.

Former president Lyndon B. Johnson signed ESEA into law in 1965, and since then Congress has reauthorized the act every five years.

In 2001, the administration under former president George W. Bush made significant edits to the reauthorization, titling it No Child Left Behind. This iteration put heavy emphasis on increased accountability measures for both teachers and students, exemplified by a mandate for states to administer annual standardized tests to quantify student growth and achievement.

Some argue that although the intent of NCLB is admirable, the methods are not. Here’s how NPR correspondent Juana Summers summarizes current debate over the law:

When it started, it was supposed to close gaps in achievement between poor students and students of color and their more affluent peers. And to do that, there are these annual tests in reading and math. Critics say it’s trouble. Teachers don’t like that they’re teaching to these tests and that it just makes students have to take too many tests to actually see results.

It’s primarily these concerns Congress hopes to address as they work to tweak the law.

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A Look Behind The Scenes: How Are Standardized Tests Scored?

Have you ever wondered how standardized tests are scored? It’s a different process than grading, but it still involves the work of human hands. NPR Education reporter Claudio Sanchez met a few of the people who volunteer to mark the more than 5 million tests administered this school year by Pearson – the company who will handle Indiana’s new ISTEP+ test next year.


Standardized tests tied to the Common Core are under fire in lots of places for lots of reasons. But who makes them and how they’re scored is a mystery. For a peek behind the curtain, I traveled to the home of the nation’s largest test-scoring facility: San Antonio, Texas.

Read more at: www.npr.org

Final Countdown: Jackson County Readies For On My Way Pre-K

Although the school year only recently ended, teachers and administrators are already actively planning for the next.

Teachers and administrators in Jackson County have more reason than usual to get excited for the upcoming year: their rural community is finally kicking off its efforts as part of the On My Way Pre-K, Indiana’s first state-funded preschool pilot program.

Programs in four of the five areas started in January, but in Jackson County, officials wanted to wait so they could make room for more kids, find extra funding and get pre-k providers up to speed.

Pre-K Continues To Grow, Thrive In Indiana

On My Way Pre-K is off to a roaring start and has brought awareness to the issue of early childhood education around the state.

Four hundred and fifty children received grants to participate in the January launch in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties. Earlier this spring, Gov. Mike Pence announced the addition of nearly 600 spots for the fall, distributed proportionally among the five counties.

State officials estimate that pilot providers will be able to serve about 2,000 low-income 4-year-olds come August.

Melanie Brizzi speaks to parents at Wayne Township Preschool in Indianapolis in April. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Melanie Brizzi speaks to parents at Wayne Township Preschool in Indianapolis in April. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Melanie Brizzi, Director for Early Learning at the state’s Family and Social Services Administration, says it’s hard to pick out the program’s biggest success so far.

“Truly, the joy that families are experiencing and that they have this opportunity for their child has to be number one,” Brizzi says. “Followed closely behind that is the significant quality improvements that we’ve seen occurring in programs, which not just supports the On My Way Pre-K children with high-quality, but it supports all those children in that program.”

Compared with this time last year, the number of preschool providers with a Level 3 rating on the state’s Paths to QUALITY system (a minimum requirement to participate in the pilot) has increased by 27 percent in the five pilot counties. The number of Level 4 ranked providers is up 51 percent.

Following in the pilot’s tracks, communities all across the state are launching preschool programs of their own – perhaps most notably, the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program (or Indy PSP), sponsored by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Indy-based organization Early Learning Indiana recently announced a “Partnerships for Early Learners” campaign, a five-year plan aimed at transforming the state’s preschool landscape.

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Mailbag: Reactions To Recent School Choice Coverage

Mailbag Long LogoIt’s been a while since StateImpact did a Mailbag post, where we showcase reader comments and reactions to our stories – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t always reading your feedback.

We’ve recently done a few stories reporting on school choice in Indiana, and many of you shared your thoughts with us.

In a story looking at the state’s voucher use since it started five years ago, we looked at the original intention of the voucher program and how it’s changed after four years:

To understand the state’s school voucher program, officially called the Choice Scholarship Program, you have to sift through a lot of numbers. A good place to start: enrollment.

“Well it’s grown quite a bit, the number of students using the choice scholarship program increased a lot year over year, there’s no question about that,” says Chad Timmerman, education policy adviser to Gov. Mike Pence.

During the 2011-12 school year – the first year for the Choice Scholarship program – around 4,000 students enrolled. Last year, it was almost 30,000.

“Obviously with the doubling of students or whatever magnitude we’re growing, you’re obviously going to spend more on vouchers,” Timmerman says.

After reading the story many of you took to social media to share your thoughts on the program and how its changed:

Cindi Pastore shared her thoughts on Facebook:

I’m not sure why no one ever sees the flaws in this privatization plan- once you starve the public schools to the point where they have to close or at best can only afford to give children minimal service- WHO exactly is going to educate the children who private and charter schools refuse to serve? Is it that you can’t see this or is it because you don’t care? 40 million dollars are being rerouted awAy from the most needy and to for profits- why doesn’t this bother you?

Rachelle Ruge-Bernard commented on our Facebook:

They made it a business

Keep interacting with us about our work and the topics we’re covering, we love to know what you’re thinking and it often helps drive our reporting.

Former Charter Principal To Replace Mind Trust Fellow In IPS

Francis Scott Key Elementary School 103 on the Fareastside is now a Phalen Leadership Academy operated as an IPS school.

Francis Scott Key Elementary School 103 on the far east side is now a Phalen Leadership Academy operated as an IPS school. (photo credit: Eric Weddle / WFYI News)

The principal who was set to launch a pivotal elementary in Indianapolis Public Schools has been replaced by the former leader of a shuttered city charter school a month before classes begin.

Marlon Llewellyn had been preparing the first IPS “innovation” school —the former Francis Scott Key Elementary School 103 on the far east side. The school will open in August as a Phalen Leadership Academy and is the anchor of a major philanthropic investment effort headed by the Glick Family Foundation, United Way of Central Indiana and IPS.

Llewellyn was picked last year by education reform group The Mind Trust to co-develop the school with Earl Phalen, the CEO of the Phalen charter school company, and given a $100,000 fellowship. The two were later approved by the IPS school board to open the the first school in the district under a 2014 law that lets IPS hire an independent management team to run a school without the constraints of the district’s teacher union contract.

“Yes, Marlon has done a great job during his fellowship year but will not be leading us forward as the school leader next year,” Phalen said in an email Thursday. Phalen has not responded to requests for further clarification as to why Llewellyn was removed.

Llewellyn did not respond to a request for comment.  Continue Reading

Dual Language Pilot Program Available To Schools

The State Board of Education approved Wednesday a dual language immersion pilot program for schools.

The State Board of Education approved Wednesday a dual language immersion pilot program for schools. (photo credit: sylvar/flickr)

Legislation passed by the 2015 General Assembly allowed the State Board of Education Wednesday to approve a dual language immersion pilot program that will award grants to Indiana schools wishing to create or expand a dual language immersion program.

Currently, there are four such program available in Indiana.

This pilot program provides a maximum of $500,000 each for fiscal years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 to help interested schools create capacity for such programs.

The maximum amount of money a school can receive each year is $100,000.

The languages taught under the program are specified, just need to be approved by the Department of Education, but they must start in kindergarten or first grade and classroom instruction should be divided evenly between English and the foreign language.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz says she hopes interested schools will apply to get a program off and running, since this type of language instruction is more difficult to administer than other courses.

“It’s not the same as having a teacher teach a course on another language,” Ritz says. “It is actually immersion within one language and having your instruction in that language 50 percent of the time so it takes quite a bit of planning, dedication, and conversation with consultants to make sure you get that right.”

Caterina Blitzer, the Global Learning and World Languages Specialist for the IDOE, says the grant money will likely be used on a salary for a qualified teacher and professional development for staff involved in the program.

Deadline for the program is July 24, and the grant application can be found here.

5 Years Later, State School Choice Looks Dramatically Different

Five years ago the General Assembly created a school choice program to help low-income students get out of failing schools. Today more middle class families and students who never attended public schools are using the vouchers.

Five years ago, the General Assembly created a school choice program to help low-income students get out of failing schools. Today, more middle class families and students who never attended public schools are using the vouchers. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

Private schools are experiencing a surge in enrollment, in large part because of the state’s expanding voucher program. 

When the program first passed in 2011, supporters said funding private school tuition would give poor kids in failing schools options to get a better education.

But a new report shows that as the program enters its fifth year, the cost to taxpayers and students has changed dramatically.

Indiana’s School Choice Program, From The Beginning

To understand the state’s school voucher program, officially called the Choice Scholarship Program, you have to sift through a lot of numbers. A good place to start: enrollment.

“Well it’s grown quite a bit, the number of students using the choice scholarship program increased a lot year over year, there’s no question about that,” says Chad Timmerman, education policy adviser to Gov. Mike Pence.

During the 2011-12 school year – the first year for the Choice Scholarship program – around 4,000 students enrolled. Last year, it was almost 30,000.

“Obviously with the doubling of students or whatever magnitude we’re growing, you’re obviously going to spend more on vouchers,” Timmerman says.

On paper, it costs less for the state to partially fund a child’s private school tuition than fully fund their education at a public school. During the first two years of the program, Indiana actually saved money with the program.

Fast-forward to this year: according to the Department of Education’s updated school choice report released in June, $40 million from the school funding formula is going toward vouchers. That’s because the eligibility requirements have changed. Families that weren’t eligible at the launch of the program four years ago now qualify for substantial subsidies.

During a speech on C-SPAN after the voucher law passed the Indiana General Assembly in 2011, former Gov. Mitch Daniels explained the purpose of the program was to include public schools into the school choice program.

“The family will only be eligible if the child has spent at least two semesters in a public school,” Daniels said.

The original law mandated families try public schools before getting a voucher for private school.

“In other words, if the public school delivers and succeeds, no one will seek, will exercise this choice,” Daniels said.  Continue Reading

State Board Kicks Off Flexibility Discussions for A-F Grades

Doors have closed on the 2014-15 academic year – a year of great change – but state officials are just beginning to figure out what it all means for schools.

In a monthly meeting jam-packed with hefty agenda items, the State Board of Education spent time discussing how they’ll deal with school accountability for the past year.

State Board of Education members Byron Ernest (left) and Eddie Melton listen to presentations during the board's July meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Board of Education members Byron Ernest (left) and Eddie Melton listen to presentations during the board\’s July meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

When Indiana dropped Common Core in 2014, the state rolled out an entirely new set of academic standards and an updated ISTEP+ test to match. Student scores are often low the first year an exam is introduced, which has many Hoosier leaders concerned over how schools would be held accountable.

Luckily, the state has options. The U.S. Department of Education has offered all states the option for some flexibility in using accountability during transition periods for standards and assessments. In response, a Senate committee asked Indiana’s Department of Ed this session to create a list of ideas for determining A-F grades that would fit within federal restrictions, so as not to jeopardize the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver.

IDOE staff released a list of 12 options for calculating school accountability grades for the 2014-15 school year, which State Board members began discussing at their meeting Wednesday.

The board eventually needs to approve whatever option the state decides to pursue, since the group has final approval of all school grades.

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Arlington Returns To IPS But Students Fear Too Much Change

This is the first in a series of stories about Arlington Community High School’s transition back to the Indianapolis Public School district in the 2015-16 academic year.

Today Arlington Community High School officially becomes an Indianapolis Public School — again — three years since the state took control of it due to chronic failure and hired a charter school company to run it.

The company, Tindley Accelerated Schools, has faced criticism for its hard discipline and high dropout rates — but changed the school’s culture from one of chaos to safety and instruction. In 2012, the school had been graded an F by the state for six years because of low test scores. It remains an F today.

Now, the question for many in the community is: can IPS remake Arlington into a new, succesfull 7-12th grade school despite its past?

Arlington Community High School has returned to Indianapolis Public Schools Corp. after three years being run under a state contract by charter school company Tindley Accelerated Schools. (Photo Credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI Public Media)

Arlington Community High School has returned to Indianapolis Public Schools Corp. after three years being run under a state contract by charter school company Tindley Accelerated Schools. (Photo Credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI Public Media)

That’s what student Christian Smith worries about. But he’ chosen to stay at the Northeastside campus for his senior year and become an IPS student again.

The Arlington basketball player hopes other classmates who follow suit, can influence IPS staff and new students in the Tindley-way — that means: no violence, no shenanigans and a serious focus on learning with an eye toward college.

“Probably be like a little shift but I am pretty sure it is going to be pretty much the same people that have been going here the past four years, so we are accustomed to how Tindley ran,” Smith said about his expectations for next school year. “So we are just going to keep it same, I feel like. So that is why I am staying.”

But IPS officials don’t yet know how many current Tindley students will stay at Arlington for the 2015-16 school year. They hope to double Arlington’s enrollment to 600 students, including adding around 300 new seventh graders from feeder schools.

And it remains to be seen how students will gel with new principal Stan Law, former principal of Shortridge Magnet and Broad Ripple high schools.

That’s because some students worry Tindley’s culture of “no excuse” discipline and academic expectations will vanish when IPS takes over again at Arlington.

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Ivy Tech Under Pressure To Prove Student Progress, Keep Funding

In order to hold onto funding for its various workforce training programs across the state, Ivy Tech Community College has until August 1 to show improvement in student success rates. State officials say the system is not meeting the thresholds for some programs, and they want to see progress before committing the money. This comes on the heels of additional pressure from lawmakers, who previously ordered a state review of Ivy Tech’s programs due to concerns over low graduation rates and declining enrollment.


The state funnels millions in federal Workforce Investment Act dollars to residents looking to improve their skills in the job market. Some take the money and go for two-year degrees, such as for a licensed practical nurse, while others attend short-term programs for industry certifications.

Read more at: www.southbendtribune.com

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