Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Senate Dems: We Need In-State Tuition For Undocumented Students

Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) with members of the Latino community at a press conference Monday outlining an education initiative that would allow in state tuition for undocumented students.

Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) with members of the Latino community at a press conference Monday outlining an education initiative that would allow in state tuition for undocumented students. (photo credit: Senate Democrats)

Senate Democrats outlined initiatives for the upcoming legislative session aimed at improving the quality of life for Latino people Indiana, including a proposed bill that would give undocumented students who have graduated from an Indiana high school in state tuition at Indiana universities.

This initiative is a continuation on a Senate bill from last session that did not pass. The proposed bill granted in-state tuition for any undocumented student that graduated from an Indiana high school after attending the school for three years.

This updated version of the bill would also grant in-state tuition according to these guidelines.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, explained the proposals and said the bill from last year had bipartisan support with Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, authoring the bill, giving Lanane hope the bill could become law this year.

“There are many students, many individuals that we know, who because they could not afford the in state tuition rates have had to defer their dreams,” Lanane said. “The time is now to end that. Let’s open up our schools to these wonderful young people, allow them to get the education they need, and allow them to contribute to the state of Indiana.”

To illustrate the need for this bill, Lanane invited Beatriz Preciado, a graduate of Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis and an undocumented student, to speak about her experience trying to afford college since graduating in 2012.

“Being able to pay the in-state tuition rate would help me finish what I started majoring in, which was physics and mechanical engineering. I really want to finish that off and contribute to the economy here in the state of Indiana because this has been home for so long,” Preciado said.

Lanane says from a fiscal standpoint this bill would help the economy by not only adding more able people to the workforce, but by bringing in a crop of students to the state’s universities who are not currently paying tuition.


When Will The 2016 GOP Candidates Discuss Education?

As the large group of Republican presidential hopefuls fight for the White House, the topic of education is rarely coming up during the debates.

As the large group of Republican presidential hopefuls fight for the White House, the topic of education rarely comes up during their debates. (Photo Credit: Stephen Mellentine/Flickr)

The 2016 Republican presidential candidates squared off in another debate this week, with attacks on one another and more back and forth on issues of foreign policy and diplomacy dominating the conversation.

As with the first debate last month, little of the discussion circled back to education, despite many of the candidates’ extensive experience with school policy in their home states.

The moderators didn’t ask the candidates any direct questions regarding education, but there were a few occasions when the presidential hopefuls mentioned, only briefly, some education policy issues.

Education Week highlights all of these occurrences, some of which are listed below:

• Front-runner Donald Trump was the only candidate to directly bring up the Common Core State Standards, which was the K-12 policy star of the GOP debate last month. But Trump only touched on it in passing—in an exchange with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Trump mentioned Bush’s support for the common core, and added, “which is also a disaster.” (That’s a reprise of a previous Trump attack on Bush from June.) Bush did not respond, however.

• Bush did bring up one of his signature accomplishments while running Florida: his approval of a major school choice program. He highlighted the state’s tax-credit scholarship program as “the largest voucher program in the country.” (The scholarships in the program Bush referred to aren’t strictly vouchers.)

• Discussing a question about the minimum wage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker argued that creating a good education system was a superior approach to helping the economy than raising the minimum wage. For a picture of Walker’s K-12 record, and how he talks about it, click here. Walker also mentioned the “big government union bosses” who opposed him in Wisconsin, a reference in part to teachers’ unions who opposed his successful push to effectively end collective bargaining for most public employees.

In terms of big issues, the candidates mostly focused on foreign policy and economic issues, which might be the norm for this election. These issues currently dominate the agenda in Washington, and according to a Gallup poll conducted before the 2014 midterm election, these are the issues voters find most important.

But if education ever does take center stage, the likely hot topics will be federally mandated standards, the rising cost of college and support for school vouchers.

The cost of college is something the Obama administration has addressed, especially in Indiana. President Obama visited Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis earlier this year to discuss his plan for making community college free and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed the cost of college and barriers to graduating this week at Purdue.

With the conversation started by the current administration it might only be a matter of time before the Republicans share their views.

State Board Discusses New Diploma Types For Indiana Students

Indiana high school graduates will face a new crop of diploma choices in the 2018-19 school year, but details of those diplomas are still being discussed.

The Indiana Career Council recently submitted their recommendation for three new diploma types, a reduction from the four currently offered by the state.

During the public comment period at Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting, many audience members appealed to the board, saying the new diploma requirements will make it harder for students with special needs to graduate.

The four current options include a General diploma, Core 40 diploma, Core 40 with academic honors or Core 40 with technical honors. Not every school offers all four, but many of the parents who testified said having access to a diploma like the general one – which requires fewer credits in core areas like math, science and English – would help their special education students complete a degree.

The three diplomas the Career Council recommends are called the College and Career Ready diploma, the Workforce Ready diploma and an honors diploma. All of these require more credits than current diplomas in core subjects.

This is where the opposition comes from: some say the increased credit requirements don’t allow special education students access to a high school diploma.

Currently, a special education student can receive a certificate at the end of their high school career, but many of the parents and special education advocates who testified at the meeting said this is not fair to these students.

The new diplomas must be approved by Dec. 1, so the State Board of Education plans to take action on the subject during their November meeting. Since the matter must be decided by the end of the year, Ritz suggested the INSBOE hold a special meeting in October to discuss the diploma options at length and to hear from the public.

Schools Should Receive Delayed A-F Grades By January

State Board of Education members discuss the updated timeline for schools to receive this year's A-F grades.

State Board of Education members discuss the updated timeline for schools to receive this year’s A-F grades. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

After learning from testing vendor CTB last month that ISTEP+ scores wouldn’t be released on time, the Department of Education told the State Board of Education Wednesday that schools should receive their grades by Jan. 18, rather than the fall when grades are typically issued.

Not releasing A-F grades on time creates a domino effect for other things like whether a school is classified as a priority or focus school and when teachers would receive performance bonus pay.

The IDOE is also working with the federal government to make sure they comply with federal requirements for reporting low performance school data.

(Read more about the A-F delay and its implications here.) 

The tentative Jan. 18 release of grades will create a very tight deadline for schools to issue bonuses based on teacher evaluations, before the Jan. 31 deadline for those bonuses. These bonuses are issued in part based on student ISTEP+ scores as well as evaluations conducted by the school.

IDOE spokesperson Daniel Altman says the department is pushing CTB to expedite the scores as quickly as they can.

“We’re dealing with a delay from CTB that was outside of our control,” Altman says, “We’ve been working significantly with state board staff, legislative staff to get the timeline as reduced as it could be and we’re going to get information to schools as soon as possible.”

Duncan: Indiana College Access Is Great, But ‘I Want Completion’

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a new “college scorecard” –  and it’s not your typical ranking system.

The tool gives users access to federal data on college attendance, student debt, graduation rates and other data for more than 7,000 institutions across the country, allowing them to compare schools for themselves. The system does not translate the numbers into ratings on its own.

A screenshot of the U.S. Department of Education's new College Scorecard, highlighting statistics for schools in Indiana. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)

A screenshot of the U.S. Department of Education’s new College Scorecard, highlighting statistics for schools in Indiana. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)

But anecdotally, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says Indiana is ahead of the game in many areas.

Duncan and some of his U.S. Department of Education colleagues appeared in the Hoosier state as part of their sixth annual back-to-school bus tour. The group parked first at Purdue University Wednesday afternoon; a second Indiana stop is also planned in Indianapolis Wednesday evening, at Crispus Attucks High School.

Look for Eric Weddle’s coverage of Duncan’s Indianapolis stop later tonight. 

Duncan says when it comes to higher education, he’s all about three things: 

“We have to focus on access, we have to focus on affordability, and we have to focus on outcomes,” he says.

The secretary says Indiana is taking steps to address all of those areas. He commended Purdue president Mitch Daniels for his efforts to keep costs low for students and their families. Purdue is in its third straight year of a tuition freeze. Other state universities, including Indiana University and Ivy Tech Community College, have since followed suit.

Helping students obtain – and pay for – a college degree is a top priority for President Barack Obama’s administration this year. Obama visited Indiana earlier this year to tout his plan to make two years of community college free, incentivizing more people to get trained for high paying, middle class jobs. Earlier this week, the administration also introduced a new version of the FAFSA form for federal student aid, which they say is shorter and easier for students to fill out.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (right) speaks with Purdue president Mitch Daniels on the school's West Lafayette campus Wednesday. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (right) speaks with Purdue president Mitch Daniels on the school’s West Lafayette campus Wednesday. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Locally, some state lawmakers and education officials have expressed concern about the Indiana’s remediation and college completion rates. The legislature even included in this year’s budget bill a Commission for Higher Education review of the community college system.

Duncan acknowledges that there are still steps the Hoosier state can take to improve its options for students.  

“For me it’s all about outcomes,” Duncan says. “Access is important, but I don’t want just access, I want completion. I want graduation rates. So we need to move some of our funding toward not just inputs, but to outcomes.”

Purdue president and former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels says he agrees, and it’s his goal that Purdue be a leader in this kind of accountability for the state.

“The system of education has tried to avoid accountability…and at both the K-12 and higher ed levels right now, people are appropriately saying, ‘no, show us the results!” Daniels explains. “[It's] accountability for outcomes, not simply pouring more effort and dollars into inputs without knowing something valuable for young people is happening.”

Purdue is working to increase its graduation rate by introducing a new degree program this fall based on competency instead of credit hours.

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State Board Will Attempt To Keep Pace With A-F Grades Wednesday

Following a week of confusion surrounding Indiana’s A-F grading system earlier this month, the State Board of Education will focus primarily on school accountability at their monthly meeting Wednesday.

Earlier this month, state education officials raised a red flag and asked legal experts to weigh in on whether or not they had invalidated the state’s A-F letter grading system. The issue at hand was whether or not the State Board had followed the letter of the law in transitioning from an old A-F system to the new version set to take effect for 2016 grades.

State Board members Byron Ernest (left) and Steve Yager talk during a break in the board's August meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Board members Byron Ernest (left) and Steve Yager talk during a break in the board’s August meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

The state’s attorney general has since said everything is fine, and the current system is still valid.

Despite the confusion, the board is expected to vote to direct the Department of Education and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz to issue grades for the 2014-15 school year, including amendments for schools with atypical configurations.

The calculation of those grades will be delayed. That’s because of issues current test vendor CTB encountered in grading new technology-enhanced portions of the 2014 ISTEP+ test – a main factor in the state’s rating system. The company informed the board of those problems at their meeting in August.

Schools likely will not receive grades until December.

CTB will not be the state’s test vendor any longer – as of the current school year, that job now falls to British testing company Pearson. The board will receive an update on the transition between the two companies at Wednesday’s meeting.

Also on the agenda are votes for recommending new rules for reporting school discipline data and a discussion about Indiana’s new high school diploma requirements.

The board meets Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m. You can watch a live-stream of the meeting here.

Meet Dawn Wooten, The First Republican Candidate for Schools Chief

Dawn Wooten, a college-level English instructor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, is seeking the Republican nomination for state superintendent.

Wooten filed her election paperwork and launched a campaign website last week.

She is the first candidate to emerge as a challenger to current superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat. Ritz is seeking her second term after dropping a bid for the governor’s seat.

Nominees will be chosen at state party conventions next year.

Dawn Wooten is the first Republican to present herself as a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction in 2016. (Photo Credit: Dawn Wooten Official Campaign Website)

Dawn Wooten is the first Republican to present herself as a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction in 2016. (Photo Credit: Dawn Wooten Official Campaign Website)

Wooten’s name might be familiar to some because she served on Indiana’s College and Career Readiness Panel – the group that prepared a new set of state academic standards after Indiana’s 2013 exit from the Common Core. During that stint, she visited the Department of Education offices at the statehouse in Indianapolis – and that’s part of what compelled her to run.

“I did not see a lot of initiative or activity in the office, in fact I barely saw any people. It made me question, what is this administration doing?” Wooten recounts. “I did not see any policy initiatives come out of the administration, and I don’t think they accomplished what they wanted to.”

Wooten has a degree and a background in management – a skill she sees as crucial for the person occupying the office of superintendent. That, she says, is what sets her apart from Glenda Ritz.

“The Department of Education is a huge department to manage in terms of human resources and money, and with her not having that experience I think it made it difficult for her to try to learn how to do that and try to get her policies initiated,” Wooten explains. “I can jump into that. I have that to bring to the table, in addition to my education experience, so I think I’m more well-rounded in terms of the job as a whole.”

Wooten says she will campaign for changing the state's test teacher autonomy. (Photo Credit: Dawn Wooten for State Superintendent Official Facebook page)

Wooten says she will campaign for teacher autonomy. (Photo Credit: Dawn Wooten for State Superintendent Official Facebook page)

Wooten says in both her current and past positions as a college-level educator, she’s seen what comes out of Indiana’s K-12 system. As an adjunct faculty member at IPFW, Wooten says she encounters many students who enter college in need of remediation – something she says needs to change.

In addition, Wooten homeschooled her own daughter and nephew for a number of years, during which time she used the Indiana state standards and textbooks as well as reviewing local curriculum. She says this experience gave her an awareness of what is actually going on in the state’s public schools.

And what she sees is an aggressive push on the part of the state and federal government on standardized testing – which she says has forced educators to “teach to the test.” That’s why teacher autonomy is one of Wooten’s top priorities.

“My number one priority is to kind of change the thinking about achievement testing,” Wooten explains. “The state and the federal government are so worried about student test scores, that if they really want to get those to a higher level, they need to realize that teachers cannot teach to a test adequately, and students don’t respond to that.”

“There was a time in this state when achievement testing was done once every two or three years, and it was more than enough,” Wooten adds.

Here’s a quick look at where the candidate stands on other top education issues:

  • Academic Standards: On her website, Wooten cites “stopping the Common Core influence” as a top issue in the 2016 race. She says Indiana’s standards as they were rewritten still contain a significant bulk of Common Core language, although notes that as a member of the rewrite panel on the English/language arts side, she was able to get a lot of that type of language removed. Wooten adds that Indiana needs to rethink its textbooks, since many of those currently in use were written to meet Common Core requirements: “By doing that, they have taken away so much of what I consider a ‘classical education’ – meaning reading, writing and arithmetic, and having our children exposed to the classics, and making sure that they’re not overloaded by informational texts,” Wooten says.

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Arlington Seeks More Staff Amid Struggle To Control, Help Students

Principal Stan Law has spent only a few days observing teachers and giving them feedback since school began six weeks ago. He knows that’s crucial support educators at Arlington Community High School need as some are fresh-out-of-college.

Instead, he carries a bullhorn and joins three IPS police officers and other staff who fan out across the school’s expansive corridors to hunt down dozens of students daily. These are kids skipping class, vandalizing the building, smoking marijuana and just ignoring the rules and their education.

On a recent day, Law is walking along D Hall on the second floor — it’s a hot spot where kids can move up and about the building with little notice — when he hears someone in the stairwell.

Law creeps up the steps.

“I knew it was you, little rascal! Don’t worry, I got you,” Law shouts as the student runs away onto the third floor. “The one I was just talking about … that’s him. Can’t trust him as far as I can see him.”

Law is trying to clamp down on these “runners” — students, sometimes in large groups, who literally run free in this 380,000 square-foot school on the city’s northeast side. That’s the size of an IKEA store for thousands of customers.

But at Arlington there’s just 630 students. Continue Reading

Commission Addressing Teacher Retention Meets For First Time

The first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission looking at teacher retention met Friday.(Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

The first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission looking at teacher retention met Friday. (Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

A 50-member commission created by State Superintendent Glenda Ritz met for the first time Friday to begin developing strategies to address Indiana’s teacher shortage, and this initial meeting examined teacher retention.

Superintendent Ritz made it very clear from the outset of the meeting: the so-called “Blue Ribbon Commission” she assembled is no mere study committee.

“Its purpose is to provide action,” Ritz said. “It is to provide strategies toward action so that we can retain the best teachers that we have and we can recruit the best teachers that we need.”

About 80 percent of Hoosier teachers remained with their school corporation between the 2012-2013 school year and the 2013-2014 school year. That number gets significantly worse when you look at teachers in schools with a high percentage of minority students, or schools with a high level of poverty.

As the commission explored potential root causes, Indiana Department of Education specialist Caitlin Beatson provided examples of what is causing teachers to leave.

“Lack of teacher mentoring and support, nonexistent or non-responsive professional development, inadequate educator preparation,” Beatson said.

But those examples were based on exit interviews and surveys some schools provided – with several commission members questioning whether they reflected actual conditions and causes. The panel will only have a few more meetings – likely three or four – to develop its own answers.

Indiana Schools Changing Policies To Include LGBT Students

Three Prism students speak on a panel at Bloomington High School South about making schools more inclusive for LGBT students. State superintendent Glenda Ritz joined the students as part of the panel.

Three Prism students speak on a panel at Bloomington High School South about making schools more inclusive for LGBT students. State superintendent Glenda Ritz joined the students as part of the panel. (photo credit: Barbara Brosher/WTIU News)

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz joined the conversation this week about how to make schools safer and more inclusive for all students. The backdrop for her announcement was Bloomington High School South, a school in the Monroe County Community School Corporation, which recently updated its anti-discrimination policy to specifically prohibit discrimination or bullying based on a student’s gender identity in addition to sexual orientation and other protected classes.

This policy change comes after a year where LGBT issues dominated politics between the controversy over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage. That conversation is now reaching classrooms in Indiana, and school districts, policy makers and students themselves are learning how to navigate through these changes.

Superintendent Ritz Learns From LGBT Students

Superintendent Glenda Ritz took a seat on the stage at Bloomington High School South Tuesday  to engage in a conversation about how to make schools safer and more inclusive, especially for LGBT students.

She was billed as the guest speaker, but she mostly sat back and listened, taking notes as students shared their experiences — good and bad — of teachers addressing LGBT students in the classroom.

“I was talking to a teacher in the classroom about my identity as a bisexual and they just kind of said, ‘Well, you’ll pick one’,” said Isaac, one of the student panelists.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks before the panel discussion on LGBT issues in schools.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks before the panel discussion on LGBT issues in schools. (photo credit: Barbara Brosher/WTIU News)

The student panelists are members of Prism, a youth group for LGBT students, run by Bloomington Pride. They organized the discussion to help inform school officials on ways to make school more inviting and inclusive for LGBT students, and discussed topics such as gender neutral restrooms, including LGBT relationships in sex education classes and how teachers can be better trained on interacting with this population of students.

After the panel, Ritz said conversations like this are slowly happening at schools statewide.

“Well I think the conversation is out there already with the RFRA conversation, it’s happening all over the state and in our communities and it’s happening in our schools,” she said. “I think that we have students that are feeling empowered so to speak to bring up issues with their administration and I’m excited that we’re having that conversation statewide.” Continue Reading

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