Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What The Indianapolis Pre-K Program Means For Other Towns

The Indianapolis City-County council approved a $40 million preschool program for low income students.

The Indianapolis City-County council approved a $40 million preschool program for low income students.

The Indianapolis City-County Council voted 19-8 last night in favor of Mayor Greg Ballard’s preschool program, which will give more than 1,300 low income children in Marion County the opportunity to attend preschool. The program will cost an estimated $40 million.

WFYI’s Michelle Johnson explains where the money for the new program will come from:

The money would come from removing 35,000 homes from the Homestead Tax Credit program, reallocating funds for charter school oversight, and interest from the Fiscal Stability Fund.

The program would also leverage about $20 million in private funding from businesses and foundations. About $2 million of that would come from Eli Lilly and Company, which is also leading an effort to raise another $8 million from other corporate donors.

The compromise is smaller than one Mayor Greg Ballard proposed earlier this year, allowing three- and four- year olds to take advantage of the program, and prioritizing the children of poorest families. Under the plan, a family of four with an annual income of just over $30 thousand dollars would get highest priority.

The program wasn’t always poised to be a success, and it seemed the council wouldn’t approve the full $40 million, but last month the council began backing Ballard’s plan. Continue Reading

Teachers See Evaluation System Less Favorably Than Administrators

As Indiana’s academic standards and statewide assessments change, educators are being tasked with adjusting what they teach while still continuing to help students succeed. How students perform in class and on standardized tests is a key factor in how those teachers are evaluated — and in turn, how they’re paid.

And when compared to the state’s administrators, teachers are still generally more skeptical about the state’s evaluation system, according to a study brief issued by the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning (CELL) at Indiana University.

Teachers are a bit more skeptical about their evaluation system than the administrative counterparts in their districts, according to a new study.

Teachers are a bit more skeptical about their evaluation system than the administrative counterparts in their districts, according to a new study.

CELL researchers conducted a large-scale survey of Indiana public school administrators and teachers regarding feelings about the state’s teacher evaluation system and how it has been implemented in their districts.

Results showed that superintendents are most favorable of the evaluation system, followed by principals and lastly teachers. Principals generally say they have more confidence in their knowledge of the system and their ability to conduct effective evaluations than do the teachers they’re rating.

These response patterns are consistent with findings in similar studies from around the country, including Georgia and New Jersey.

Continue Reading

Mishawaka School Employees Lose Collective Bargaining Rights

Non-teacher employees in the Mishawaka school district will lost collective bargaining rights when their current contract ends Dec. 31.

Non-teacher employees in the Mishawaka school district will lost collective bargaining rights when their current contract ends Dec. 31.

The Mishawaka School Board voted to terminate collective bargaining rights for school employees like custodians, bus drivers and food service workers starting Jan. 1.

This decision stems from the employees’ choice to not renew a contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union, which ends Dec. 31.

The South Bend Tribute writes more about the issue:

[...] AFSCME’s bylaws prohibit members from contracting with another union under the AFLCIO umbrella for a year after disassociating with it, Steve Bolin the former union president said. Bolin contacted the Indiana State Teachers Association, which is not under the AFLCIO umbrella, and asked a representative to talk with the 3060 group, which represents 59 of the eligible 114 members.

Last month, Bolin said, the group voted in favor of associating with the teachers’ union beginning in 2015.

Then, “all hell broke loose,” Bolin said. “AFSCME has gone crazy on the (school) corporation, relieved me of my duties and taken over all of my duties.” Continue Reading

Tech-Savvy Teaching: How Online Learning Helps Students & Teachers

Technology has become increasingly prominent as a teaching tool in classrooms around the state.

Technology has become increasingly prominent as a teaching tool in classrooms around the state.

Think about the last time you used technology in your daily life.

Maybe it was dialing up a colleague on your smartphone, using your laptop to take notes in a meeting or an online tool to help you put together that big presentation. Digital tools play a big role in today’s economy, and the ability to operate different technologies appropriately is one of the top skills employers look for.

Nationally, President Obama is pushing for schools to increase their use of technology in the classroom in order to prepare students for life in today’s world. Teachers nationwide are introducing “Bring Your Own Device” policies, and beginning to use tools like Skype to bring in guest lecturers from around the world. Teachers in Indiana are being recognized for paving the way when it comes to new technology, but effectively incorporating it into teaching can be a challenge.

Continue Reading

The Franklin Busing Case Looks Back To Nagy Opinion

A case over whether or not families should pay busing fees in Franklin Township has made its way all the way to the state Supreme Court.

A case over whether or not families should pay busing fees in Franklin Township has made its way all the way to the state Supreme Court.

The Indiana Supreme Court began hearing arguments Monday in the case against Franklin Township schools’ decision to eliminate busing services and replace it with a private service, which parents had to pay for.

As we’ve reported, parents sued, it went through the court system, and is now in front of the five judge panel at the state Supreme Court.

The Indiana Business Journal writes that lawyers representing the parents are citing another case involving parent fees in a public school system:

Continue Reading

Indiana Supreme Court Takes On Franklin Township Busing Fee

Does the Indiana Constitution require public schools to offer free transportation to their students? That’s the question being considered by the State Supreme Court.

A case over whether or not families should pay busing fees in Franklin Township has made its way all the way to the state Supreme Court.

A case over whether or not families should pay busing fees in Franklin Township has made its way to the state Supreme Court.

The Franklin Township school system eliminated its busing service three years ago, saying property tax caps had squeezed the school corporation’s finances. The system hired a private firm to run its buses and the firm required parents to pay a fee.

One of those parents sued the township school corporation, and while a trial court sided with the schools, the Indiana Court of Appeals sided with the parent, landing the case before the state Supreme Court.

Attorney Ian Thompson, representing the parent, says the Indiana Constitution mandates that the state must provide a uniform school system available for all, and that depriving children of a way to get to school violates that mandate.

“Transportation has become and has evolved into a fundamental part of a free and public education,” Thompson says.

But attorney Sam Laurin, arguing on behalf of the school corporation, says the legislature gets to decide what public school systems must include.

“In this case, the legislature – through clear statutory language at the time that this dispute arose – made it clear that school corporations may, but are not required to bus all students,” Laurin says.

The Supreme Court justices did not announce a timetable for their ruling.

More Indiana Students Could Receive Free Breakfast

School districts in Indiana can apply to receive meals through a national non-profit, Breakfast in the Classroom.

School districts in Indiana can apply to receive meals through a national non-profit, Breakfast in the Classroom.

Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, a non-profit which provides free breakfast for children in high need districts around the country, announced this week they are expanding into Indiana.

Breakfast in the Classroom is a separate service from the federal free/reduced meal program. As their name suggests, students eat the meal together in their classroom, while the teacher takes attendance, collects homework or completes other morning tasks.

The program does not stay in districts long-term, but provides breakfast for one school year in a way to encourage students who qualify to get breakfast through the free/reduced meal program to do so.

The Walmart Foundation funds the program, and a variety of education organizations work with the organization. They include Food Research and Action Center, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the School Nutrition Foundation. Continue Reading

Pre-K Pilot Beginning Soon, A Tight Timeline For Some Counties

The pre-k pilot program will launch in four counties in January, a quick turnaround since counties found out about their selection in July.

The pre-k pilot program will launch in four counties in January, a quick turnaround since counties found out about their selection in July.

After becoming law back in March, the state’s pre-k pilot, On My Way Pre-K, will soon become a reality. Four of the five counties are poised to launch in January, and applications for providers and families wanting to participate are now available.

The five counties selected to participate in the program weren’t announced until the end of July, leaving organizers in those counties five months to fundraise, select eligible providers and work on recruiting eligible children.

In the counties’ original applications, they outlined their short-term capacity for preschool students: how many spots are available, how many potential providers, possible sources of fundraising, etc. So not to say they started the process from scratch back in July, but five months before launch means things have moved quickly in many places. Continue Reading

Applications For Pre-K Pilot Now Available For Parents

The Indiana Charter School Board decides Tuesday whether or not to add a classical charter school to Monroe County schools.

Applications for the pre-k pilot program are available to families.

Applications for On My Way Pre-K, the state’s pre-k pilot program, are now available for low-income families wishing to enroll their children.

The applications are only available to families in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties, where the program will launch in January. Applications for Jackson County families will be available later.

The application asks for basic information about the family including proof of address, number of family members, and proof of income. To be eligible for the program, families must earn an income falling below 127 percent of the poverty line – around 30,000 dollars a year for a family of four.

Children must turn four by the time they enroll in pre-k classes in August. If there are more applicants than spots available at participating preschool programs, applicants will be selected through a lottery.

Applications are due December 15.

Homework Not Just For Kids When It Comes To Family Engagement

Brittany McKee helps her sons Gage and Jayce Meza complete the craft that's part of the parent engagement night at Edgewood Primary School in Ellettesville.

Brittany McKee helps her sons Gage and Jayce Meza complete the craft as part of the parent engagement night at Edgewood Primary School in Ellettsville.” credit=”Bill Shaw/WTIU News

Indiana is in the midst of a transition year when it comes to education: new academic standards, an ISTEP+ test that is not yet written and a new pre-k pilot program launching in four counties in January. All of these changes create challenges for kids ages three to 18 – but despite the differences of each area, there is one thing everyone says will help solve the issues at hand: family engagement.

Family Engagement In Action

On a recent weeknight at Edgewood Primary School in Ellettsville, parents and grandparents stream into the lunchroom with their kindergarten through second grade children. Tonight’s event is a literacy-based craft night, and students are signing up for which teacher they want to read them a book. Teachers will read to the children, showcasing techniques they use in the classroom parents can replicate at home.

Jill Ferguson oversees family engagement for Richland-Bean Blossom schools and gives instructions to families before they scatter to different classrooms for the reading activities.

“Parents, I ask you, please get in there,” she says into a microphone. “Listen to how the teachers present the story, maybe it’s something you could do at home.” Continue Reading

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