Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Pittsboro Teen Returns To National Braille Challenge For The Win

 

Mitchell Bridwell will compete in the national Braille Challenge, a contest focused on reading and writing Braille. The contest is an attempt to improve the unemployment rate among blind people, by encouraging Braille literacy.

Mitchell Bridwell will compete in the national Braille Challenge, a contest focused on reading and writing Braille. The contest is an attempt to improve the unemployment rate among blind people, by encouraging Braille literacy. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI News)

Mitchell Bridwell is a voracious reader.

The Pittsboro teen made his way through some Charles Dickens but would rather spend time inside the worlds of Rick Riordan or J. K. Rowling.

To make it through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he’ll have to run his fingertips through six volumes of the braille edition.

But for Mitchell, he’d much rather dig into modern fiction by over smoothly running his fingertips over tiny dots of punctured paper than listening to any audio book or voiceover software.

“I’m not sure if je ne sais quoi would be the right word, but I think that works for braille,” he says while sitting on his couch.

It’s safe to say that Bridwell’s braille reading skills are known nationally. This weekend, he’ll join three other students from the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to compete at the national Braille Challenge contest in Los Angeles.

To get there, the four beat out 1,100 braille readers and writers in preliminary regional events across the US and Canada. Only 50 students, ages six to 19, made the finals.

In braille — words and letters are formed within units of space known as braille cells. A full braille cell is two parallel rows of three raised dots. Continue Reading

Report: Indiana’s Rural Schools Disproportionally Funded

Like rural districts across Indiana, dropping enrollment in Argos Community Schools means less money for the district. As officials look toward the future, they're nervous about what comes next. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Like rural districts across Indiana, dropping enrollment in Argos Community Schools means less money for the district. As officials look toward the future, they’re nervous about what comes next. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Indiana has the eighth highest population of rural students in the country. One in four public school students in the state attend a rural school.

The Rural School and Community Trust issues a report each year to outline various issues rural schools across the country face. A major takeaway about Indiana is the amount the state funds rural school districts.

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Ivy Tech Strengthening Community Focus With Administrative Changes

Ivy Tech Community College is second in the nation for students using Pell Grants to attend college. (Kyle Stokes/Stateimpact Indiana)

Ivy Tech Community College will undergo administrative changes to focus more on individual communities. (photo credit: Kyle Stokes/Stateimpact Indiana)

Ivy Tech Community college will undergo administrative changes this summer aimed at making each campus more community focused, addressing needs expressed by campuses across the state.

Ivy Tech’s campuses currently serve students at a regional level, but going forward they will focus on specific towns.

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Financial Barriers Keep Most People From Workforce Training

Caleb Pierson looks over a cabinet project he designed for Heartwood Manufacturing. Pierson is a graduate of a program run through Batesville High School, that helps high school students get manufacturing skills while still in high school. This program within the school system is a solution to Batesville's lack of skilled workers for manufacturing jobs.  (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Caleb Pierson looks over a cabinet project he designed for Heartwood Manufacturing. Pierson is a graduate of a program run through Batesville High School, that helps high school students get manufacturing skills while still in high school. This program within the school system is a solution to Batesville’s lack of skilled workers for manufacturing jobs. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Indiana has open manufacturing and construction jobs, but not enough workers with the training to fill them.

The Indiana Institute for Working Families released a new report this month on some of the biggest challenges for people who want to go back to school to earn credentials.

Andrew Bradley is the senior policy analyst for the institute and says more than a million jobs will open in the next decade that require specific training. And most are in manufacturing and construction.

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Holcomb Appointments New SBOE Members, One Previously Served

Tony Walker listens during a State Board of Education meeting in 2014. He vacated the board when a law dictated a restructuring of members, but Gov. Holcomb re-appointed him after a recent vacancy. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Tony Walker listens during a State Board of Education meeting in 2014. He vacated the board when a law dictated a restructuring of members, but Gov. Holcomb re-appointed him after a recent vacancy. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Gov. Eric Holcomb filled two vacant spots on the State Board of Education, appointing Kathleen Mote and previous board member Tony Walker.

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Online Pre-K Program Looks To Increase Kindergarten Readiness

Danielle Reynolds and her son Jackson work on reading skills following his graduation from UPSTART. (photo credit: Lindsey Wright/WTIU News)

Danielle Reynolds and her son Jackson work on reading skills following his graduation from UPSTART. (photo credit: Lindsey Wright/WTIU News)

One by one, young kids in Floyd County are graduating from their pre-K program, but it’s not traditional preschool, it’s all done online.

Jackson is one of about 100 students graduating from the home-based UPSTART program. He also attends an in-class preschool. His mom, Danielle Reynolds, was eager to try something new with him so he would be prepared for kindergarten.

“My daughter, she didn’t have a rough start, but she wasn’t maybe as prepared as I would have liked,” Reynolds says.

New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools is the first district in the state to pilot UPSTART through a federal grant. The Waterford Institute in Utah develops the software, which New Albany schools also use as a reading intervention tool for K through 2nd grade classes.

That’s why Tony Duffy, the director of elementary education, says he was expecting positive results.

“We jumped at the chance because we saw what Waterford did for other students, and we knew we had an opportunity to do that with our students that are coming in,” Duffy says.

Before beginning the program, kids take an online assessment. Then, with their parents, the kids use the program at home, 15 minutes a day, five days a week, for nine months. They take the same assessment once they’ve completed the program.
Claudia Miner, director of UPSTART, says the results of the follow up exam are compared to the exam each kid took before they began the program.

“And you might not think that was really long enough for children to learn much, but the software is so individualized that it teaches the children exactly what they need to know before they move on to the next things,” Miner says.

Currently more than 27,000 low-income four year olds don’t have access to high-quality pre-K in Indiana. Several counties have limited options or even no option.

FINAL 2017 Annual Report 1 by Indiana Public Media News on Scribd

The Indiana General Assembly is putting $1 million toward online pre-K, and it’s not exactly clear yet how the money will be distributed. Continue Reading

Rural Schools Explore Multiple Tactics To Save Districts

Mike Keaffaber, MSD Wabash County's superintendent and Jason Callahan, Wabash City Schools superintendent, commissioned a study to look at the future of population in Wabash County. Both school districts struggle financially as enrollment continues to decline.

Mike Keaffaber, MSD Wabash County’s superintendent and Jason Callahan, Wabash City Schools superintendent, commissioned a study to assess population trends in Wabash County. Both districts struggle financially, as enrollment continues to decline. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

There are two school districts in Wabash, Indiana, not enough students to fill both, and both are struggling financially.

Jason Callahan is superintendent of one of these districts, Wabash City Schools, and he’s made a lot of changes to save money.

“At some point you can’t cut any more,” Callahan says. “We’re down to one elementary, one middle school one high school, in our whole district, so there’s no more buildings to reorganize.”

With those school consolidations in Wabash City Schools, the only remaining elementary school is is at maximum capacity.

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State Announces Pre-K Expansion Counties

Indiana's preschool pilot program would expand to 15 new counties and include a controversial option for online preschool under legislation heading to the governor's desk. (Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)

(Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)

Low-income families in 15 counties will soon be able to use state money to send their 4-year-old children to preschool. Indiana’s first pre-K pilot included five counties – some urban and some rural.

One of the additional counties is Delaware, where Carrie Bale runs the By5 Early Childhood Initiative. She says while she’s glad for the new opportunity, the expansion includes a new requirement that could exclude families that need the service.

“In the first round three years ago in the five original counties, it was an income qualifier – and that was the only qualifier,” Bale says. “With this new round coming out, it’s an income qualifier of 127 percent of poverty, plus the parents have to be working or going to school. That’s going to be our challenge.”

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4 Former Low-Performing Private Schools OK’ed To Take New Vouchers

Indiana State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry voted against giving four private schools waivers to accept new vouchers from the Choice Scholarship Program during the June 7, 2017, board meeting in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Eric Weddle/WFY News)

Indiana State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry voted against giving four private schools waivers to accept new vouchers from the Choice Scholarship Program during the June 7, 2017, board meeting in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Eric Weddle/WFY News)

The Indiana State Board of Education approved four private schools with a history of low performance and academic failure to accept publicly funded vouchers to cover tuition for incoming students during a meeting Wednesday.

The schools had lost their ability to enroll new students in the Choice Scholarship Program because they had been rated a D or F on the state’s accountability system for at least two consecutive years.

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Why Indiana School Districts Will Rethink Valedictorian Rankings

Across Indiana, school districts plan to ditch valedictorian rankings in favor of new ranking models. (Lauren Chapman/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Across Indiana, school districts plan to ditch valedictorian rankings in favor of new ranking models. (Lauren Chapman/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

It’s no secret. Top students battle it out each year for one title: Valedictorian.

Now, as school years come to a close, across Indiana schools will rethink that school ranking, including schools in Hamilton County, Kokomo and Fort Wayne.

As schools look to the future, it’s the latest as schools plan to do away with a ranking model some label “archaic.”

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