Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

New Indiana School Standards Target Computer Science Skills

In this 2012 file photo, a Carpe Diem student logs onto a computer. Indiana's new science standards require a focus on computer science skills in elementary and middle school. (Kyle Stokes/ StateImpact Indiana)

In this 2012 file photo, a Carpe Diem student logs onto a computer. Indiana’s new science standards require a focus on computer science skills in elementary and middle school. (Kyle Stokes/ StateImpact Indiana)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — For the first time, schools will be required to teach computer science skills to all Indiana elementary and middle school students.

Indiana will be one of seven states with formal statewide computer science standards this school year.

All summer, computer science has been a focus at the Lincoln St. Boys and Girls Club in Bloomington. About 20 rowdy campers pile into the club’s computer lab.

“So today what they’re doing is Archives,” explains Tabitha Cassani, the club’s program director. “It has a whole bunch of games from like the 80s and the 90s. Things that I played when I was little.”

Games like Pong, Oregon Trail, and Pac Man. The idea is to give kids a fun outlet to see how computer technology has evolved.

And the club also offers free classes in other computer skills, including typing, coding and robotics.

“It equalizes the playing field of kids being exposed to technology and getting that skill. Every job in the future is going to have a computer,” Cassani said. “Like my dad’s a mechanic, has a high school education, and he uses a computer every day.” Continue Reading

Two-Thirds Of Indiana College Students Graduate Within Six Years

Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers says more Hoosiers are graduating college, but racial achievement gaps persist. (The Statehouse File)

Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers says more Hoosiers are graduating college, but racial achievement gaps persist. (The Statehouse File)

By nearly every measure, more Hoosiers are completing college than ever before.

However, black and Hispanic students are half as likely than white students to graduate on time, according to a new report from the Indiana Commission of Higher Education.

Across the board, about two-thirds of Indiana college students now receive a bachelor’s degree within six years of starting college.

“More students are graduating on time which saves them considerable amount of money,” said Teresa Lubbers, commissioner of higher education. “We calculated that an extra year of college costs about 50,000 dollars a year.”

But, she says, the graduation rate plummets when looking at Black and Hispanic students.

“We still see a significant achievement gap,” Lubbers said. “Black and Hispanic students are about half as likely white students to graduate on time.”

According to the department, most campuses have measures to help Black students graduate on time. Far fewer specifically focus on Hispanic students.

See the full report here.

GOP Gov. Nominee Holcomb Gives Slim Insight On Educational Policy

Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb was nominated as the GOP’s gubernatorial  candidate after a vote this afternoon by the Indiana Republican central committee.

This puts some distance to the brutal public fights over policy and power between Gov. Mike Pence and Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz – a saga that drove division lines among educators and the public alike.

Eric Holcomb

Holcomb, 48, has not been apart of those battles — he’s only been lieutenant governor for four months.

Yet he is aligned with the Indiana’s majority Republican party who pushed school reforms the past 12 years — from expanding availability and funding for vouchers and charter schools to teacher evaluations. He was the campaign manager to former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who ushered in the sweeping changes with former state schools chief Tony Bennett, and was once the state Republican chairman.

So about 15 minutes after winning the nomination in a private vote, where does Holcomb say he stands on education policy and working with that other elected official across the Statehouse rotunda — state superintendent? Continue Reading

In Which Districts Do Most Students Use Private School Vouchers?

The Indiana Department of Education last week released an updated report on the state’s school choice scholarship program, often called school vouchers.

The report showed the state is spending $18 million more on the program than it did last school year. In the first few years of the program, it was saving the state money, according to a calculation crafted by the General Assembly.

These scholarships allow a student from a low-income family that meets a specific set of criteria to use state money to attend a private school.

The program started in 2011 and in the first years, it grew exponentially. But although the number of students is still growing, it’s starting to level off.

Take a look at our interactive map to see where the most students are using school vouchers. The school districts located on the map mean a student using a voucher lives within that school district’s boundaries.

Beyond ‘Mad Men’: More Public Schools Advertise To Survive

Fort Wayne Community Schools will spend about $10,000 on billboards this summer. District spokesperson Krista Stockman says state funding from a gain of two new students would pay for the billboards. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Fort Wayne Community Schools will spend about $10,000 on billboards this summer. District spokesperson Krista Stockman says state funding from a gain of two new students would pay for the billboards. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Forget Don Draper. Forget Peggy Olson. The newest era of advertising may live within your public school district.

Schools will start soon, but where you live doesn’t necessarily determine where you go to school anymore. Families can choose where to go to school — private, charter or public school. The aim behind providing this choice? Proponents say it will force all schools to better themselves.

Whether it has done that remains controversial. But it has given birth to a new reality for public schools: with education competition, comes the need for education marketing.

Schools Seek Community Connection

If Marnie Cooke had her way, you’d see school colors plastered throughout downtown Noblesville.

“I don’t know when the city of Noblesville is planning on changing over street signs,” said Cooke, Noblesville Schools communications director. “But I hope to put a bug in their ear that it might be cool to have some black and gold street signs.”

Black and gold. The district’s colors.

In Noblesville, voters recently agreed to bump up property taxes to help fund the district. Cooke wants everyone in the small central Indiana city to feel connected to the schools.

The district relies on the community for funding, internships and students. So the district hired Cooke because of her private-sector marketing background. Continue Reading

First Year Teachers Reflect On First Year And Prepare For Next

Over the last year, we've reported on the experiences of three first year teachers as they adjust to the new career.

Over the last year, we’ve reported on the experiences of three first year teachers as they adjust to the new career. The group convened to discuss how the first year went, the lessons they learned, and how they’re preparing for their second year. (photo credit: Alex McCall and Eoban Binder/Indiana Public Broadcasting).

Over the last year, we’ve followed three first year teachers as they enter the education profession. We’ve reported on their expectations, the way they adjusted teaching practices, and the emotional ups and downs that come with the job.

This week on WFIU’s Noon Edition, the teachers convened to reflect on the first year.

Listen to hear their discussion on their support systems, meeting their students’ needs and trying to navigate the state assessment.

State Supreme Court Rules Against Local Teachers’ Union

The Indiana Supreme Court Thursday ruled in a case regarding collective bargaining in one Indiana school district.

The case, Jay Classroom Teachers Association v. Jay School Corporation and Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, looked at how much flexibility a school superintendent has when establishing a teacher salary after the start of the year.

When oral arguments began, we reported on the general question being asked of the court: 

Eric Hylton argued for the teacher’s union, the Jay Classroom Teacher Association, and started his oral argument addressing the issue of principal discretion with setting teacher salaries. He argued that if a teacher is hired after the start of the school year, the principal should not have complete discretion in setting that teacher’s salary. He said the union should still negotiate that salary with the school district.

The union is arguing that there should be tight parameters for a new teacher, like years of experience, that determine salary. The school corporation and The Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB) say a superintendent should be able to set the salary as long as it is within an already set range.

The question at hand was this: when a superintendent in Jay County offered a salary to a teacher hired midway through the year, it fell within the range previously determined by the teacher’s union. But the union thought they should be able to bargain on this specific case and not let the superintendent choose a salary anywhere in that range.

In her opinion, Chief Justice Loretta Rush explained that the court found the superintendent to be well within his/her right in assigning a salary:

“We conclude, therefore, that the superintendent’s authority was neither unilateral nor unfettered and so did not conflict with the Association’s right to collectively bargain to establish salaries under Indiana Code section 20-29-4-1,” Rush wrote in the opinion.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented the opinion, agreeing with the trial court saying all salaries should be collectively bargained.

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s A Look

Governor Pence delivered his State of the State speech in 2016.

Governor Pence delivered his State of the State speech in 2016. (photo credit: Brandon Smith/Indiana Public Broadcasting).

Last night, Donald Trump and Indiana governor Mike Pence were chosen by the Republican National Convention as the Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Tonight, Pence will take the stage in Cleveland at the 2016 Republican National Convention. He is now, officially, the vice-presidential running mate of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

But before that happens, we want to take a dive into Pence’s education policies in the nearly four years he’s been the governor of Indiana.

Just how much does he have in common with Donald Trump when it comes to schools and education? Definitely not nothing.

We worked with the teams at NPR Politics and NPR Ed to provide insight on how Pence influenced education policy during his term as governor.

Continue Reading

ISTEP Panel Reconsiders December Deadline For New Test

Testing expert Ed Roeber travelled to Indiana Tuesday to speak with the panel re-writing the state's assessment. Roeber encourage the panel to spend at least two years creating and implementing the new assessment system and not rush into it, like Indiana did in 2014.

Testing expert Ed Roeber travelled to Indiana Tuesday to speak with the panel rewriting the state’s assessment. Roeber encourage the panel to spend at least two years creating and implementing the new assessment system and not rush into it, like Indiana did in 2014. (Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

The panel rewriting the state’s assessment met for the third time on Tuesday, and the group is concerned about meeting its December deadline.

The General Assembly created the panel to get recommendations for the ISTEP+ overhaul before the 2017 session. That comprehensive list must be completed by December 2016.

But that only gives the panel four more months to come up with their list of recommendations, and on Tuesday that timeline came into question.

The test is given to third- through eighth-graders and one final time in high school. The state abandoned Common Core Standards in 2014 and wrote its own test.

Ed Roeber is a testing expert based out of Michigan and consulted the state on the 2014 rewrite. He advised against dropping current standards, writing new ones and creating a test that matched those standards all in one year. He said there would be issues with implementing the test. The state also hired him to advise ways to shorten the test.

Today he warned the group against compressing the work into a short time and repeating the mistakes from 2014.

“Get it right,” Roeber said. “I don’t want to come back in a couple years when the next replacement is being talked about.”

But Roeber is back, and in this meeting, he advised the ISTEP+ panel that it takes a minimum of two years to develop a new assessment program, hire a vendor, develop the assessment instruments, field test them, revise the assessment and prepare for the actual test. Other consultants have also given this advice.

The panel repeatedly called on Roeber to answer additional questions about the role of a statewide assessment. Many around the state have discussed using this new version of the ISTEP+ to serve two functions: to give the federal government a summary of what a student learned in a year (how the current ISTEP+ works) and to give teachers a progress report throughout the year of what students are learning (like the NWEA test many schools currently use).

Roeber told the panel the second is not a realistic expectation for this new assessment.

“The state test is not the place to inform a classroom teacher about what kids do and don’t know,” Roeber said.

In the two earlier meetings, the panel heard from testing experts from around the country. Members discussed high stakes testing and classroom impact. So far, they haven’t established any detailed recommendations to include in their report. Continue Reading

School Voucher Program Cost State $18 Million More Than Previous Year

The state's choice scholarship program spent $18 million more last year than the year before.

The state\’s choice scholarship program spent $18 million more last year than the year before. (photo credit: Abhi Sharma / Flickr)

The Indiana Department of Education released an updated report Monday that shows the state’s choice scholarship program, sometimes called school vouchers, cost the state $18 million more than it did last school year.

More than 32,000 students enrolled in the program during the 2015-2016 school year and received state dollars to attend private schools, meaning almost three percent of students in Indiana attend private school using a choice scholarship.

The state spent $131.5 million in scholarships this year, which is $18 million more than last school year.

When the legislature created the program in 2011, advocates claimed it would save the state money. Because the vouchers cover either 50 or 90 percent of the tuition at a private school, depending on the family’s income. Republicans who led the charge in 2011 said the state would spend less money since it’s only funding a portion of the education.

Because of this sentiment, the original legislation mandated that the IDOE calculate the savings using a formula dictated in the law. It said the savings from this program would be redistributed to public schools. The first two years of the program showed a savings of around $4 and 5 million a year, but since the 2013-2014 school year, as the number of students using vouchers grew, it became a deficit. Last school year that deficit was $40 million and this year it jumped to $53 million.

As this number continues to grow, state superintendent Glenda Ritz is calling for a halt to the expansion of the program. In the middle of this year’s legislative session, she asked the General Assembly to look at the effectiveness of the program before continuing to let it grow.

“For that reason, I am calling for a pause on the expansion of school vouchers,” Ritz said in February. “For too long, Indiana has diverted funding from public schools without studying the impact on our traditional school system. It is time for our state legislature to fully study the fiscal and academic impacts that the school voucher system is having on Indiana’s education system.”

During the 2013 legislative session, the qualifications to receive a voucher expanded and a cap on the number of scholarships available was removed. Now, any student who qualifies for the voucher may receive one. We are seeing the enrollment numbers start to level off after exponential growth the first few years.

The legislature doesn’t require the IDOE to generate the report, it only ever mandated that they calculate the savings. During the 2015 session, the General Assembly removed the requirement for the IDOE to calculate this formula, but they say they continue to do it for transparency in the program.

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