Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Ritz Supporters Storm Social Media To Protest Board Legislation

Updated 5:13 p.m.: The Indiana House of Representatives passed House Bill 1609 Monday, setting into motion changes to allow State Board of Education members to elect their own chair, rather than automatically assigning that responsibility to the state superintendent.

The beginning of what many lawmakers referred to as “an education session” of the Indiana General Assembly has focused less on education policy and more on governance.

A crowd member shows her support for State Superintendent Glenda Ritz during July's State Board of Education meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

A crowd member shows her support for State Superintendent Glenda Ritz during July\’s State Board of Education meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Multiple bills making their way through both the House and Senate aim to restructure the State Board of Education, after months of tension between state superintendent Glenda Ritz, board members and Gov. Mike Pence. Most of this legislation proposes removing the superintendent from her position as board chair – a spot that state official has traditionally, automatically assumed upon election into office.

Take a look at the different measures up for discussion:

  • SB 1: Reduces the number of board members from 11 to 9. Removes the requirement that the state superintendent automatically chair the board.
  • SB 24: Grants Indiana’s governor the authority to appoint the state superintendent of public instruction after January 10, 2021. Superintendent is currently one of five statewide elected positions.
  • SB 452: Allows board members to elect a chairperson annually from within their ranks.
  • SB 453: Changes appointment procedures for SBOE members. Allows the governor and various state legislators to appoint board members.
  • HB 1201: Increases the number of board members from 11 to 13. Sets forth qualifications for members appointed by the governor.
  • HB 1486: Allows the state board to appoint an “executive director.”
  • HB 1609: Removes Ritz as board chair, allows board members to elect a chairperson each year.

This has unsurprisingly upset many voters, who have taken to social media to express their concern.

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How One Indiana Program Models Obama’s Plan For Skills Training

It’s been six years since businesses suffered from the country’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Now that the economy is back on track, some employers say they can’t fill jobs fast enough.

President Barack Obama is encouraging colleges and universities to acknowledge the need and find a way to help fill it. Pushing that message was one focus of his trip to Indiana last week.

“We want to make our community colleges even better and more responsive, and more attuned to what’s going in the marketplace,” Obama told a crowd at the Indianapolis campus of Ivy Tech Community College last Friday. “The reputation of the school is going to be determined by, when the graduates come out, do they have the skills they need to do the job?”

President Obama is encouraging colleges and universities to focus on offering more skills-based job training. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

President Obama is encouraging colleges and universities to focus on offering more skills-based job training. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

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Obama Praises Ivy Tech’s Efforts To Close Skills Gap

During an event at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis Friday, President Obama praised the efforts of Ivy Tech in trying to close the skills gap in Indiana.

During an event at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis Friday, President Obama praised the efforts of Ivy Tech in trying to close the skills gap in Indiana. photo credit: Barbara Harrington/WTIU News

President Obama says other states should follow Ivy Tech Community College’s lead when it comes to connecting students to high paying jobs. Obama traveled to Indianapolis Friday to tout his plans aimed at getting more people on the track to better wage.

During the event at Ivy Tech, Obama once again explained his plan to make two years of community college free.

The program would offer free community college to students who maintain a 2.5 GPA and graduate on time. The president says this would help incentivize people to get more training for high paying, middle class jobs.

It’s what Obama calls a different way to reduce the skills gap in Indiana and the rest of the country.

“This is part of what we need to do to be more creative about how do young people get the skills they need without spending as much money or taking on as much debt,” Obama said.

Obama praised Ivy Tech for working with Hoosier businesses to help direct students into high need jobs, something he says the rest of the country should mimic.

“This is where community colleges can be an outstanding bridge, is making sure that we’re reaching out to businesses and finding out what do they need for the positions that they’re hiring and having those businesses help community colleges design training programs and departments to serve those needs.”

The president sent his budget, including his plan for free community college, to Congress this week.

House Advances Bill To Remove Ritz As State Board Chair

State Board of Education member Brad Oliver and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during a January 2014 meeting.

State Board of Education member Brad Oliver and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during a January 2014 meeting. photo credit: Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

House Republicans Thursday blocked Democratic lawmakers’ attempts to ensure State Superintendent Glenda Ritz can’t lose her position as chair of the State Board of Education.

The proposed bill would allow the gubernatorially-appointed members of the State Board to elect their chair, a position that’s been automatically held by the state Superintendent for more than a century.

One amendment offered by House Democrats would have kept Ritz as automatic chair; another would have allowed the public to elect all members of the board, and a third amendment would have made local school boards part of the process of appointing State Board members. House Republicans rejected all three.

Floor debate became a little heated…so much so that House Speaker Brian Bosma had to rein in Minority Leader Scott Pelath. Continue Reading

Obama To Speak In Indy About Middle Class Jobs And Education

President Obama will speak at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis Friday. He will address how to prepare students for high paying jobs.

President Obama will speak at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis Friday to address how to prepare students for high paying jobs. (Photo Credit: Pete Souza/The White House)

President Obama will touch down in Indianapolis Friday to give a speech at Ivy Tech Community College, which will likely focus on training for middle class jobs.

A statement released by the White House outlines the basics of the president’s speech:

The President will travel to Indianapolis, Indiana to discuss the importance of middle class economics, including making the paychecks of working families go further, preparing hardworking Americans to earn higher wages, and keeping good, high-paying jobs in America. The President will deliver remarks at Ivy Tech Community College, which works to ensure Hoosiers are well-equipped for and connected to good-paying jobs by partnering with businesses that are creating pathways for career advancement, including leveraging apprenticeships and education benefits, and upskilling Americans.

So why did the president choose Indiana as a venue to make this speech?

Indiana has maintained its status as a manufacturing state, but as technology changed the nature of these jobs, so did the training. Updating that training and making it available to students is a priority for Governor Mike Pence this session. Pence is asking the legislature for $20 million a year to expand career and vocational training opportunities in the state, which he reiterated in testimony before a congressional committee in Washington D.C. this past Wednesday.

Obama has worked on providing more options for training, but Indiana serves as a good example of offering those opportunities to students when they are still in high school and not in the work force, searching for job opportunities.

Stream the president’s address below:

Senate Ed Committee Backs Bill That Allows Christmas In School

The Senate Education committee passed a bill that would all holiday celebrations in the classroom.

The Senate Education committee passed a bill that would all holiday celebrations in the classroom. (Photo Credit: Kirt Edblom/Flickr)

The Senate Education Committee unanimously backed a bill Wednesday that would allow holiday celebrations and lessons on religious holidays in public school classrooms.

The bill allows for teachers to instruct students on the history of winter holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah, use holiday greetings while in school, and display holiday symbols or decorations as long as more than one religion is represented.

Lauryn Schroeder of the Associated Press reports that the bill passed easily through the committee with only a little resistance:

The bill received little pushback in committee, though some lawmakers expressed doubts on whether it is necessary since celebrating Christmas is already a legal activity in Indiana.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, said the proposal would help ease hesitation among teachers and schools, and encourage them to celebrate the holiday season with students.

“It will help them defend themselves when they are either threatened with lawsuits or if they indeed get involved in a lawsuit,” Smith said. “It will act as a guideline for them.”

This is the second consecutive year lawmakers have introduced this legislation, which Smith said was sparked by a similar law passed in Texas. In the 2014 legislative session the bill unanimously passed through the Senate, but stalled in the House.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

When Testing Technology Fails, Students Fear They Will Too

If you’ve ever suffered from a recurring nightmare, you know how stressful it can be.

These dreams are often associated with feelings of terror and extreme anxiety. In some cases, the fear of reliving those circumstances can even become debilitating.

Students in a number of Indiana’s schools suffered a shared nightmare a few years ago that has reared its head once again: technology problems on the online portion of the ISTEP+, the state’s standardized test.

This time around they got relatively lucky – problems occurred on a preliminary dry run, not the actual, graded assessment. But it still had an effect on test-takers.

Driven by the fear of encountering trouble a third time, schools and state officials are taking steps to deal with the issue so that it won’t happen again – when it really matters.

What happened? 

Just a few weeks ago, students at Mitchell Community Schools logged in online to try out this year’s ISTEP+ practice test. About five minutes in, some kids started noticing problems. And only two minutes after that, everybody’s tests had stopped working. beachball

This was not the first time Mitchell students – along with their peers in many other districts – had problems with ISTEP+ technology. Back in 2013, multiple school corporations had to suspend testing after students had trouble logging into the test website. This time around, the issues were very similar, if not identical.

Sam Klawitter, technology director at Mitchell Schools, explains that the load on systems at CTB/McGraw Hill – the test vendor – was wildly more than they had anticipated. He equates that to a lack of preparation on CTB’s side, seeing as schools fill out a readiness survey for the vendor as well as the IDOE beforehand, providing information including the number of work stations to be used for testing.

“There should have been some foreknowledge of the types of loads that they would see during the statewide readiness test,” Klawitter says. Continue Reading

Outrage Over The ISTEP+: Why This Year’s Test Is Longer

The State Board of Education extended the testing windows for the 2015 ISTEP+

The State Board of Education extended the testing windows for the 2015 ISTEP+ test.

Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting was one of the longest in history because of public testimony on one issue: this year’s ISTEP+. After the Department of Education sent out testing times this weeks, educators and parents were outraged by the almost tripling of time students will sit to take a test.

Here’s the issue at hand, and it’s important to understand how our education system got here.

When Indiana stopped using Common Core standards last year and wrote its own, we were still required under No Child Left Behind to test our students on whatever standards we used. So the ISTEP+ had to change to reflect the change in standards. Educators have known since last summer that the test would be different, but the shock this week came when schools saw the amount of time the ISTEP+ would take.

And the difference is significant. Last year, a third grader spent a total of five hours and nine minutes doing ISTEP+ testing. This year, that amount jumps to 12 hours and 30 minutes. These increases are for every grade that takes the ISTEP+, not counting stress tests if a school has their students sit to complete those.  Continue Reading

SBOE Will Look To Update Teacher Evaluations

Jessica Conlon of TNTP, presents the organization's recommendations to improve Indiana's teacher evaluation system.

Jessica Conlon of TNTP, presents the organization\’s recommendations to improve Indiana\’s teacher evaluation system. photo credit: Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

In an effort to improve Indiana’s teacher evaluation system, the State Board of Education voted Wednesday to move forward with a set of recommendations from a third party education group.

National non-profit TNTP created the suggested improvements, after spending the last few months conducting focus groups and surveying educators around the state to evaluate how they perceive Indiana’s teacher evaluation system. Data showed 60 percent of the 2,400 educators surveyed are unsatisfied with some portion of their corporation’s evaluation system.

As a result of this research, TNTP recommended to the SBOE that a priority in improving the teacher evaluation system should be making sure everyone involved – including teachers, principals, district officials and state leaders – understand the goals of the evaluations and how the process works.

Other recommendations include mandatory instruction for educators on how the process works and what it is evaluating, engaging teachers in the process of designing a corporation’s evaluation process, and the use of objective measures – the most controversial portion of TNTP’s report.

School corporations design their own evaluation systems, adhering to certain guidelines provided by the state, which requires districts use both teacher observation and objective measures to evaluate a teacher.  Continue Reading

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