Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indiana State Partners With Local Schools To Curb College Costs

ISU President Dan Bradley and Vigo County School Corporation superintendent Danny Tanoos announce the partnership between the two organizations to help high school students get more college credit.

ISU President Dan Bradley (left) and Vigo County School Corporation superintendent Danny Tanoos announce a partnership between the two organizations to help high school students get more college credit. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

Indiana State University and the Vigo County School Corporation announced a partnership Monday that will offer high school students in Vigo County Schools the opportunity to earn up to 30 credit hours at ISU before graduating.

The Early College program will allow high school students to enroll in classes that contribute to the five most popular majors at ISU, chosen by Vigo County School Corporation graduates: nursing, pre-business/business administration, pre-elementary education, psychology and criminology and criminal justice.

K-12 teachers approved by the university will receive and implement the curriculum from ISU. If students do not take the class through the Early College program, they can still receive Advanced Placement credit for the course.

ISU president Dan Bradley says giving high schoolers the opportunity to complete up to a year of college credit means the university won’t have as many students with large amounts of student debt.

“I think it can really help the students who are in some of the state funded programs like 21st Century [Scholars program] because it allows them to stay on track for degree completion without overloading themselves,” Bradley says. Continue Reading

In Need Of Substitute Teachers? So Are Many Hoosier Districts

It’s getting tougher to find substitute teachers these days.

Nationally, school corporations are struggling to fill the gaps left when regular teachers go on vacation, get sick or take time out for professional development.

Shortages are not a new phenomenon in Indiana, either. Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, says a majority of districts across the state are facing some sort of challenge when it comes to finding subs –– and there doesn’t seem to be one overarching reason why this is the case.

Low pay, lack of benefits and could be reasons why fewer people sign up to substitute teach. (Photo Credit: elementalPaul/Flickr)

Workload, low pay and lack of benefits could be reasons why fewer people sign up to substitute teach. (Photo Credit: elementalPaul/Flickr)

“I think part of it is the workload. You’re asking people to come on very short notice sometimes minutes, and very little time to prepare for whatever it is they’re supposed to sub for,” Meredith says. “Other times it might be pay –– if they can make more at McDonald’s, is that a little less stressful than the substitute role?”

The average rate of pay for a substitute is about $105 per day across the U.S., according to the National Substitute Teacher Alliance. In Indiana, compensation can range anywhere from around $60 to a little more than $100 a day, depending on the corporation and a candidate’s credentials.

Along with low pay, experts speculate the problem has increased in recent years because of poor training and lack of benefits.

Others say the pool of quality candidates has decreased because fewer college students study to be teachers nowadays.

“We really do see that trend as part of the problem,” says Dan Roach, superintendent at Washington Community Schools in southern Indiana. “In past years, those preservice teachers are waiting for those jobs, hoping to get their foot in the door, but those numbers continue to decrease.”

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Updated IDOE Testing Plan Cuts Original Estimate In Half

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz continued the conversation about testing costs Thursday, presenting an updated version of her Department of Education’s budget estimates to the Senate Appropriations committee. Ritz’s plan provides a different outlook for Indiana’s slate of standardized tests than was released by her State Board of Education colleague Sarah O’Brien just one day earlier – one that, by IDOE calculations, would cost about $12 million less than O’Brien’s proposal.

Ritz also told committee chair Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, that she welcomes conversation about switching the ISTEP+ out for a national “off-the-shelf” test in the future.


Indiana might not be able to completely avoid more expensive state ISTEP tests in the future, but a revised plan today from state Superintendent Glenda Ritz would save big money for now, cutting the cost by almost half from the two-year $134 million estimate she presented in December.

Read more at: in.chalkbeat.org

Bloomington Classical School Seeks Charter For A Second Time

A Bloomington group leading the charge for a local charter school is sticking to the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

The Seven Oaks Classical School submitted its second application for authorization to the Indiana Charter School Board Monday. The board denied the group’s original request this past fall.

SOCS

Credit: Seven Oaks Classical School Official Website

“We are so excited to begin the process in bringing a classical education in the liberal arts and sciences to the students of Monroe County,” school leaders wrote on Facebook.

School officials say they will likely get a public hearing sometime in April.

The ICSB voted unanimously against granting Seven Oaks’ charter request last October, citing concerns primarily with the group’s business plan, discipline policy, lack of a lunch program and board members’ lack of K-12 experience.

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One State Board Member Has Ideas To Cut Future Testing Time

As Indiana students continue to take the statewide ISTEP+ test, State Board of Education members continue to search for ways to modify the assessment to make it less stressful, costly and weighty.

State Board of Education member Sarah O'Brien speaks during a meeting last July. (Photo Credit: Bill Shaw/WTIU)

State Board of Education member Sarah O’Brien speaks during a meeting last July. (Photo Credit: Bill Shaw/WTIU)

Board member Sarah O’Brien, an elementary school teacher in Avon, released a proposal Wednesday afternoon to trim the length of future ISTEP+ tests, as well as eliminate other “planned and unnecessary tests.”

“I share the concern of teachers and parents about the amount of testing being forced on our children, especially following the surprise doubling of the ISTEP+ test this year,” O’Brien said in a statement. “The Department of Education has initiated many new tests and extra sections that go beyond what is required. My resolution would prohibit the state from finalizing a contract for those new tests.”

Among O’Brien’s suggestions:

  • Require a pilot test be administered in fall 2015 (and any future years pilot items are needed),
  • Require the vendor selected to administer the ISTEP+ in 2015 and 2016 to submit an assessment blueprint no later than August 1, 2015, and
  • Reuse previous test items that apply to current standards, to minimize the number of questions and reduce test development costs.

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Legislature: Student Loan Debt Is A Problem Best Addressed Head-On

Kathryn Johnson is a senior at Indiana University, and admits to not knowing anything about the thousands of dollars she borrowed to pay for her undergraduate degree. A bill going through the legislature seeks to reach students like Johnson before they graduate by annually updating them on their debt load.

Kathryn Johnson is a senior at Indiana University, and admits to not knowing anything about the thousands of dollars she borrowed to pay for her undergraduate degree. A bill going through the legislature seeks to reach students like Johnson before they graduate by annually updating them on their debt load. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

The typical college student can probably tell you how much a latte at the campus coffee shop costs or how much they paid for a textbook this semester. But ask about the precise amount of student debt they’ve acquired, and it’s a different story.

This lack of knowledge about debt is due in part to the fact that students who take out federal loans receive information when they first apply for the money, and then when they graduate. They don’t get any information from the federal government (who issues the loans) in the four or so years in between.

A bill approved by the House and making its way through the Senate wants Indiana colleges and universities to fill in that gap.

Student Loans: Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Indiana University senior Kathryn Johnson figured out she wanted to be a nurse last year. Her dad was hospitalized and she was fascinated by what she learned from the nurses.

“The more I talked to them and how they radiate positivity even when everything seemed so dark and dire and serious, I really appreciated how professional they could be and how uplifting they could be,” Johnson says. Continue Reading

Monroe County Joins The Push For Preschool

The Monroe County Community School Corporation plans to add two pre-k classrooms in the 2015-16 school year, adding to the list of Indiana school districts advocating for early childhood education.


The Monroe County Community School Corp. will add two preschool classrooms for the 2015-16 school year as part of an ongoing “push toward increasing access to early childhood education.” The corporation plans to add a 20-seat, no-fee classroom to Arlington Heights Elementary School, according to a news release.

Read more at: www.heraldtimesonline.com

Jackson County Gets Up To Speed For Fall On My Way Pre-K Launch

You’ll notice one of the five On My Way Pre-K pilot counties was noticeably absent from our progress reports yesterday – that’s because Jackson County doesn’t yet have updates to give.

County leaders chose to save their energy and resources for the full fall launch of the program, a decision Dan Hodge of the Jackson County Education Coalition says he’s satisfied with.

Summer preschool students in Jackson County work with their teacher in the classroom. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Summer preschool students in Jackson County work with their teacher in the classroom. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

“A lot of things here are based on school calendars, where you’re going to school – to try to upset the apple cart in January with a lot of changes would have been very difficult on families,” Hodge explains. “I think it helped us out because we could see what the other counties were doing successfully and not quite successfully.”

Of the five counties selected for the program, Jackson is the only one considered a rural area, with an estimated population of just over 43,000. Within that group, the Family and Social Services Administration estimates there are 303 eligible preschool-age kids – and 255 of them are currently unserved.

County leaders hope to serve 100 of those children this fall.

Hodge’s team consists of about 30 folks divided among three subcommittees. Let’s take a quick peek at the work each is doing to prepare for Jackson County’s jump into the pilot next school year.

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On My Way Pre-K Progress Reports & Preparations

It’s been a few months since the “soft launch” of Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program, and already leaders are preparing for the next step.

Seventy-one providers in the four participating counties are currently serving a cohort of 415 children. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Seventy-one providers in the four participating counties are currently serving a cohort of 415 children. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Seventy-one providers are currently serving 415 children from 404 families in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.

The state’s Family and Social Services Administration is currently accepting applications for the fall, when pilot efforts will be in full force in all five participating counties – including Jackson County, the token “rural” participant.

FSSA spokeswoman Marni Lemons says her department hopes to be able to support between 1,600 to 2,000 low-income preschoolers come September. She adds that the number of qualified high-quality pre-k providers (recognized as a Level 3 or 4 provider on the state’s Paths to QUALITY ranking system) is constantly increasing.

“This has really inspired a lot of the providers out there to become appropriately certified,” Lemons says. “That allows not only for improved quality for the families who qualify for On My Way Pre-K, but for all kids who participate in preschool programs. It spills over and creates opportunity for them as well.”

“We’re really pleased with the partnership of the counties and the work that’s being done out there,” Lemons adds.

Table

Credit: Family & Social Services Administration

Let’s check in with area leaders and see what they’ve been doing to support existing efforts and get ready for the fall cohort…

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Here’s How The State Selects A New ISTEP+ Vendor

Indiana education leaders are looking to enter into a new contract for the ISTEP+ test. (Photo Credit: thinkpanama/Flickr)

Indiana education leaders are looking to enter into a new contract for the ISTEP+ test. (Photo Credit: thinkpanama/Flickr)

As you probably know by now, Indiana is looking for a new vendor to produce the ISTEP+ test through spring 2017 – and they have a lot to consider as they do so.

We reported earlier this week that the state released a set of recommended providers for a variety of statewide K-12 tests, including the ISTEP+ as well as the IREAD-3 and End of Course Assessments.

But here at StateImpact, we don’t just serve up the meal – we want to show you how it’s made. So let’s take a closer look at how the process to pick those vendors works.

What is an RFP?

Indiana’s purchasing procedures are primarily based on the estimated cost a state agency is willing to pay for a product or service. Contracts, or “awards,” are generally made to the lowest priced bidder meeting the agency’s requested specifications.

The Department of Administration – who assists in the selection process – uses different methods to seek vendors, usually based on the estimated cost. In the case of the statewide assessment, this process is called an “RFP,” or “request for proposal.” This method is used for projects with a projected cost over $75,000 in which factors other than the price tag also play a significant role. This is important in purchasing an assessment, because the state doesn’t just want the cheapest test, they want a quality test as well.

Using an RFP gives state agencies more control over the selection process, since they determine all specifications bidders must meet. It allows for more negotiation as well – rather than just the best rate, agencies are looking for the best value.

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