Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

State Board Will Consider Format Options For Turnaround Schools

As 2014 comes to a close, school leaders and teachers have a lot to think about as they move into the second semester of the school year – how can we keep moving forward? What can we improve?

Washington High School in Indianapolis is one of the failing schools members of the Committee on School Turnaround are trying to help.

Washington High School in Indianapolis is one of the failing schools members of the Committee on School Turnaround are trying to help.

In particular, the nine state schools considered ‘failing’ will be looking to take any positive steps that they can. And the State Board of Education‘s Committee on School Turnaround is looking for ways to help.

The panel met Monday for the final time this fall to review state intervention tactics at those nine schools and discuss potential changes. They’ll present their recommendations to the full state board at its Dec. 3 meeting.

To date, the state has established nine turnaround academies under one of three models:

  • Lead Partner: An external partner contracted by the state works with the school corporation in a limited capacity to operate certain aspects of the school.
  • Turnaround School Operator (TSO): An external partner contracted by the state operates the school independently, similar to a charter school. The school corporation continues to provide some operational services.
  • Transformation Zone: The school corporation develops its own turnaround plan, operating under varying degrees of state oversight. The school corporation can, but is not required to, work with an external partner contracted by the state as a turnaround operator.

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Chamber of Commerce Pushes For Appointed State Superintendent

Another day, another discussion of power among state education leaders.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to reporters outside the State Board of Education meeting in July, when she engaged with board members about her duties as board chair.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to reporters outside the State Board of Education meeting in July, when she engaged with board members about her duties as board chair.

Leadership of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says one of the group’s top legislative priorities for the 2015 session is pushing to make the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction appointed beginning in 2016.

Currently, Indiana is one of 12 states with an elected superintendent, according to the National Association of School Boards of Education. Members of the State Board of Education are appointed by the governor.

Chamber president Kevin Brinegar says he believes the superintendent, the head of the Department of Education, should be appointed similar to the heads of all other state agencies– a consistent position of the Chamber.

“This will be my 34th session, and for most of that time we’ve had the superintendent and the governor not on the same page with respect to major issues,” Brinegar says. “Often that’s because they’ve been of a different party, and in some cases they’ve even been of the same party but the governor didn’t appoint that person. We need consistency and one agenda for education that voters can assess and determine whether they like it or they don’t like it in the next election.”

Brinegar says the Chamber plans to speak up “louder this session than ever before” with respect to proposed legislation in favor of appointing the position. If such legislation is unable to pass, he says the Chamber advocates that members of the state board be allowed to select the chair of that body.

The state Constitution requires there be a State Superintendent, but leaves the method of selection up to legislators. Since it’s written into state law, reformers would need to push for an amendment to make the position appointed by the governor.

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The ‘Virtual Option’: Schools Prepare For Potential Snow Days

With winter weather on its way, school officials in Indiana are surely preparing for whatever Mother Nature has to throw their way (remember last year?)

Rather than make up snow days after the fact, the IDOE offers districs the option to provide virtual instruction while students are home from school.

Rather than make up snow days after the fact, the IDOE offers districs the option to provide virtual instruction while students are home from school.

One district sounds like they’ve got it all figured out. In the event of a snow day or other weather-related closing, students in the Twin Lakes School Corporation in Monticello will be able to complete their classwork online.

School officials announced on the district’s Facebook page earlier this week that the Indiana Department of Education approved its application to hold “eLearning Days” to replace traditional snow make-up days:

In the event of a cancellation, students will receive eLearning materials and will access their learning resources through the school’s website,tlschools.com, and through TLCampus, tlcampus.com. Teachers and technology staff will be available throughout eLearning days to assist students with questions.

In order to accommodate anyone experiencing technical difficulties during an eLearning day, classwork will be due two days after classes resume on the normal schedule.

School closings occurring after December 8 may be used as eLearning days.

The Department of Education implemented this virtual option during the polar vortex of the 2013-14 school year, and about 40 schools took advantage. According to the IDOE website, the option can be used in two ways: on a make-up day (to provide for students that might have difficulty learning outside of the building, i.e. internet access or special need accommodations), or on an inclement weather day.

Districts may only exercise the latter if special considerations for all students can be addressed and met away from the building.

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Higher Education Commission Joins Discussion On Sexual Assault

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education is taking steps to address sexual assault on college campuses, and held a special meeting Thursday to discuss the issue.

One in five females on Indiana's college campuses is raped or sexually assaulted by the time she graduates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

One in five females on Indiana's college campuses is raped or sexually assaulted by the time she graduates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers pointed out that the group spends a lot of time talking about academic quality at the state’s public and private universities, and that discussion has expanded to include quality of life for students.

Lubbers says if the goal is for students to be successful, a lack of safety could be a barrier to achieving that goal.

“We think this [needs] an all-hands-on-deck approach, and as the coordinating body for higher education in the state, the commission has an obligation to do that,” Lubbers says.

A report by Southern Indiana’s News and Tribune pinpoints why the Commission decided to call the meeting:

Prompting the commission’s interest are increasing numbers of sexual assaults reported on the state’s campuses. That includes IU-Bloomington, which has been under review by the U.S. Department of Education for possible violations of federal law in how it handles sexual violence.

Adding impetus, Indiana University-Bloomington police charged three men in connection with an off-campus attack last Sunday.

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Indiana Student Debt 16th Highest In The Country

Indiana's 2013 college graduates have an average debt of $28,466, the 16th highest in the country.

Indiana's 2013 college graduates have an average debt of $28,466, the 16th highest in the country.

Indiana’s 2013 college graduates left school with an average of $28,466, according to a report released Thursday by the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success.

That makes Indiana the state with the 16th highest amount of average student debt, the same ranking from the graduating class of 2012.

The annual report looks at cumulative debt of college graduates from four year universities. The report looked at graduates of both public and private universities and found 69 percent of graduates nationwide have some amount of student debt.

One thing to note about Indiana’s student debt statistics is the 2013 average amount, $28,466, is slightly higher than 2012 graduates who left school with an average of $27,866. While the amount of debt is higher, the percent of students carrying the debt is down to 62 percent from 64 percent in 2012. Meaning less students are leaving college with debt, but those who do have more of it.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute was singled out in the report as one of the private non-profit universities with some of the highest debt. The report did not cite specific numbers but it ranked Rose-Hulman in a category of schools with average student debts between $41,750 and $71,350.

FSSA Accepting Provider Applications For “On My Way Pre-K” Pilot

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration announced Wednesday it is accepting applications from preschool providers that want to participate in the state’s pre-k pilot program.

Only providers located in the five selected counties are eligible to apply.

The Family and Social Services Administration has announced a new, official name for the state's pre-k pilot program: "On My Way Pre-K."

The Family and Social Services Administration has announced a new, official name for the state's pre-k pilot program: "On My Way Pre-K."

The FSSA also announced a new name for Indiana’s first state-funded pre-kindergarten program: “On My Way Pre-K.”

In order to participate, providers must qualify as a level 3 or 4 institution on the state’s Paths to QUALITY ranking system, as well as sign an agreement requiring them to follow minimum attendance guidelines and administer required kindergarten readiness assessments at least twice throughout the year.   

A full list of requirements, as well as application materials and other forms are now posted to the official On My Way Pre-K website.

FSSA Director of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning Melanie Brizzi says her department is excited to begin this stage of the operation.

“Beginning to enroll early learning providers in On My Way Pre-K marks a significant milestone in our mission to provide high-quality early education for lower-income students in Indiana,” Brizzi said in a statement. “We look forward to engaging as many programs as possible to help us open the doors to new learning opportunities for Hoosier children.”

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Anderson Pulls Contract With Bus Company After Failed Inspections

The saga of school busing fees continues, this time in Anderson.

Anderson Community Schools’ Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to cut ties with Webber Transportation, provider of Anderson’s bus service for the past 27 years.

Anderson Community Schools is the latest Indiana district to experience issues with its transportation provider.

Anderson Community Schools is the latest Indiana district to experience issues with its transportation provider.

Late last month, Indiana State Police pulled 29 of the company’s 30 buses being used in Anderson off the road, after a number of maintenance issues put school officials on alert for “potential safety concerns.” According to district records, brake and kingpin inspections had expired on 27 vehicles, and 18 out of 29 inspected had other violations including exhaust problems, fluid leaks or brake issues. The buses taken out of service represented between 15-20% of Webber’s total fleet.

ACS students have been going to and from school on re-routed buses for the past month. According to a WISH-TV report, district officials say they will continue with this backup plan, substituting independent contractors in for Webber drivers.

Tuesday night board members terminated the contract effective immediately, citing Webber’s failure to explain its maintenance problems and offer a plan of action for future maintenance and inspections to ensure the safety of students.

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What One County’s Experience Might Mean For Statewide Pre-K

It’s been more than a week since election results came in, but one of the big ballot items this cycle will have repercussions well past November 4.

Ballots in Bartholomew County tasked voters with deciding whether to voluntarily raise their property taxes to fund pre-k scholarships for low-income children. Their decision was no.

This isn’t the first time the district has asked residents to help the area’s youngest students – a similar referendum also failed in 2012.

The outcome of this vote could influence the larger discussion on how to fund pre-k programs statewide. Other communities were looking to Bartholomew County’s model to fund their own preschools, and Governor Pence and his advisers plan to use a similar public-private partnership model as they kick off the state’s first pre-k pilot program.

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WISH-TV/Ball State Survey Shows Support For Pre-k And Textbooks

Policymakers and educators around the state have embraced the push for more high quality pre-k programs.

Policymakers and educators around the state have embraced the push for more high quality pre-k programs.

A statewide survey conducted by WISH-TV and Ball State University shows the majority of Hoosiers want the state to pay for textbooks and pre-k programs.

WISH-TV reports this majority is high, and the support pleases Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard:

82 percent of the people surveyed said such programs should be available to all children in Indiana. Four out of five said the state should pay for them.

That will come as no surprise to the people in Mayor Ballard’s Office.

“Support for pre-K is overwhelming in the city. We polled it. It’s overwhelming. Polled higher than anything we’ve ever done,” Ballard told 24-Hour News 8.

Another topic the survey polled is who should cover the cost of textbooks for students. As we’ve reported, Indiana is one of a handful of states to charge parents for their child’s textbooks. According to the survey, 68 percent of those polled would like to see the General Assembly approve a 3 percent increase in the Department of Education’s budget to pay for textbooks.

The full report, which surveys the state’s residents on relevant topics the legislature could consider, will be released Wednesday.

What A-F Grades Mean For Focus And Priority Schools

Generally speaking, the release of A-F grades this year brought good news; the amount of schools receiving A’s went up while the number of F’s handed out was the lowest in the last few years. This good news continues for schools on the Department of Education’s focus and priority schools list.

(Search our sortable table of 2014 A-F grades for all Indiana schools.)

First, a primer on how a school gets on the priority list and how they can be removed from it:

Priority Schools

The 2013 list of priority schools contained 174 schools. Following the criteria above, 16 schools will be removed from the priority list this year, and 34 schools could be removed from the list next year if they earn a C or B. Continue Reading

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