We couldn’t leave Gary without meeting one of the biggest characters around: “Officer Friendly.” Along with the district’s 27 other security crew members, he is working to make students feel safer – and more in control of their own education.
Officer Nate Harris’ “resource office” at Gary’s West Side high school. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
A sneak peek…
One of the biggest challenges in Gary is crime – and unfortunately, it’s a problem that has seeped into the schools. Gary has always had police officers patrolling the halls to help keep students in line – but now they’re trying a different approach.
The district’s new security system relies instead on “school resource officers” – policemen like Officer Nate Harris specifically trained to deal with students in the school setting. Harris says this new title reflects a bigger systemic change within the district: giving students the tools to make change in their own right.
That’s what the resource program is about – we’re now part of a process of their education.
“That’s my goal for every year, is just to be better than the person I was last year.”
GCSC administrators work with education consultant Irving Jones over the summer. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
One could argue that’s a sentiment any school administrator would be happy to hear from his or her teachers. And it’s one the Gary Community School Corporation is emphasizing to help improve its current situation.
While the rest of Indiana struggles with a teacher shortage, we don’t know what that will look like in Gary. One has to wonder: with the way the district and its city have been struggling, how much talent will they actually be able to recruit?
For the first time in 20 or 30 years, a big group of Gary’s teachers are moving on, creating openings for new blood. So this year, Superintendent Pruitt and other GCSC administrators are making sure all district teachers – young and old, new and returning – are on the same page.
You got to get out of what you think and what you been doing for 40 years and we gotta move over here, or else you need to go home. Getting just that mindset – fixed mindset to a growth mindset, so that people can see us someplace else.
To many, Dr. Cheryl Pruitt stands out among other important Gary residents and benefactors, including Oprah, the Jackson 5 and Magic Johnson. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
A sneak peek…
Dr. Cheryl Pruitt is a product of the district she now heads. During the course of her career, she has also taught and served as an administrator at several Gary schools. She says she never planned to become superintendent – it’s one of those things that “just kind of happened.” And, she says, it’s home.
Despite her love for the city, she’s not in denial about the problems its school district faces.
I’m probably not the traditional superintendent, because I have debt, I have funding, I have education – and then I have the negative publicity, the vouchers, the charters, the takeover – it kind of all just goes together in my head.
Think for a second about what first comes to mind when you hear mention of GARY, INDIANA…
Most likely, the image you have in mind is not a positive one. You might have some preconceived notions – and that might not be your fault. What we hear about the city of Gary usually comes in the form of news reports about crime, dwindling industry, or most recently the failing schools.
But the perception of Gary and the reality appear to be in a sort of disconnect: many residents really see the school community as one with a lot of promise – they seem to have faith in what district administration, teachers, parents and students are trying to do.
As part of our year-end wrap up, we wanted to look at the stories that you, our readers and listeners, engaged with most. This could be a comment on our website, a share on social media, and in some situations, reaching out to each other in person.
Here’s a round up of stories that the stories that got you talking the most this year:
First Year Teachers
Gabe Hoffman, a first year teacher at Nora Elementary School in Indianapolis, is part of the ‘First Year’ series. (Photo Credit: Eoban Binder/ WFIU)
Our series following three new teachers through their first year was popular with you from the start. We aired the first radio pieces this summer, and since then many of you have expressed how much you enjoy following these individuals as they navigate their first year in the classroom.
Some of the more popular installments in the series: The story that focused on new teachers burning out by October was shared by many of you on Facebook, and the most recent installment that focused on supporting new teachers received more page views than any of the others.
School Funding Formula
During the 2015 budget session of Indiana’s General Assembly, a school funding formula update took center stage. When we first wrote about it, you shared and liked this story more than most funding stories.
Jorfer88 shared a common sentiment in our comments section, one we heard from many parents and teachers during the course of the legislative session:
“the money follows the student” really has nothing to do with the budget changes. All of that is reflected in the relatively small 7 year transition change (about $39 mil). The reason for it is not counting reduced meals (which I understand but on the other side they should have increased the amount per student for free lunch to compensate in complexity). It is highway robbery from poor districts that have always been at or below foundation (like FWCS) to wealthy districts (FWCS was below foundation amounts when the program was overhauled several years ago and was transitioning up which was the flip side of the IPS situation and has resulted in a lot of potential revenue that FWCS will never see). Yes, districts like IPS and Gary that were above foundation should be brought to foundation but overall funding needs to increase more than inflation. Current IPS and Gary students should not be punished for unfair funding to them in the past (Ferebee mentioned at the town hall with Tim Brown and Brian Bosma that current IPS funding is not like the past).
An analysis conducted through the Indiana Department of Education found that the student ISTEP+ scores were not negatively impacted by the scoring process completed by the state’s test vendor, CTB.
This comes after anonymous allegations surfaced in an Indianapolis Star story earlier this month regarding CTB’s scoring processes. A handful of sources claiming to be CTB supervisors recounted “a computer malfunction that inadvertently changed grades” on the annual statewide test. They told the Star that company leaders decided to leave the potentially incorrect scores in place.
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
But the follow-up analysis – conducted by independent test experts at the request of staffers from both the IDOE and State Board of Education – found this was not the case. In their report, the experts found “no evidence that students were erroneously given a lower score on the Spring 2015 ISTEP+.”
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says she’s pleased the state can move forward.
“Unfortunately, due to the high-stakes nature of the ISTEP+ assessment, any doubt about testing validity causes a ripple effect through our schools and our communities,” Ritz said in a statement.
We at StateImpact like a good movie quote as much as the next person. And out in the field, we hear a good many quips about from parents, teachers, kids, other reporters and state leaders alike. So we thought as long as we’re compiling year-end lists, why not let those people do the talking?
Here’s a look at what we think are some of the smartest, funniest and most controversial statements people made about education in Indiana this year…
(Photo Credit: Scott Smith/Brownsburg Community Schools)
With this headline just a few days before the close of 2015, Bangert painted perhaps the most vivid picture of what’s happened with Indiana’s annual standardized test this year. The ISTEP+ has graced headlines all year. First, the test was too long, then it was not working, and most recently the public found out it is not being graded correctly. Many have said they hope state education leaders find a way to put the fire out when 2016 starts, so that students, teachers and schools don’t suffer the consequences of such a controversial exam.
“That just seems like a lot of hoops to jump through for, say, a parent who is already trying to navigate the special education world for their kid…I emailed twice for meeting information and got no response. I doubt many parents or members of the the public would keep trying after that.”
Through telling Weddle’s story (among others) about the trials of getting information from the Indiana Department of Education, Elliott put into words what many in Hoosier education had been feeling earlier this year: at times, the IDOE can be a tough egg to crack. The department’s transparency became an issue on multiple occasions throughout 2015 – some attribute the demise of state Superintendent Glenda Ritz‘s short-lived gubernatorial campaign to the fact that for weeks, no media were able to locate a public relations/communications contact. The IDOE also found itself in the middle of a dispute with charter school leaders mid-year due to complaints they hadn’t been clear about how they calculate Title I funding distributions.
There’s plenty of year-end lists to go around, and we at StateImpact wanted to make sure the education nerds (a group we happily subscribe to) had a list of our own. We’ve created a rundown of 10 education stories from 2015, to remind you of the wild ride we had.
And we want your input! Refresh your memory with explanations of the issues, then vote in our survey to let us know what you think were the biggest topics of the year.
Length of 2015 ISTEP+
This issue really started the year off on a hectic note. When schools started receiving information about administering the annual assessment, it became clear the test would be significantly longer than in previous years. (We explain why the test was so long here.)
Responding to outrage from parents and schools, lawmakers and members of the State Board of Education began coming up with ways to shorten the test. Testing consultants visited with the INSBOE and Gov. Mike Pence eventually signed an executive order shortening the test.
New State Board of Education Members
We all remember the State Board of Education meetings of yesteryear: public arguments, lawsuits, and arguably more disagreements than policy decisions. So the legislature intervened and passed legislation to change the makeup of the board. The Speaker of the House and Senate President Pro Tem each got an appointment, along with the governor – they replaced five board members in early summer.
State Board of Education members Byron Ernest (left) and Steve Yager chat during a break at the board’s August meeting. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
Attempts to Change INSBOE Chairmanship
In the same item of legislation that eventually changed the make up of the INSBOE, the legislature also tried to remove the state superintendent as chair of the board. This did not go over well with the public, who rallied against the move, saying it was an attempt to remove a Democrat who the governor didn’t get along with. Lawmakers eventually dropped this part of the bill.
Corey Umbrello started bowling when he was just 3 years old.
He developed a love for the sport, and when he was old enough, he got involved in both competitive and travel leagues. Now he’s a senior at Vincennes University where he plays on the varsity bowling team.
Umbrello is from Massachusetts, and his decision to enroll at Vincennes was based on getting to play on the bowling team and learn the tools of the trade as a student in the university’s bowling management program.
“Bowling doesn’t really get out to New England much. From my stand point, I wish it did,” he says.
The bowling management industry degree is unique to Vincennes. Umbrello calls the program a one-of-a-kind major.
The program started in the 1970s as more of a technical degree to teach students how to operate pin-setters. Over the course of time it developed and the university added management, customer service, marketing, and budgeting to the curriculum.
Much of that development can be credited to Gary Sparks, the director of recreational sports, varsity coach and teacher of the program since 1989.
“The kids can get business management programs anywhere, but they couldn’t get the bowling part of it and that was really what we were able to give them here,” Sparks says.
Congress this month passed an updated version of No Child Left Behind, which gives states more flexibility over education issues. (Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
For months, a possible update to the controversial No Child Left Behind law lingered in the education atmosphere, but it wasn’t until last week that Congress finally passed a new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and President Obama signed it into law.
The new version is called the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.
The biggest change? The federal government won’t mandate the same expectations for all states, and the new version of the law allows states to have more of a say in how they address testing, accountability and failing schools, among other things.
(Education Week published a handy, in-depth guide to all the important aspects of this law – check it out here.)
If states have more control, how will Indiana exercise it?
Currently, Indiana has a waiver from No Child Left Behind. Indiana Department of Education spokesperson Samantha Hart says the department is waiting to hear from the feds on what this update means for the waiver. In the past, it exempted Indiana and many other states from meeting certain requirements of NCLB – for example, getting almost all students proficient in math and English.
But Hart says state Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the IDOE want to explore a few things now that they have some flexibility from the federal government, one being assessments. Hart says Ritz is advocating for a new test that combines aspects of both formative (think NWEA) and summative (think ISTEP+) assessments. Continue Reading →
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