Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What Is “Freedom To Teach?”

When Governor Mike Pence unveiled his legislative agenda last month, he presented plenty of new ideas for Indiana schools – but a few bombshell announcements overshadowed some of the others.

Warren Township fourth grade teacher Fatonia Shank and her students crow around a laptop to look at a document. (Photo Credit: Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

Warren Township fourth grade teacher Fatonia Shank and her students crow around a laptop to look at a document. (Photo Credit: Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

Some of Pence’s initiatives that received less attention involve familiar-sounding concepts such as modifying the K-12 school funding formula, setting up transformation zones to turn around failing schools and investing more money in career and technical education at the high school level.

One brand-new idea Pence introduced was something he called “Freedom To Teach.”

The program would essentially be a teacher innovation fund, giving the State Board of Education authority to grant schools waivers from some requirements in state regulations that guide teacher compensation. To qualify, school districts would be required to submit proposals showing how they plan to “innovate and refocus resources on the classroom.”

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Senators Will Push To Rewrite No Child Left Behind This Year

A group of Republican senators in Congress – specifically the leaders of the Senate and House education committees – want to spearhead an overhaul of the country’s main K-12 education law, No Child Left Behind. The effort will undoubtedly spark conversations about a number of politically contentious issues, including standardized testing and federal oversight in education.


Republicans are hatching an ambitious plan to rewrite No Child Left Behind next year – one that could end up dramatically rolling back the federal role in education and trigger national blowouts over standardized tests and teacher training. NCLB cleared Congress in 2002 with massive bipartisan support but has since become a political catastrophe:…

Read more at: www.politico.com

For Indiana Education in 2015, Money Matters

What’s your new year’s resolution?

As we’ve mentioned, the Indiana General Assembly has promised to try to balance the budget in the upcoming 2015 legislative session without increasing taxes. But even after they ring in the new year, the subject of money will be impossible to ignore.

Funding is an issue at the heart of many of the programs and projects Indiana will see in place in 2015. (Photo Credit: Teddy James/Flickr)

Funding is an issue at the heart of many of the programs and projects Indiana will see in place in 2015. (Photo Credit: Teddy James/Flickr)

Funding is at the core of many of the stories we expect to be big this year – testing, pre-k, and how the Department of Education and the State Board of Education agree (or disagree) to spend the state’s education money.

We’ve already outlined a few education initiatives that the General Assembly hopes to fund this session. Now let’s take a look at exactly what it would take to move forward with those proposals, plus a few others.

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When It Comes To Quality Pre-K, Indiana Providers Want More

Charity Child Care, a provider in Indianapolis, is a Level 4 on the Paths To Quality system.

Charity Child Care, a provider in Indianapolis, is a Level 4 on the Paths To Quality system. Charity teachers worked with Tikila Welch, a PTQ coach, to get their national accreditation. (Photo credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

If you are a parent, you know the battle with childcare: cost, quality and availability, to name a few. The state tries to make navigating that process simpler with its Paths to QUALITY ranking system for childcare and preschool providers.

It’s voluntary, but the number of providers seeking a ranking is increasing. Part of that is tied to an increase in federal funding and some of it has to do with the state’s preschool pilot program, which requires providers who accept the scholarships to be at a Level 3 or 4 on the Paths to QUALITY system.

What High Quality Preschool Looks Like

It’s music class at Wayne Township Preschool in Indianapolis, and a group of three- and four-year-olds are sitting on a carpet facing their teacher, copying her hand motions as they sing along. It resembles playtime, but principal Kathryn Raasch is quick to point out the children are learning skills that are important for their education.

“It’s all language skills, everything they do in here,” Raasch says. “Plus it’s math, repetition, repeating it’s all part of that. Music is so inclusive with all of that, plus in here we work on social-emotional skills.”

A focus on skill development is what makes Wayne Township Preschool a Level 3 on the Paths to QUALITY scale.

Every activity the children do throughout their day is part of the school’s curriculum: children share things they wish for as a teacher writes it down, they describe the items to practice color recognition and the rest of the children sit silently listening to their classmates. All of these cognitive and social skills are part of the required curriculum for a Level 3 and 4 provider, which participants in On My Way Pre-K will experience starting in January. Continue Reading

Which Education Initiatives Can Indiana Afford This Session?

One of the first items on the agenda when the General Assembly returns next week is crafting a biennial budget.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, (left) looks over budget documents from the Department of Education. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, (left) looks over budget documents from the Department of Education. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Legislative leaders have pledged to balance the budget this session without any tax increases – which could prove challenging, since requests submitted by several state agencies would require extra spending.

According to a revenue forecast released last week, Indiana’s overall fiscal picture in the next budget cycle looks promising. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reported on the numbers:

State leaders say they’re cautiously optimistic about Indiana’s fiscal future after the new revenue forecast predicted a 2 percent to 3 percent growth in the next budget cycle.

Two percent to 3 percent revenue growth in the next budget would mean more than $800 million over the next two years.

What does this forecast mean for education?

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Who Is Responsible For Oversight of State Voucher Money?

Earlier this month, we told you about 80 private schools planning to return money to the state, following unintentional errors in calculating voucher costs. In a follow-up to that story, Stephanie Wang of The Indianapolis Star reports on who’s in charge of voucher funds – and concerns about mistakes as the program expands.


When private and parochial schools recently returned nearly $4 million in public money overcharged in state vouchers, school choice advocates lauded the self-policing efforts. But who is actually responsible for making sure such mistakes are caught? Who makes sure such errors won’t happen again?

Read more at: www.indystar.com

What Do State Boards Look Like In Other States? Not Like Indiana’s

Indiana’s State Board of Education dominated the news in 2014, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon.

State Board of Education members listen to a presentation from a Department of Education staffer in August. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Board of Education members listen to a presentation from a Department of Education staffer in August. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Toward the end of the year, along with announcing the end of his own controversial education agency, Governor Mike Pence said he wants the state legislature to consider changing how the SBOE operates. To help diffuse tension between State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and other members of the board, Pence has suggested allowing the board to elect its own chairperson, rather than automatically giving that seat to the superintendent.

This isn’t an unusual move – plenty of other states do it this way. In fact, the majority do.

Board members in thirty-six states plus Guam and the Northern Marianas elect their own chairs. Governors in eight other states appoint the board chair, and in Alabama the governor him- or herself serves as chair, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education.

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Year In Review: The State Board Of Education In 2014

State Board of Education members Gordon Hendry, left, Brad Oliver, David Freitas and Andrea Neal listen during a previous meeting.

State Board of Education members Gordon Hendry, left, Brad Oliver, David Freitas and Andrea Neal listen during a previous meeting. (photo credit: Claire McInerny)

If you’ve followed education policy in Indiana the last few years, you’ve no doubt come across news about the State Board of Education. The 11 person panel, including state superintendent Glenda Ritz, creates education policy for the state that is recommended to the legislature and the governor.

Board meeting started to become dramatic when Ritz, a democrat, was elected in 2012 and became chair of the board which is comprised of Republican governor Mike Pence and former governor Mitch Daniels’ appointees.

So how did that saga play out in 2014? Here are the highlights:

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Disparities In Discipline Not A New Topic, But An Important One

A number of recent events – including the deaths of two young black men in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City – are bringing discussions of race to light in a number of realms.

As it relates to education, a nationally recognized panel of experts says racial issues and stereotypes often shape the discipline practices in public schools.

The research on discipline

New research from The Equity Project at Indiana University posits that schools can in fact measure their discipline policies in black and white.

New research from The Equity Project at Indiana University posits that schools can in fact measure their discipline policies in black and white.

Students of color are disciplined in far greater numbers than their white peers, and often for the same type of misbehavior, according to research released last week by the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative. The group of 26 social science, education and legal experts assembled three years ago through The Equity Project at Indiana University.

“Racial disparities are not easy for Americans to confront, in large part because of a long-standing reluctance to talk about issues of race and ethnicity frankly and openly,” researchers write. “But if we are to undo the racial inequities that continue to plague us, we must find constructive ways to talk about them and intervene constructively and consciously to end them.”

Federal evidence supports the idea that disparities in school discipline are only getting worse.

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Pre-K: How Does Indiana Compare On The National Scene?

The new year brings a fresh start, and nobody is more aware of impending changes than families in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.

Indiana’s first preschool pilot program begins in those four communities in January, when an anticipated 450 low-income four-year-olds will head off to school for the first time.

Forty others, plus the District of Columbia, already have state-funded pre-k. Indiana will become the 41st. President Obama has been pushing for more states to adopt preschool programs, and in doing so he’s been dropping names of states he sees as national examples, including Oklahoma, which was one of the first to offer free voluntary pre-k in 1998.

Approximately 46 percent of children across the country – approximately 3.7 million – attend preschool, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

In the early stages of planning Indiana’s program, Melanie Brizzi of Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration gave StateImpact a list of states she considered as models for the Hoosier state’s program.

“Minnesota, Florida, Ohio, Illinois – there’s an abundance of research material we can go to,” Brizzi said.

Let’s take a look at some of those states and see how Indiana compares.

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