Gov. Eric Holcomb filled two vacant spots on the State Board of Education, appointing Kathleen Mote and previous board member Tony Walker.
There are two school districts in Wabash, Indiana, not enough students to fill both, and both are struggling financially.
Jason Callahan is superintendent of one of these districts, Wabash City Schools, and he’s made a lot of changes to save money.
“At some point you can’t cut any more,” Callahan says. “We’re down to one elementary, one middle school one high school, in our whole district, so there’s no more buildings to reorganize.”
With those school consolidations in Wabash City Schools, the only remaining elementary school is is at maximum capacity.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praised Indiana’s expansive school choice laws in Indianapolis Monday and alluded to a federal effort to expand school choice at the conference.
DeVos gave the keynote address at the annual conference for the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group.
More than 700 Indiana students received a certificate of multilingual proficiency from the state, meaning the students are proficient in two languages.
The Department of Education awarded this certificate, and this is the first cohort of students receiving the recognition.
This certificate program was created in 2015 legislation that sought to promote dual language learning in the state’s schools. The legislation also created the dual-language immersion pilot program implemented in a few schools around the state.
A new study shows Indiana’s schools are segregated by race and income, something that’s true across the state.
The study comes from Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation & Education Policy, and focuses on how students from different races and economic backgrounds intersect.
The state is seeing a dramatic increase in minority students. For example, the number of Latino students attending Indiana schools has grown more than 500 percent since 1988. But these growing minority groups don’t mean schools are getting more diverse.
One finding is that the average black student in the state goes to schools where 68 percent of the student population is also non-white students. That’s compared to white students who on average attend schools where 19 percent of the school is non-white.
Jodi Moon is a researcher who worked on the study, and says the report found black families are mostly concentrated in more urban areas like Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Gary, while Latino families are more spread throughout the state.
“The changing demographics of our country, the changing demographics of our state and the inequities we see are important conversations to be looking at,” Moon says. “This data enables those conversations to get started.”
Moon says the segregation taking place in rural parts of the state is based on family income levels, with more low-income families attending school together.
The study doesn’t consider whether segregation affects students’ academic or social performance. Moon says she hopes the data prompts more people to ask that question.
“I recognize that some people are looking for solutions, and I think that varies greatly depending on the region and geography in terms of what the opportunities are,” she says. “But really the first step is to know what enrollment patterns are occurring and evaluate what kind of possibilities there are.”
Charter schools or companies could end up assisting the financially-troubled Muncie and Gary school districts, rather than an individual, as decided during the 2017 legislative session.
A bill passed and signed into law this year allows the state to assign an “emergency manager” to the Gary School Corporation, and possibly the Muncie district, to help these school districts address severe financial issues.
The concept of school vouchers was part of the national spotlight when now-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos underwent her confirmation hearing. NPR’s education team wanted to investigate how vouchers are currently used around the country, and traveled to Indiana to see how our program functions. Indiana education reporters Peter Balonon-Rosen, Eric Weddle and Claire McInerny assisted in the reporting. The full investigative piece is now published over at NPR Education, and dives into the state’s voucher program, who its helping, and who its hurting.
Indiana lawmakers want schools to develop more robust suicide prevention policies while teachers get training on the issue.
Rep. Julie Olthoff’s (R-Merrilville) bill requires several new steps to create suicide prevention programs. And Olthoff says the first step is creating a statewide suicide prevention coordinator.
“And then they’ll be able to disseminate information and hopefully prevent them,” Olthoff says.
That coordinator will develop a statewide suicide prevention program. That includes training for health care providers and helping schools adjust to a new requirement: beginning next year, all teachers – grades 5-12 – must have suicide prevention training.
Youth issues advocate Mindi Goodpaster says that’s more than just identifying warning signs and addressing students at risk of suicide. It’s also how to help other students in a school environment when a suicide occurs.
“To help them understand what happened – was it my fault, was there something I could have done? – you know, how do we provide a supportive environment?” Goodpaster says.
Goodpaster adds that training can be vital to preventing the so-called “cluster effect,” where one student suicide leads to others.
Eight of ten school referenda passed Tuesday – an effort for districts to ask voters through a ballot referenda process to raise property taxes to help fund their schools. Basically, the ballot question asks voters to pay more in property taxes so the schools have more funding.
Primaries are much quieter than November elections, and this can bode well for referenda. May referenda often pass at a higher rate than those posed in November. Fewer voters show up, and many who do are motivated to vote because of the referendum.
A new Indiana plan to expand state-funded preschool allows the program to extend to 15 new counties, ties it to the state’s private school voucher program and includes a controversial option for online preschool.
Currently, the $10 million state-funded On My Way Pre-K program serves around 1,500 low-income students in five counties. Expanding preschool access in Indiana has been a key goal of lawmakers this session, including Gov. Eric Holcomb.
The size of the expansion remains unclear, but under a budget proposal likely to remain intact, the state would double the program’s size. They’d dedicate $20 million to brick-and-mortar preschool annually – and allow it to grow in a limited fashion.