Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Elle Moxley

Elle Moxley came to WFIU in 2012 from The Examiner, a community newspaper in suburban Kansas City. She previously worked for KBIA-FM in Columbia, Mo.; The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill.; and the Associated Press in London. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri, where she studied multimedia journalism and broadcasting.

Adult Education Centers Now Giving New, Harder High School Equivalency Exam

Plainfield Prison GED classroom

Julie Rawe / WFIU News

Students in Dawn Grage's GED classroom are trying to pass the high school equivalency test before it changes on Jan. 1, 2014.

Last year Indiana’s adult education centers raced to get students through the GED curriculum before the state officially switched to a new high school equivalency test.

Indiana is now using the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, which aligns more closely with the state’s goals for preparing students for college and jobs.

Brown County Career Resource Center Career Facilitator Charity Robertson says the transition has been smooth for the teachers. It’s a different story, however, for some students.

“It’s been a struggle with the new students we had,” says Robertson. “The new test is harder. It is more thorough in investigation of what students know from the high school realm. So we have had trouble with the level of material and the things we have to teach them that is new and higher.”  Continue Reading

Pence Signs Pre-K Legislation, Committing State Funds To Early Childhood Education

Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation creating a state-funded preschool pilot program.

Brandon Smith / StateImpact Indiana

Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation creating a state-funded preschool pilot program.

Gov. Mike Pence says legislation to create a preschool pilot program is the beginning of a new chapter of hope and opportunity for Indiana’s disadvantaged children.

The pilot program will provide anywhere between $2,500 and $6,800 per child so low-income Hoosier kids in five counties can attend a high quality preschool program. Pence signed the bill Thursday at DayStar Childcare Ministries in Indianapolis, which is run by Englewood Christian Church.

“In a neighborhood like this one that has some economic challenges, it means that children won’t be sitting in front of the television set; they won’t be playing unattended out in yards,” says pastor Mike Bowling. “They’re going to be with other children and they’re going to be learning and they’re going to ready for kindergarten when the time comes.”

Pence says his administration is already working to get the program up and running as soon as possible. Continue Reading

Legislative Leaders Tout Pre-K Pilot, But Say Issue Needs Study Before Expanding

Students play an alligator game with their teacher at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus, Ind.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Students play an alligator game with their teacher at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle are praising creation of a preschool pilot program as an historic achievement for Indiana.

The approved legislation uses existing Family and Social Services Administration money and private contributions to fund a pilot program in five counties that could provide up to 4,500 low-income children with money to attend a high quality preschool.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says that’s a fine first step, but it needs to be kept in perspective.

“That is planting a sapling when the state of Indiana needs an entirely new landscape,” says Pelath. “And while it’s a positive thing, it’s not something that we can say is going to transform Indiana’s children yet.” Continue Reading

Preschool Pilot Revived, Now Heads To Governor’s Desk

An aide helps a student count at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

An aide helps a student count at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

State lawmakers have approved a preschool pilot program today after it was seemingly left for dead just two weeks ago. It now heads to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says creation of the pre-K pilot wouldn’t have been possible without a funding mechanism crafted by the Senate.

The program can use up to $10 million in existing funds from the Family and Social Services Administration. At least 10 percent — and up to 50 percent — of that in matching funds must come from private sources or the federal government.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, says that could provide high quality preschool opportunities for anywhere from 2,000 to 4,500 low-income children. Continue Reading

Q&A: Why Indiana Lawmakers Aren’t Ready To Fund Preschool

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, sits on the Indiana Senate Education Committee and chairs the Appropriations Committee.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, sits on the Indiana Senate Education Committee and chairs the Appropriations Committee.

“This,” says Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, referring to a proposed preschool program, “is almost a potential budget buster.”

Gov. Mike Pence asked state lawmakers this year to approve a small-scale preschool pilot program for low-income 4-year-olds. But Kenley, who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, says he’s not ready to commit to state-funded pre-K.

That’s why the Senate Education Committee said the governor’s preferred proposal was too expensive and elected instead to study the issue this summer.

Though there’s a chance lawmakers could still approve some funding for a pilot program, budget hawks remain skeptical of the plan. Continue Reading

Small-Scale Pilot Program Could Still End Up In Indiana Preschool Proposal

A student plays during an activity period at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

A student plays during an activity period at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long says lawmakers are considering a compromise on pre-K legislation that could move the issue beyond just a summer study committee.

The House passed a bill earlier this session creating a pilot program that would provide vouchers for low-income Hoosier children to attend preschool. But the Senate eliminated the program, creating instead a comprehensive summer study on pre-K.

As House and Senate leaders negotiate over the pre-K bill’s final product, Long says a smaller version of the pilot could be in the works.

“There’s an argument that we need to have something out there to see what is or isn’t working, so you have an opportunity, then, to implement some evidence-based programs out there that we can look towards as we talk about implementing a much larger program in the state,” says Long. Continue Reading

Governor Pence Urges State Lawmakers To Restore Preschool Pilot

Gov. Mike Pence advocates for a state-funded preschool pilot program at an Indianapolis preschool.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Gov. Mike Pence advocates for state-funded preschool at a pre-K classroom at the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis. State lawmakers have scaled back a pilot proposal Pence backed.

Gov. Mike Pence emphasized the urgent need for Indiana to begin providing preschool opportunities for low-income Hoosiers at an Indianapolis pre-K Wednesday morning.

Pence says “the time is now” for the legislature to reinstate a pre-k pilot program after the Senate Education Committee gutted a bill last week that would have provided vouchers for 1,000 4-year-olds in five counties to attend preschool.

Instead, lawmakers replaced it with a study committee on the issue. But Pence says the pilot program can be used to help inform the study committee.

“The legislative process, more importantly, is about persuasion and we are on a daily basis engaging with members of the General Assembly in both parties to make the case that the time has come for expanding access to quality pre-k programs to some of our most disadvantaged kids,” says Pence. Continue Reading

Voucher-Accepting Private Schools Will Still Give Indiana’s Standardized Test

Students attending private schools that accept vouchers must take the statewide standardized test, the ISTEP+.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Students attending private schools that accept vouchers must take the statewide standardized test, the ISTEP+.

A proposal to let voucher-accepting private schools opt out of the state’s ISTEP+ test fizzled in committee Wednesday.

After members of his own party objected, the bill’s author offered an amendment to require voucher-accepting private schools continue taking Indiana’s standardized test, writes Eric Weddle for the Indianapolis Star:

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, attempted to convince members of the Senate Education Committee that loosening rules for these schools would truly give parents an option in deciding where to enroll their children and use vouchers to help pay for tuition.

The bill was written to let schools eligible for the Choice Scholarship program decide whether to administer the ISTEP exam to assess student learning. Instead, these schools could use another standardized test approved by the State Board of Education.

“To me the essence of choice is that money follows the child to the institution of the parents choice,” Schneider said. “And that really is the true essence of choice. And if we are going to have a voucher program, we need to maintain some sort of autonomy for these schools.” Continue Reading

Does Indiana Attach Enough Money To Its Private School Vouchers?

Students sing and play music games during choir class at St. Charles Catholic School in Bloomington.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Students sing and play music games during choir class at St. Charles Catholic School in Bloomington.

Last session Indiana lawmakers upped the amount students could receive in state-funded tuition vouchers to attend private school.

But proponents of school choice say the new limits — $4,700 this year and $4,800 next year for students in grades K-8 — are still too low to pay tuition at many private schools.

“We don’t give kids the amount of money they deserve,” says Robert Enlow, president of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “The voucher is only $4,800 in elementary school. You can’t grow a program and help kids and more kids if you’re not going to give them an amount of money that can allow that to happen.”

About half of Indiana students come from families with incomes low enough to receive free or reduced-price meals at school. Enlow says according to the report the Indiana Department of Education released Monday, 75 percent of voucher-recipient students come from low-income families, or about $43,500 for a family of four.

“I’d say this program is still serving serving far more low-income children than the rest of the state,” says Enlow. Continue Reading

GOP Lawmakers Voice Support For Indiana-Specific Education Standards

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, left, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, co-chaired the interim study committee on the Common Core.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, left, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, co-chaired the interim study committee on the Common Core.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma said this week said they would be keeping a close eye on the State Board and Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

They say they’re pleased at the recent progress state education officials have made to improve their working relationship. But that doesn’t mean they won’t still wade in on key education issues.

Bosma says after Wednesday’s State Board meeting, he’s happy with their progress.

“We’ve been chatting with everyone – the governor’s office, the State Board of Education members and the superintendent and her team – and it looks like everybody’s playing nice and moving in the same direction,” he says. “So that’s welcome news, I think, for all of us.” Continue Reading

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