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.

Tensions Apparent On State Board As Ritz Holds Firm To Posted Agenda

The State Board of Education listens to public testimony during its October meeting.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

The State Board of Education listens to public testimony during its October meeting.

Tensions between Glenda Ritz and other State Board of Education members were apparent Wednesday after the state superintendent shut down a motion to make changes to the meeting agenda.

At issue was at what point in the meeting State Board staff would update board members on various matters. The agenda listed this item as the last the panel would hear.

Ritz turned down a request to move up the agenda item but said she would allow staff to jump in as needed with information relevant to the discussion. That’s when board members Dan Elsener and Tony Walker offered a motion and a second to modify the agenda.

But Ritz would not allow the vote.

“I have the right to decide how this agenda goes forth,” she said, citing rule that the board’s agenda could be modified at the discretion of the chair.

“We have a motion and a second,” Elsener said. “You’re telling us we aren’t going to be able to vote on it?” Continue Reading

Mitch Daniels Sticks By Criticism Of Liberal Historian, Disputes AP Story

Gov. Mitch Daniels, soon to be Purdue's 12th president.

Steven Yang / Purdue University

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels announces he will lead Purdue University.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels is firing back after the Associated Press printed emails the former governor exchanged with education officials and staff about a textbook written by a liberal historian.

In a 2010 email exchange, Daniels asked if Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” was being taught in Indiana. Speaking Wednesday, Daniels called the article “utter distortion” but says he stands by his decision the book shouldn’t be used.

From WBAA reporter Mike Loizzo:

“Look who I was communicating with,” says Daniels. “I didn’t talk to anybody at the Commission for Higher Education or anywhere else. I simply was inquiring about the K-12 system and asking whether this false, misleading version of American history had found its way into Indiana classrooms.”

But Daniels says he supports academic freedom and thinks university professors should be free to include whatever they want in their courses.

He says he’s had a few conversations with Purdue faculty since the AP story came out, and says those who have heard both sides understand his perspective.

Daniels also says he thinks the AP article was unfair because it brought in a separate, 2009 email exchange about an Indianapolis University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor who had been a vocal opponent of the governor’s education agenda.

Five Questions Parents Should Ask When A District Goes One-To-One

Each iPad has a checklist to make sure students returned the device, cover and charger in good condition. Students who had an iPad last year will get the same device back next year.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

East Allen County Schools technology director Bill Diehl holds a checklist used to make sure students return their iPad, cover and charger in good condition.

“I wish I could give every parent the same tour I just gave you,” East Allen County Schools technology director Bill Diehl told me as I packed up my recording equipment last month.

I was in northeast Indiana working on a story about technology initiatives, and Diehl had just finished walking me through the logistics of overseeing a large-scale one-to-one program. We were in the room where the district’s 7,000 student iPads are being stored for the summer.

“If they knew that this is what’s going to be carried around,” says Diehl, holding up his iPad, “you can still take paper and pencil notes if you want, but I could show you all the cool programs we have on them to take notes.”

Of course, Diehl doesn’t have time to explain to every parent how the district is using technology in the classroom. What he can do is host iPad informational meetings and make presentations before the school board. Continue Reading

Can The State Board Guarantee Continued Grant Funding For Takeover Schools?

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz asks board members for their thoughts on school accountability during her first Indiana Board of Education study session.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz asks board members for their thoughts on school accountability during her first Indiana Board of Education study session.

Members of the State Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to continue funding five takeover schools at 2012-13 levels. At issue is roughly $1.3 million in federal School Improvement Grants, money earmarked for turnaround efforts that the schools received last year.

But as Indianapolis Star reporter Scott Elliott notes, it’s unclear whether Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Department of Education can honor the State Board’s directive:

But state board members voted to add a provision requiring that the takeover school operators receive the same funding next year as this year. After the meeting, board members Pickett and David Shane said the aim was to require Ritz to replace roughly $1.3 million each school received from SIG last year for any school that does not receive the grant again. Where Ritz would get the money is unclear, as she argued she can direct per-pupil aid, special education money and federal grants based only on directives in state or federal law.

“If they don’t get it from SIG, they have to get it from somewhere else,” Shane said. “The SIG money is basically supplemental startup funding.”

Ritz said she couldn’t say more until she got legal advice.

“There are a lot of legal questions about this,” she said. Continue Reading

IREAD-3 Results: Five Takeaways From Indiana's Statewide Reading Test

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Lisa Coughanowr, a kindergarten teacher at East Side Elementary in Brazil, reads aloud to her students. She asks questions about the story to check their understanding.

About 86 percent of Indiana third graders passed a statewide reading exam in March that will allow them to advance to fourth grade.

That’s a slight improvement from last year — the first time the IREAD-3 was administered — when slightly more than 84 percent of Indiana third graders passed the test.

More than 11,800 students will have to retake the IREAD-3 this summer or risk retention.

We’ve posted complete statewide results of the exam to two easily-searchable tables. You can find results for your school or your district. (This year’s data also includes results for non-public schools.)

State education officials released the results with little fanfare. Superintendent Glenda Ritz has been fiercely critical of the high-stakes exam, citing it as the primary reason she ran against former schools chief Tony Bennett in November.

Ritz, a former teacher who worked as a media specialist in Washington Township, has said repeatedly Indiana needs to rethink how it handles students who aren’t reading at grade level. Continue Reading

Indy Star: What Louisiana High Court Voucher Decision Means For Indiana

Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana

St. Charles Catholic School in Bloomington added 15 students when it started accepting vouchers in 2012.

The Louisiana Supreme Court struck down the state’s voucher law Tuesday. That could leave Indiana’s expansive voucher program standing alone, writes Scott Elliott for the Indianapolis Star:

The [Louisiana] judges’ decision appears to make it particularly hard for the program to be revived by the legislature, as it will probably require a separate funding source, banning lawmakers from redirecting state per pupil aid from school districts that students use voucher to leave in favor of private schools.

This is about as far off the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision, which upheld a similar program here a little over a month ago, as the court could have gone.

For Indiana, it’s significant because it likely leaves the Hoosier state standing alone as the prime example of a very wide-ranging voucher program. Continue Reading

Lawmakers Appear Poised To Make Final Voucher Expansion Deal

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Private school students wait outside the Indiana Supreme Court as justices hear a challenge to the state's voucher law. The state's high court upheld the program in March.

Republican lawmakers pounding out differences between House and Senate versions of a proposal to expand the state’s school voucher system are close to a deal, reports the Indianapolis Star‘s Scott Elliott:

A vote could come today on a revised version of House Bill 1003 that would extend vouchers to income-qualified siblings of those already using vouchers, students in special education and those living within the boundaries of a school rated a D or F by the Indiana Department of Education.

None of those students would have to first attend public school for at least two semesters in order to receive tax-funded vouchers to pay private school tuition, as is now required.

Although the deal leaves out children from military families or who are in foster care — both were included in prior versions — the addition of schools rated D or F would make thousands of Hoosier children newly eligible. The changes would take effect next school year. Continue Reading

State Lawmakers Make A Few More Tweaks To Proposed Voucher Legislation

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Changes to proposed voucher legislation limit expansion to students living in the attendance zones of F schools.

School choice advocates who had hoped for a big boost in the dollar amount of Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program will have to settle for a $400 increase over the next two years.

As voucher legislation left the Senate Thursday, the bill’s author, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, proposed an amendment lifting the cap from $4,500 to $4,700 next year and $4,900 in 2015. It’s significantly less than the $6,500 originally proposed in a bill that’s undergone many changes as it moved through the statehouse.

At different points, the proposal has included provisions making siblings of participating students eligible for vouchers, increasing access for foster and military families and eliminating the public school requirement for incoming kindergarteners. But then the Senate Education Committee narrowed expansion to any student living in the attendance zone of a F school, a change Indiana Public Broadcasting‘s Brandon Smith reports Behning won’t fight:

Rep. Behning says he doesn’t plan to address the attendance requirement after the Senate altered it.

“I did not change any of the parameters they had in terms of that … they have already voted on what’s in the bill,” he says. “I’m not trying to ask them to revote on that issue.” Continue Reading

Senate Leader Won't Support Legislation To Put Armed Personnel In Every School

Matthew Staver / Landov

A controversial amendment to require armed personnel in every school has been tacked on to a bill to provide grant money for school resource officers.

A proposal that would require armed personnel in every Indiana school isn’t likely to pass the Senate, reports Dan Carden. From The Times of Northwest Indiana:

Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, slammed the brakes Thursday on a pending House proposal requiring every Indiana school to have an armed employee in the building during school hours.

Long said if that provision, inserted Wednesday by the House Education Committee into Senate Bill 1, is approved by the full House, he’ll remove it from the legislation when it returns to the Senate.

“It needs to be optional for our school districts to let them make the choice,” Long said. Continue Reading

Ritz Tells Indiana General Assembly To Pay Back Indianapolis, Gary Schools

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz told Indiana lawmakers Thursday they need to budget $9 million to pay back Indianapolis and Gary schools after a judge ruled turnaround operators were overpaid for five takeover schools, writes Scott Elliott in the Indianapolis Star:

The Indiana General Assembly should allocate more than $9 million to pay back the Indianapolis and Gary school districts in response to a court decision regarding funding for schools taken over by the state, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz told lawmakers Thursday.

But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the State Board of Education could still appeal the court decision that ordered the payment, even if Ritz objects.

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