Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

The Next Push In School Choice: Clarifying The Options

As students go back to school this month, more of them are expected to be enrolled in private schools thanks to the state’s rapidly expanding voucher system.

There’s also been a new push to make it easier for parents to find alternative schools.

The Institute for Quality Education—a school choice group based in Indianapolis—launched a website earlier this year that allows parents to shop around for schools.

“Parents in Indiana are really fortunate that they have so many options. Now that we have those options in place, the challenge is getting the information out to the parents,” says Tosha Salyers, a spokeswoman for the Institute for Quality Education. “The goal of the site is just that to teach parents what options are available.”

website demonstration

Institute for Quality Education spokeswoman Tosha Salyers demonstrates the website. (Photo Credit: Gretchen Frazee) is much like a website you would use to find an apartment or home.

You pick what kind of school you want: a traditional public school, charter school or private school. Then you can filter it down to the schools near you, find out if you qualify for a voucher, and, if so, how to apply for one.

The site got more than 20,000 page views this summer as parents decided where to enroll their students.

“We’re getting a really great response from parents and I think that they are thankful that there is sort of a one-stop shop where they can go and get all the information they need,” Salyers says.

Public education advocates are criticizing the website, saying it gives too much weight to student test scores and is helping drive students away from traditional public schools.

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Adapting To An Economy In Flux


Mitch Ennis is a recent graduate of the IU Kelley School of Business. (photo credit: Gretchen Frazee/WTIU News)

The workplace is changing at a rapid pace.

Employees have to learn how to use new technology every day. Jobs can often be more short-term and project-oriented, and companies are looking for people who not only have the skills to fill today’s positions but who are able to think ahead and shape how business is done in the future.

Those factors present a challenge for students just graduating from college and looking for jobs, but it can also present enormous opportunities for those in the millennial generation.

A Success Story

Mitch Ennis’ fingers glide deftly over the keys of a large grand piano in Indiana University’s Memorial Union. A few years ago he imagined himself here, studying classical piano at the world-renowned Jacob School of Music.

“It’s something I’ve loved to do all my life, but freshman, sophomore year, I sat down with my piano teacher, my parents and kind of figured business in some capacity was more appropriate,” he says.

VIDEO: The Weekly Roundup Of Education At The Statehouse

Education issues continue to dominate discussions at the statehouse and across Indiana, as Hoosiers debate a series of controversies relating to school funding, the role of the chair of the State Board of Education and the spring ISTEP+ test.

StateImpact’s Claire McInerny spoke with Indiana Newsdesk host Joe Hren about the week’s events.

Opposing Viewpoints and Rallies

Private, charter and public school leaders held a rally on Thursday to show why they think Indiana is heading in the right direction, pointing to increases in test scores and the fact that students can attend a better school with state financial support, even if it is outside of their district or is a private or charter school.

But hundreds of Hoosiers gathered in the same space just a few days before, exclaiming they feel public schools and State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who they elected, is under attack.

“I voted for Glenda Ritz to be my state superintendent of public instruction. I didn’t vote for Governor Pence,” Mary Plaia, a kindergarten teacher at Indianapolis Public Schools said. “He’s trying to take my vote away by ousting her from her power and that’s not acceptable in a democracy.”

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U.S. Dept. Of Education: Indiana At Risk Of Losing Its NCLB Waiver

A seventh grader works on a laptop owned by her school in the classroom.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A seventh grader works on a laptop owned by her school in the classroom.

The U.S. Department of Education released a report today showing Indiana is not in full compliance with the No Child Left Behind waiver requirements and is at risk of losing its waiver.

The Department of Education conducted a review of the state’s procedures last August.

“Based on the number of significant ‘next steps’ in the monitoring report, I am placing a condition on the approval of IDOE’s ESEA’s [Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which the No Child Left Behind Act replaced] flexibility request. In order to have this condition removed, IDOE most address all ‘next steps’ in the monitoring report and submit evidence that it has done so as part of its extension request,” U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle said in a letter to State Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Continue Reading

Board Denies Dugger’s Charter School Application

Dugger Elementary is scheduled to close at the end of the school year.

Dugger Elementary is scheduled to close at the end of the school year.

The Indiana Charter School Board has denied an application to open a new charter school in Dugger.

Dugger Elementary and Union Junior/Senior High School are set to close at the end of this year because of budget constraints.

As we’ve reported, About 300 students are currently attending the two schools in Dugger, and parents have previously said their students would likely transfer from the district entirely rather than attend another school in the district.

They had hoped that opening a charter school would save them from having to choose between those two options.  Continue Reading

Bloomington Charter School Withdraws Its Application

The organizers of the proposed Green Meadows Charter School sit on stage at the Monroe County Public Library during a public hearing.

The organizers of the proposed Green Meadows Charter School sit on stage at the Monroe County Public Library during a public hearing.

A proposed charter school in Bloomington is withdrawing its application.

The Green School’s founders had applied for a charter with the Indiana Charter School Board in hopes of starting a school in 2015. But the charter board told them there were too many issues that still needed to be resolved—their budget was too small for example and they weren’t offering teachers enough money.

Green School education director Mary Goral says they haven’t decided whether to reapply.

“We’re tired. We’re tired and worn out from the process,” Goral says, adding that the people who have been working to form The Green School have been volunteering on the project for three years,

But she urges parents not to give up.

“I feel like if there’s ever going to be any kind of change, people need to organize and come together and really be willing to take a risk,” Goral says.

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Can Community Involvement Help Turn Around A Struggling School?

Elizabeth Huffman reads with her tutor at Fairview Elementary. The Bloomington school has brought in Indiana University students to tutor struggling readers.

Gretchen Frazee / WTIU News

Elizabeth Huffman reads with her tutor at Fairview Elementary in Bloomington.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation hopes it has found a new solution to low standardized test scores at Fairview Elementary in Bloomington.

The school is partnering with an Indiana University student group in hopes strong community ties can help struggling readers improve.

Fifth grader Elizabeth Huffman likes to read, but her mom Autumn Huffman says she could use some help with reading comprehension.

“I hope that she not necessarily has a newfound love of reading but is able to delve into it a little bit more as I saw her do today,” says Huffman. Continue Reading

Indianapolis Student Bridges Deaf And Hearing Culture

Gretchen Frazee / WFIU

Margaret Katter participates in class at the Indiana School for the Deaf. Katter, who will graduate as the ISD's valedictorian this Spring, has an autoimmune disorder that adversely affects her hearing. She's not a candidate for cochlear implants, but Katter says she's glad she wasn't put in mainstream schools.

When she was less than two years old, the Katters decided to teach their daughter sign language and enroll her in classes at the Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD) in Indianapolis. Neither of Margaret Katter’s parents is deaf, but her mom is a speech language pathologist and her aunt is an audiologist.

“We’ve always said if God was going to bring a hard of hearing child into the world, there really wasn’t a better place than our family.”
—Greg Katter, Margaret Katter’s Father

“All along we’ve always said if God was going to bring a hard of hearing child into the world, there really wasn’t a better place than our family,” Margaret’s dad, Greg, says. Continue Reading

Deaf Student Uses Cochlear Implant To Hear, Learn

Gretchen Frazee / WFIU

Grant Phllips interacts with his classmates in his literature class at Covenant Chrtstian High School. Phillips has had a cochlear implant since he was 16 months old, which allows him to hear.

If there were a poster child for cochlear implants, Grant Phillips would be it. When Phillips was born, he was completely deaf. After exploring several options, his parents heard about a new procedure that had been shown to restore hearing loss at a very successful rate.

The first surgeries and FDA studies for cochlear implants, a device that aid hearing by stimulating the cochlea in the inner ear, were taking place right in their hometown of Indianapolis at Riley Hospital. The problem was that the FDA had only approved the surgery for children more than two years old. After consulting with the lead doctor, Dr. Richard Miyamoto, the Philips and hospital agreed to perform surgery on Grant when he was just 16 months old. Continue Reading

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