Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom


How Tony Bennett's Last-Minute A-F Changes Lifted 165 Indiana School Grades

Click here to view a map of 165 schools whose grades improved because of a last-minute change former state superintendent Tony Bennett's staff made to Indiana's A-F grading system.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Click here to view a map of 165 schools whose grades improved because of a change former state superintendent Tony Bennett's staff made to Indiana's A-F grading system.

Though it’s received the most media attention in the controversy that led to ex-Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett’s resignation, Christel House Academy was not the only school to benefit from state officials’ changes to Indiana’s fledgling school grading system in 2012.

After studying last year’s A-F rating data, a StateImpact analysis has identified 165 schools across the state — including Christel House — that saw higher final grades than they would have if Bennett’s staff hadn’t tweaked the formula roughly six weeks before releasing 2012’s results.

Take a look at this map and search this table to see if your school is one of those 165.

Bennett’s staff does not directly mention the change in emails the Associated Press published this month. From those messages, it’s not apparent state officials made the change with Christel House alone in mind.

The finding does, however, show how a relatively minor alteration to the A-F grading scale can have statewide implications. Continue Reading

Referenda Scorecard: School Districts That Have Pursued Tax Levy Increases Since 2008

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Superintendent Jon Willman, right, and members of the Hamilton Community School Board take questions about a proposed tax levy increase during a public meeting ahead of the November 2012 election. The referendum passed with 74 percent of the vote.

Less than a quarter of Indiana school corporations have pursued a referendum in the five years since the state legislature changed the way districts can levy taxes for construction and operating expenses.

Fourteen of the 67 districts have made two or more appeals, including two school corporations that passed construction referenda Tuesday — Hamilton Southeastern and Noblesville. The seven questions that appeared on the ballot in this week’s special election bring the total number of school referenda in Indiana to 88 since 2008.

(Scroll down to find StateImpact‘s scorecard on five years of school referenda is after the jump.)

Districts asking for a tax levy increase to bolster the general fund have fared slightly better than school corporations asking voters to approve building projects, though only 45.7 percent of referenda have passed so far. Continue Reading

Vouchers: How Many Students From Your District Have Left For Private School

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Gov. Mitch Daniels talks to students at Our Lady of Hungary in South Bend last fall. The school benefited from a boost in enrollment last year from the state's voucher program.

The number of Indiana students participating in the state’s voucher program more than doubled in the program’s second year.

Some 9,324 students are attending private schools using state-funded vouchers this year. That’s up from 3,919 in 2011-12, making Indiana’s program the fastest growing in the country. Next year there’s no limit on the number of vouchers the state can award.

Forty-eight schools who didn’t participate in the program last year are now included on the list of institutions that accept vouchers, bringing the total to 289.

(You can find out how many students from your school corporation are participating in the voucher program after the jump.) Continue Reading

Indiana's 2012 A-F School Ratings Released: Find Your School's Grade Here

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett chats with State Board of Education member Tony Walker before the panel's meeting Wednesday.

Scroll down to find what grade your school received — we included results for all traditional public, charter and private schools.

Fewer Indiana schools received the state’s highest performance rating this year compared to last year, according to letter grades Indiana Department of Education officials released Wednesday.

Forty percent of Indiana schools received an A, down from 47 percent in 2011. But one in five schools received B’s this year, up more than 10 percentage points from last year.

“This is a very positive day overall, very positive news,” Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said during the State Board of Education meeting in Indianapolis Wednesday. Members of the executive panel approved the grades unanimously shortly thereafter.

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The Indiana Districts 'Racing' For A $400M Federal Prize

Gary Perkin / Gallo Images / Getty Images

Get it? He's racing to the top...

23 Indiana school corporations have formally expressed interest in applying for a share in a $400 million pot of federal money at stake in a nationwide competition for school districts called Race To The Top.

Obama administration officials will dole out the cash to districts who most impress them by “demonstrat[ing] how they can personalize education for all students in their schools.”

Fort Wayne Community Schools is the largest Indiana district to tell the U.S. Department of Education they intend to apply. (We’ve posted a full list below the jump.)

Few of the nearly 900 districts nationwide who said they’ll apply will actually receive a share of the $400 million — the feds are only giving awards to between 15 and 25 districts.  Continue Reading

Interactive Map: Who's Giving Money In The Campaign For State Superintendent

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A teleprompter aids state superintendent Tony Bennett as he delivers a televised address in September 2011.

Buoyed by a rising political stock and several big-ticket national contributions, Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has already raised more than twice the amount of campaign cash he did in his initial bid for office in 2008.

Bennett has brought in $1.3 million in campaign contributions since his election four years ago — more than $812,000 in 2012 alone — with the thick of the political fundraising season still to come. By contrast, Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz has raised $112,000 to date, largely from the political arms of the state’s teachers unions.

A majority of Bennett’s campaign funds come from contributors in Indiana. But roughly 40 percent of his campaign cash has come from out-of-state givers, including from a company tapped to lead a school takeover and from the mayor of New York City.

We’ve put together a map of contributions to the Bennett campaign and a sortable database along with it. We’ve also compiled a list of the contributions to Ritz’s campaign, which you can view here.

Continue Reading

How Indiana Students Fared On This Year's ISTEP+ Exams

StateImpact Indiana

Click here for our interactive map of 2012 ISTEP+ results.

How well did your district do? Check out our interactive map. How well did your school do? Find out here.

71 percent of Indiana students passed both the math and English portions of this year’s ISTEP+ exam, the state’s benchmark standardized test for children in Grades 3-8, according to figures released Tuesday.

The result reflects a modest increase in the passing rate — about 1 percent over last year.

Overall ISTEP+ scores are higher than they’ve ever been, but stubborn socio-economic achievement gaps remain. While low-income and minority students’ scores have increased slightly faster than the population as a whole, they still lag behind.

“In general, I think [Tuesday’s results] are very good news,” Jonathan Plucker, director of Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, told StateImpact. “But clearly we have a lot of work to do.” Continue Reading

Easy A? The 10 Departments At IU & Purdue Giving The Most A's

Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

Purdue University, where an average of 40 percent of all grades given out are A's.

Looking to graduate college with lots of A’s on your transcript? Major in Aerospace Studies at Indiana University, or take a lot of band classes at Purdue.

Amid the debate over grade inflation across the country — a national study found three out of every four students at public flagship universities earn either an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ in their classes — we took a closer look at grades data at Indiana’s flagship universities, IU and Purdue.

Both schools give out more A’s on average than any other grade. A’s make up 42.3 percent of all grades given out at IU and 40.5 percent of all grades at Purdue. The national average is 43 percent.

But data from the Spring 2011 semester also show individual schools and academic departments within IU and Purdue vary widely in how many A’s they give out — check out the chart after the jump:

Continue Reading

Can Charter Schools Boost Test Scores For Low-Income Kids?

Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

Second graders at Christel House Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis, play fraction games. An accelerated curriculum is a key part of the school's model.

Indiana lawmakers who supported last session’s education overhaul have billed charter schools as a better alternative than the state’s public schools for teaching low-income students. But state test scores from spring 2011, used as a measure of student performance, show the opposite: Public school students have outperformed their charter school counterparts.

Charter schools tend to serve higher percentages of low-income students. About 60 percent of charter students receive free and reduced-price lunches, for example, compared to just less than 50 percent at public schools.

Yet a StateImpact Indiana analysis of results from the state’s standardized test released Tuesday also show passage rates among charter schools with high percentages of low-income students are slightly worse than passage rates in public schools, as the graph after the jump shows.

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