Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom


Here’s How The A-F Panel Recommended The State Assign Schools Letter Grades

A-F Panel members Casandra McLeod, left, and Derek Redelman review the final report. Redelman was the only person on the 17-member panel to vote against the final recommendation, citing concerns about how growth would be calculated.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

A-F Panel members Casandra McLeod, left, and Derek Redelman review the final report. Redelman was the only person on the 17-member panel to vote against the final recommendation, citing concerns about how growth would be calculated.

The State Board of Education will meet at least twice in November to consider recommended changes to the current A-F accountability system.

The governor, the state superintendent and legislative leaders asked a 17-member panel for input on how to rewrite the metrics used to assign letter grades to schools after the General Assembly sent the two-year-old system back to the State Board for an overhaul.

The biggest change: Indiana students will no longer be compared to their peers’ across the state. Under the new model, the state must measure how much individual students are growing.

“Parents are going to get quite a bit of information about the growth of their students,” says state superintendent Glenda Ritz, who co-chaired the panel. “Not only passing categories for achievement, but also knowing they’re on a good trajectory so to speak to where they need to be.”

The A-F panel’s recommendation is far from final. In fact, most of what’s going to the State Board for review is a conceptual framework. There’s no statistical modeling yet to show how the new system would impact schools’ grades.

And that’s a problem, says Indiana Chamber of Commerce Vice President Derek Redelman. Continue Reading

Report: Most School Districts Have Already Absorbed Cost Of Common Core Transition

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, talks with Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, before the third Common Core panel.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, talks with Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, before the third Common Core panel. State lawmakers discuss the cost of transitioning to new academic standards and assessments.

State lawmakers spent Tuesday putting a price tag on how much it will cost to implement new academic standards and assessments.

The legislation that triggered a review of Indiana’s academic standards also required the state’s Office of Management and Budget to prepare an analysis of the cost of transitioning to Common Core, the nationally crafted academic standards state education officials adopted back in 2010.

“We tried to figure out how much it stretched budgets in the past to try to figure out somehow whether or not a change would stretch budgets in the future,” says Chad Timmerman, one of the authors of the report.

Timmerman told lawmakers that on the whole, most Indiana school districts would have purchased new technology and textbooks even if the state hadn’t adopted new academic standards.

“At the local level, a lot of these costs are going to be absorbable and be considered the normal cost of doing business,” he says. Continue Reading

Report: Bennett’s Last-Minute A-F Changes ‘Plausible,’ This Year’s Grades Should Move Forward

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, left, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz address the media at a press conference following the release of a report analyzing the state's A-F accountability system.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, left, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz address the media at a press conference following the release of a report analyzing the state's A-F accountability system.

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s staff made “plausible” changes to the state’s school rating system before releasing 2012′s A-F grades, “consistently applying” their changes to benefit not only a favorite charter school but to 180 other schools across the state, a report released Friday says.

The General Assembly’s GOP leaders commissioned Indiana University’s John Grew and policy analyst Bill Sheldrake to write the report after the Associated Press released emails showing Bennett’s staff working frantically to change the formula after discovering that favorite charter, Christel House Academy, at first appeared likely to receive a C.

Grew and Sheldrake’s report echoes a finding we reported on StateImpact three weeks ago: that Christel House was one of 165 schools whose grades went up because of the last-minute tweaks Bennett’s staff made to the A-F formula.

They also found Bennett’s staff disregarded high school scores in determining Christel House’s grade, a change they “consistently applied to 16 other schools which had analagous situations.” Continue Reading

Here's What State Education Officials Had To Say In Mandatory Common Core Report

Superintendent Glenda Ritz addresses the Indiana Youth Institute’s Postsecondary Counseling Institute.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Superintendent Glenda Ritz has said as Indiana reviews the Common Core, the focus needs to be on figuring out what standards will curb the need for remediation when students reach postsecondary education.

In a report on the Common Core State Standards that went to the governor and the State Board of Education earlier this month, Indiana Department of Education officials again emphasized the need for academic standards that prepare students for college and career.

“Nearly one-third of all 2011 high school graduates attending postsecondary schools in Indiana required costly remediation,” according to the report.

Although State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has stopped short of saying whether Indiana should stick with the new, nationally-crafted academic standards, she’s said repeatedly the state has a serious remediation problem and needs to take a closer look at its math standards.The report her office put out reviewing the new standards includes stats from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

(You’ll find the full Common Core report, including our notes, below the jump.)

State education officials had to submit a report on the Common Core to the governor, the state board, and the legislative study committee tasked with reviewing the new standards by July 1 as part of HB 1427, the complex pause proposal that passed the General Assembly this spring. Continue Reading

We Have Indiana's Contract With The Company That Provides ISTEP+ Online

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz makes a presentation to the State Board of Education.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz says she’s most concerned presently with making sure Indiana students complete their online ISTEP+ exams after server troubles grounded testing on Monday and Tuesday and slowed testing Wednesday.

But Ritz said Wednesday she will soon have to go through the state’s agreement with testing company CTB/McGraw Hill.

“Certainly we’re going to be looking at their contractual obligations regarding that,” Ritz said Wednesday. “I haven’t really delved into that yet.”

State Board of Education member Tony Walker went further during Wednesday’s meeting, suggesting the company had likely breached its contract.

We at StateImpact got our hands on a copy of the contract. We’ve posted it in full for you to read.

But in this post: What does the contract say about penalties the state can impose if it has problems with the testing services CTB provides? Continue Reading

A Completed Teacher Evaluation: 'I'm My Own Worst Critic'

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Teacher Wes Upton lectures on World War I at Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center in Indianapolis.

Teacher Wes Upton gets high marks on his evaluation, but the ninth grade social studies teacher still sees room for improvement.

“I’m my own worst critic,” he tells Steve Samuel, the assistant principal evaluating him, right before suggesting he be marked down in one category.

Like many districts, Wayne Township is using a modified version of the state’s teacher evaluation model. Teachers are scored in three “domains” — broad categories like planning, instruction and leadership — broken down into multiple subcategories.

We’ll show you what it looks like below. But first, it’s important to understand how the two evaluation systems are different. Continue Reading

Five Things To Know About The Carmel Clay Teacher Contract Negotiations

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The Indiana Statehouse reflected in the windows of the building housing the Indiana State Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union.

Changes to the state’s collective bargaining law in 2011 created a new timeline for contract negotiations between teachers unions and school districts. Most Indiana school districts signed labor agreements before the October deadline. But teachers represented by the Carmel Clay Education Association still don’t have a contract in place for the 2012-13 school year.

Last week the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the district with the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, alleging district officials discussed ongoing negotiations with individual teachers.

Carmel Clay is only the third school district* to reach the final step in the new timeline since the law changed in 2011. So the board hasn’t fielded a complaint during the mandatory fact finding period before. That means everyone’s headed into unchartered territory, says Sarah Cudahy, general counsel for IEERB.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening in Carmel. Continue Reading

'REPA II' Redux: What's Changed In The Teacher Licensure Proposal Since The Public Weighed In

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Tony Bennett speaks during the State Board of Education's meeting in October.

After months of debate, sweeping changes to the state rules governing how Indiana educators earn licenses and certifications could get a final up-or-down vote from the State Board of Education later this week.

(Bear with us, non-wonky readers. We’re about to get wonky. But this is a pretty big deal.)

Known in shorthand as “REPA II,” state education officials have advocated for the changes as a means of providing more flexibility to administrators in the teacher hiring process.

Debate over the proposal has been contentious. Opponents fear the rules would “de-professionalize” Indiana’s teaching ranks. They’ve called for the State Board to table REPA II out of deference to state superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz, who also opposes the proposed changes.

But on Friday, state education officials also unveiled several changes to the proposal — which doesn’t require a General Assembly vote to become official policy — that dial back a few of REPA II’s most controversial points.  Continue Reading

How Increasing Enrollment Is Straining Finances At Indiana's Public Colleges

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Indiana University graduates attend the Bloomington campus' winter commencement ceremonies.

Let’s paraphrase an argument you’ve heard on StateImpact before:

If you’re an Indiana state lawmaker (at least in the current majority), you probably think the state’s public universities are doing too little to keep a student’s cost of attendance down. The price of a college education is rising faster than the rate of inflation, you argue.

If you’re a public university in Indiana, on the other hand, you probably think decreasing state appropriations left you no choice but to raise tuition and fees more than state lawmakers would’ve wanted.

A recently-released report hints at a fundamental cause for the financial strain at Indiana’s public universities: a surge in enrollment in the past decade, brought on in part by the most recent economic downturn. Continue Reading

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