Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom


Map: As Predicted, 2015 ISTEP+ Scores Drop Significantly

ISTEP+ scores from the 2014-15 school year have finally been released – but the picture they paint is not pretty for Indiana schools.

Many expected scores to be on the lower end, since 2015 marked the first year Indiana tested the new set of academic standards adopted following Gov. Mike Pence‘s decision to exit the Common Core.

And that was indeed the case.

Last year, scores went up for both English/Language Arts and Math portions of the statewide assessment overall: 80.7 percent of students passed the ELA test, and 83.5 percent passed math. The number of students who passed both tests had also increased from the year prior, with 74.7 percent passing in 2014.

This year, scores decreased sharply on all portions of the test. Statewide, only 67.3 percent of students in grades three through eight passed the ELA section, and the pass rate for Math sat at 61 percent. Just 53.5 percent of students passed both sections. 

Here is a map of results for the 2015 ISTEP+ exams, including data for private schools, traditional public schools and charter schools:

You can also click here to search our easily-sortable table. 

Indiana’s Department of Education says 2015 scores are not comparable to previous years’ pass rates because of all the changes to the state’s standards and related tests. Instead, the IDOE says these new scores show for the first time the percentage of students meeting the new college and career ready benchmarks at each grade level.

In response to the numbers, state Superintendent Glenda Ritz reiterated the call for reforms to Indiana’s testing system. In a statement, she thanked students, teachers and administrators for their work during what she called a “challenging” school year of testing delays and technological issues, and said she thinks it’s time for Indiana to move away from the ISTEP+ once and for all.

“The one-size-fits-all high stakes approach of the ISTEP+ needs to end,” Ritz said in a statement. “Instead, Indiana should move towards a streamlined, individualized, student-centered assessment that provides students, families and educators with quick feedback about how a student is performing and how they have grown during a school year.” 

The need to eliminate ISTEP+ is something other legislators have called for, too. At a legislative conference last month, House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said the legislature will reattempt conversations about using an ‘off the shelf’ test – a dialogue spearheaded last session by Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville).

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Map: Which Counties Should Indiana Select For Pre-K Pilot?

Map by StateImpact Indiana

This map shows how many Indiana child care providers had achieved a Paths to Quality Level 3 or 4 rating, the bar state lawmakers have set for participation in pilot pre-K program for low-income 4-year-olds, on Jan. 1, 2014.

State lawmakers have approved roughly $10 million in funding for a small-scale pilot program for low-income 4-year-olds. Eligible students will be awarded vouchers to enroll at preschools that have earned top rankings from the Family and Social Services Administration, which will oversee the program.

The pilot could launch in five Indiana counties as soon as this fall. But which counties?

You know how much we like maps here at StateImpact Indiana. So we decided to map how many child care providers have received a 3 or 4 on the state’s Paths to Quality ranking system.

The results weren’t surprising: Access to high-quality preschool depends on where you live. Continue Reading

Map: How Much Money Your School District Lost To Indiana’s Property Tax Caps

StateImpact graphic / Google Fusion Tables / DLGF Data

This map shows how much of each Indiana school corporation’s local tax levy was lost to the state’s property tax caps in 2013. Note: Indiana’s Department of Local Government Finance does not have property tax cap data for LaPorte County, accounting for the gap in the map there.


Most school districts’ losses to Indiana’s property tax caps, which we’ve been discussing at great length recently, only amount to a drop in the bucket.

But as our brand new map shows, the 50 or 60 districts that have lost the largest shares of property tax dollars to the caps come from all over the state, featuring enrollments large and small.

What the map doesn’t show: The caps’ impact has grown since their debut. Property owners statewide got to keep more than $245 million last year that would’ve gone to school corporations if not for the caps — up $100 million from 2010.

(For a table listing every district’s losses, click here.) Continue Reading

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

Mapping The ‘Campaign In A Box’: How Glenda Ritz Won Indiana

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

TOP: Retired teacher Jill Lyday assembles a "campaign in a box" at Glenda Ritz's headquarters in September. BOTTOM: We mapped out everyone in Indiana who contributed enough to receive a "campaign in a box." Scroll down to check it out.

Scroll down to take a look at our map.

Glenda Ritz’s staffers called it the “campaign in a box” — an idea so simple, it doesn’t sound at first like a campaign strategy.

Everyone who contributed $25 to the Democratic state superintendent-elect’s bid to unseat GOP incumbent Tony Bennett received a “campaign in a box”: a yard sign, five bumper stickers and campaign postcards with Ritz’s main talking points.

Every contributor’s job was to distribute the materials and talk to others they knew about Ritz’s policies.

Bennett may have raised $1 million more than Ritz ultimately did, but Ritz’s contributions — many from teachers concerned over the direction of Indiana’s education policy — had a multiplier effect that fanned out across the state.

To visualize the impact of Ritz’s “campaign in a box,” we made a map of everyone who contributed enough to her campaign to receive one. Take a look: Continue Reading

Map: How Tony Bennett Lost Indiana

The storyline of Tuesday night was of a mass teacher uprising allowing Democrat Glenda Ritz to topple GOP state superintendent Tony Bennett.

Electorally, Bennett’s share of the vote slipped significantly from 2008 in several key counties where other Republicans (Romney, Pence, Mourdock) won.

These losses are reflected in the map here: In counties shaded yellow, the percentage of the vote Bennett won in 2012 was lower than the percentage he won in 2008 — the deeper the yellow, the greater the loss. In counties shaded green, Bennett’s share of the vote increased in this election from 2008.

Below the map are a few takeaways.

Jessica Pupovac & Yan Lu / StateImpact

Yellow shading indicates counties where the percentage of the vote Bennett won in 2012 decreased from 2008 — Hamilton and Allen Counties, for instance. Green shading indicates counties where Bennett’s share of the vote increased — Lake County, for example.


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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.

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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

Map: What Became of Former School Buildings After Schools Closed

Indiana Department of Education documents show nearly 146 traditional public schools have closed in Indiana over the last four years. We’ve mapped the fate of as many of those buildings as we could.  Some are now churches, some are now charter school, some sit vacant gathering dust waiting for a new purpose. Many of these school were victims of a recent round of state budget cuts. Some were the victims of declining enrollment. Under an new law passed during the last legislative session, any of these buildings that hit the marketplace could be targets for charter school operators. These groups and individuals are able to purchase or lease these properties for $1.

Take a look at our interactive map and click on the markers to see the fate of closed schools in your area. Continue Reading

Interactive Map: A Handy Guide To Voucher Schools

Much of the controversy around school vouchers has focused on the religious nature of many private schools taking part in the program. And it’s true. About 98 percent of all voucher schools are Christian schools. But we decided to look at vouchers from a different angle. How well are these schools performing on the state’s accountability scale. For readers thinking of sending their children to private schools, we bring you a handy guide to voucher school performance.

(Note: This map only includes schools which are currently receiving vouchers from the state of Indiana. For a complete list of voucher eligible schools, click here.)

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