Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom


How Career And Technical Education Is Changing In Indiana

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Students in the C4 Columbus Area Career Connection building trades program dig a foundation for a out building on Aug. 30, 2012. Students work on one large-scale construction project each year — usually a house —€” but this year they’re building a new baseball complex for the Bartholomew School Corporation.

“You think greasy, dirty, grimy, whatever, and that’s just not the case anymore.”
—Gene Hack, director of C4 Columbus Area Career Connection

It’s just after 2 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon. The sun is high in the sky, and the construction workers digging the foundation of a storage building at Columbus North High School’s new baseball field are about to call it a day.

But once they’re done, they’ll board a yellow bus and go back to school. That’s because the workers at this construction site are high school students.

Both major party gubernatorial candidates are calling for Indiana high schools to bring back vocational training. Yet most Indiana school districts already have robust career and technical education programs — and they’re not just for students preparing for college.

Continue Reading

How Indiana Schools Are Blurring The Lines Between Computer & Classroom

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A teacher at Carpe Diem charter school in Indianapolis assists a student working in the 'learning center.' Students spend half their day in this room, which is filled with hundreds of cubicles and computers, working on assignments online. Teachers use data about their progress to craft classroom lessons.

Indianapolis high school junior Reo Burton spends as much of his school day at a cubicle as he does in a classroom.

Half of Burton’s time is spent in a classroom, but the other half is spent taking online courses with the assistance of both virtual and in-person teachers and learning coaches.

“It’s a lot more interactive than one would believe — just sitting in a cubicle working,” Burton says.

This mix between digital curriculum and in-classroom instruction is called “blended learning,” and Burton is part of a small handful of Indiana students who’ve moved to similar schools.

Continue Reading

How Federal School Lunch Guidelines Are Changing Menus In Indiana Cafeterias

Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana

First graders at Wea Ridge Elementary in Lafayette eat lunch on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. Schools in Indiana and across the country are changing what they're serving to meet new federal school lunch guidelines.

What kids are eating in their school lunches has been a topic of discussion since the School Nutrition Association was created in the 1940s. That’s because the guidelines are always changing.

New rules handed down earlier this year from the United States Department of Agriculture focus less on calories and fat and more on whether all the food groups are being served.

At Wea Ridge Elementary in Lafayette, a colorful menu board helps students make good choices as they move through the lunch line. Last year the Tippecanoe School Corporation served cheeseburgers. But this year they’re serving hamburgers. That’s because the new guidelines have changed how old favorites are served while adding more fruits and vegetables to the menu.

Continue Reading

How International Students Could Help Revitalize A School District

Stan Jastrzebski/WFIU

Senior Jose Valdivia of Bolivia came to Kokomo because he thinks going to an high school in Indiana will make it easier to get into an American university. Valdivia, who wants to study engineering, says his top picks are Purdue and Texas A&M.

With per pupil funding decreasing in Indiana, educators are searching for ways to generate revenue. In Kokomo, one district has turned an abandoned building into a residence hall for international students — a concept largely untried among public schools in the state — hoping to bring in more than a quarter million dollars for the school corporation and potentially much more for the city.

For much of the last four years, Kokomo city leaders, from Mayor Greg Goodnight on down, have been working to help the community recover from a recession that left one in five residents jobless and made the city the subject of news coverage documenting its woes.

Continue Reading

Why The Project School Won't Be The Last Indiana Charter To Close

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Rachel Maxwell, center, encourages parents to sign letters saying they'll send their kids to The Project School. The first day of school is Aug. 6, but school leaders still aren't sure if the courts will allow it to open.

“People don’t close mediocre charter schools. They close charter schools that are doing quite badly indeed.”
—Alex Medler, National Association of Charter School Authorizers

Parents of children who attended The Indianapolis Project School will have to find somewhere else to send their kids after federal judge ruled Tuesday that Mayor Greg Ballard was within his authority as a charter school authorizer to revoke his sponsorship of the school.

Last week, a lower court judge blocked the mayor’s office from ordering the school’s closure, but U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled the mayor was right to close the school after serious concerns about the schools academics and finances emerged.

“Indiana law affords the sponsor of a charter school significant — indeed, almost total — discretion,” Barker wrote in her decision, according to a release from the school.

That near-total discretion is one more good reason to care about The Project School’s fight to stay open, even if you don’t live in the city. As school choice expands in Indiana, experts predict this isn’t the last time a charter authorizer — or the Department of Education, for that matter — will have to intervene in a struggling school.

Continue Reading

When Enrollment Is A Moving Target, Turnaround Operators Do Best To Prepare

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Spencer Lloyd, center, and other teachers in his department work to develop curriculum based on state education standards. Lloyd taught at Manual High School last year and is one of the few educators who will return now that the school is under the management of turnaround operator Charter Schools USA.

“It’s not going to be a light switch we’re going to flip and all the students are going to say, ‘Oh.’”
—Spencer Lloyd, choir teacher

Five Indiana schools will be under new management this fall after a rocky year in transition. It’s the first time the state has used Public Law 221 to take control of failing schools, so when the Department of Education announced it would intervene, no one knew quite what the process would look like.

Spencer Lloyd, the choir teacher at Manual High School, describes what happened last year as “tumultuous.” He’s one of only a handful of Indianapolis Public School teachers now employed by turnaround operator Charter Schools USA. Sitting in his office, he ticks the others off on his fingers.

“So myself, the band director and the art teacher, we all are returners,” says Lloyd. “And then I know there is an English teacher … and there might only be five of us or so.”

Continue Reading

Lost To Dropouts & Takeovers, Indy Schools Seek To Lure Students Back

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Henry Jordan, a dean at IPS' George Washington Community High School, walks in the middle of a street on the east side of Indianapolis. Census data shows more than half of the families in this neighborhood live on less than $30,000 per year.

“Patience,” Henry Jordan says. It’s a virtue. And you need it on these streets.

You need patience, the dean at George Washington Community High School says, to understand how people in these poor neighborhoods on Indianapolis’ east side view the education they have decided to forego altogether.

You need patience to understand why some of them don’t come to the door when you knock, offering them an opportunity to come back to school. Some of them would probably be considered “at-risk students” if they were still students in Indianapolis Public Schools. Some of them are working. Some of them just aren’t interested.

But Jordan is working — patiently but urgently — to convince some of them to come back.

Continue Reading

'Don't Walk Out With Your Head Held Down': A Teacher's View Of Takeover

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

T.C. Howe High School teacher Kevin Sandorf has stripped his classroom walls of the posters, decorations, and even several flatscreen monitors he bought himself. T.C. Howe will be controlled by a state-appointed turnaround company next year. Sandorf will teach at IPS' Shortridge High School next year.

Freshman English teacher Kevin Sandorf considered Room 224 at T.C. Howe High School a second home. But in the final days of this school year, he says he felt “a little naked” in that room.

Sandorf had poured thousands of his own dollars into the room, buying flatscreen monitors, a sound system, and even desks at school auctions.

But with a state-appointed school turnaround company taking over Howe on July 1, Sandorf is moving to another IPS school next year. So a week before school let out, Sandorf cleaned out his room, leaving few decorations on the whitewashed cinderblock walls. Students, he says, were surprised. Continue Reading

Capitol Connection: Political Figures Who Switched To Academia (And Vice Versa)

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Gov. Mitch Daniels speaks to reporters at an event Wednesday morning amid reports he will be the next president of Purdue University.

Though multiple media outlets are reporting Mitch Daniels will Purdue University’s next president, the governor did not want to talk about it at a Wednesday morning press event.

“It’s just not appropriate. It’s not my— it’s not a topic for today,” Daniels told Indiana Public Broadcasting‘s Brandon Smith, adding “Of course I’m committed to this job, whatever else does or doesn’t happen.”

If Daniels’ move from the statehouse in Indianapolis to Hovde Hall in West Lafayette is confirmed at Thursday’s trustees meeting, he wouldn’t be the first politician to take on the top job at a university.

Below the jump, we have a photo gallery of ten big names who made the leap from politics to academia (or vice versa).

Continue Reading

One Of The Oldest School Districts In Indiana Closes Due To Funding Cuts

New Harmony School was opened more than 200 years ago as part of an experiment to create a utopian community. At the center of that experiment was the idea that quality education is part of happiness. In some ways, that grand test has finally ended.  Following a 30 percent cut in state funding, one of Indiana’s oldest districts will cease operation by the end of the school year.

Continue Reading

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »