Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom


Can Schools Preserve Their History, Even After State Takeover?

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A photo of the first ever basketball team for "Manual Training High School" hangs in what is now Emmerich Manual High School's alumni room. The team began play in the 1901-02 season, six years after the school first opened.

The five Indiana schools slated for takeover next year aren’t only notable for their low academic performance in the eyes of state education officials. These schools are also some of the state’s oldest.

Gary’s Roosevelt High School started as a one-room schoolhouse in 1908. In Indianapolis, T.C. Howe opened in 1938. The oldest school on the list, Emmerich Manual High School, opened in 1895.

At Manual in particular, alumni are going to particularly great lengths to ensure the school’s historic artifacts — including more than 60 valuable paintings and other class gifts — stay with the building even after the state takes over.

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Where One Rural Public School Closes A Charter School Opens

What happens when a small town — a VERY small town — in southeastern Indiana loses its public school and residents attempt against all odds to replace it with a charter school?  To find out, StateImpact went to Canaan, Ind. (Population 90), where residents are trying to do just this.

Even with kids attending from other locations, Canaan’s one public school had an enrollment of just 99 students. So it was no surprise that the school was unable to sustain itself and forced to close last year.‬‬

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How Purdue Aims To Boost One Of The Big Ten's Lowest Graduation Rates

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Prof. Larry Nies leads a discussion in his environmental engineering course. This year, Nies redesigned the class's structure to make it more student-driven and discussion-based.

Purdue’s newest lecture hall isn’t really a “lecture” hall at all.

Instead of rows of auditorium seating, moveable circular tables and chairs fill the cavernous room in an underground library — a space West Lafayette administrators hope will get more students engaged and on-track.

Saddled with one of the lowest four-year graduation rates in the Big Ten, Purdue redesigned 10 first- and second-year courses  — all formerly taught in a traditional lecture format — to be more interactive and student-driven.

Administrators hope revamping these courses will stop freshmen from falling behind and help the university earn a bigger share of $61 million in performance funding from the state. Continue Reading

Could Indiana's School Vouchers Save The State Money?

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Gov. Mitch Daniels speaks to a group of students at Our Lady of Hungary Catholic school. He visited several classrooms during an hour-long visit.

When Gov. Mitch Daniels asked a class of 20 seventh graders at Our Lady of Hungary Catholic school how many of the students were in their first year at the school, a half-dozen raised their hands.

Enrollment has spiked 60 percent this year at Our Lady of Hungary because of the Indiana’s new voucher program.

“Is [Our Lady] harder than the school you went to before?” Daniels asked. Yes, one girl replied. “Hard’s good though, right?”

Yes, the students admitted, somewhat begrudgingly. But Daniels says he believes the program isn’t only offering voucher students a more rigorous curriculum — it’s also saving the state money.

“The test scores in this school, with its limited means — far fewer dollars than the public schools have, much less money per child — are superior to what they’re getting,” Daniels says. Continue Reading

How YouTube Is Changing The Classroom

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Troy Cockrum, an English teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic school, helps a student having computer issues. Cockrum "flipped" his classroom this year, and painted the walls of his classroom with tech-savvy terminology to reflect the new change.

As long as there have been teachers, they’ve battled the same problems: How can they reach students of multiple ability levels at once, cover more course material in limited time, and find more time to engage with students one-on-one?

Some educators think they’ve found a solution to all three problems in, of all things, YouTube.

A small group of teachers nationwide is replacing in-class lectures with short online videos students watch at home. This flip-flop of homework and lecture — from which the model gets its name, “the flipped classroom” — leaves class time open for students to complete their assignments with their teacher standing by to offer one-on-one help.

Research backing the model is scarce, and some critics have dismissed the model as a gimmick. Still, a handful Indiana teachers — and top state education officials — are willing to give it a try.

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Indiana Vouchers' Game-Changing Potential For Small Private Schools

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Heather Snavely asks a student to stay seated while playing math games in her classroom at Our Lady of Hungary Catholic school in South Bend. More photos after the jump.

If Indiana’s voucher program helps fuel a population boom like it did at Our Lady of Hungary Catholic school, small private schools ought to take a cue from principal Melissa Jay:  get on good terms with your textbook company.

Our Lady’s seen a 60 percent spike in enrollment this year alone, the first year for the vouchers. That’s meant Jay’s gone back to the textbook company three times for more books.

For just three books? No.

“Three additional shipments of boxes of books,” Jay says with a characteristic laugh. Continue Reading

Has The Community School Model Failed In Indianapolis?

Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

A student looks for a book in the George Washington Community High School library on Monday, August 29.

Most staff at George Washington Community High School were relieved not to be taken over. In fact, most staff are excited to see how two outside groups the state has appointed to partner with current administrators can help the school.

But just because the school avoided takeover doesn’t mean most staff are okay with Washington, located on the city’s west side, being labeled a “failing” school.

Indianapolis Public Schools officials and several members of the school’s staff argue the state’s ratings miss a crucial point: Community schools, like Washington and three of the public schools facing state takeover, aren’t designed to improve test scores. They’re modeled to improve urban school graduation rates.

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