Kalen Phillips, left, and Cole Crouch, both students in the AP Statistics class at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, listen to a presentation from StateImpact Indiana's Kyle Stokes on the system state officials use to issue letter grade ratings to schools.
Officials won’t have to start from scratch. The Indiana General Assembly’s order still requires state officials to blend schools’ pass-fail rates on statewide tests (as they have since 1999) with a measure of students’ relative academic “growth” (as last year’s re-write prescribed) in the re-written school letter grading system.
But in passing House Enrolled Act 1427, lawmakers took aim at the method state officials chose to measure student growth — a method critics charge is so complicated that even state superintendent Glenda Ritz cannot advise local educators how to improve their final rating.
Kindergarteners and first graders are already being taught using the Common Core State Standards. Indiana planned to add second grade next year, but that plan has been put on hold pending a legislative review.
But what happens next is unclear. According to the bill Gov. Mike Pence signed into law last week, the State Board of Education can take no further action to implement the Common Core State Standards. Yet the legislation also leaves any standards adopted before May 15, 2013 in place.
Proponents of the new standards argue pausing implementation of the Common Core will leave teachers unsure what to teach next year. But the bill’s statehouse advocate disagrees.
“I don’t know how stopping and taking another look at this in any way is worse than moving forward with something we think is bad,” says Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis. Continue Reading →
John Rice, a math teacher at Schmucker Middle School in Mishawaka, talks students in his eighth grade Algebra I class through a set of homework problems. Students in this class will take the Algebra I End of Course Assessment this year.
Indiana law requires all students to take two exams to earn a full high school diploma, and Britton Sofhauser has already taken one of them: the Algebra I End-of-Course Assessment.
Most students see the Algebra I “ECA” for the first time in ninth grade. Sofhauser passed it — easily — when he was in seventh grade.
“[My teacher] made it sound like the hardest test ever, but I think that was just so we’d study more,” says Sofhauser, now an eighth grader at Schmucker Middle School in Mishawaka.
Though Sofhauser takes advanced math classes, he’s hardly an exception.
Facilities Manager Darren Hess and Snider High School Principal Deborah Watson explain Fort Wayne Community Schools' plan to renovate 36 buildings.
As a rule of thumb, for every ten cents a school corporation asks for when proposing a tax levy increase, it knocks a percentage point off the number of voters supporting the referendum.
“In a close election, that could make the difference,” says Purdue agricultural economist Larry DeBoer. “Though most of these elections haven’t been that close.”
Before 2008, Indiana school corporations could levy up to $2 million without asking for taxpayer approval. But changes to how schools are funded have sent an increasing number of districts to the ballot box in the last five years. Only 16 of the 40 districts that have pursued major construction projects have succeeded.
That has DeBoer and others who study school finance curious about the future of facilities maintenance in Indiana schools.
“Will it be the case that some school corporations find that they can pass the referendum and therefore they can keep their facilities up to date and have new buildings and better facilities,” he says, “while other school corporations perhaps cannot?” Continue Reading →
A login screen on a computer in an area set up for online ISTEP+ testing at Tecumseh Junior High School in Lafayette. The team charged with setting up online testing worries Monday's glitches could slow down students taking exams on Tuesday.
UPDATED, May 8 —We’ve attached to this post an audio story we sent to Indiana public radio stations on May 7. For our most recent posts about the ISTEP+ disruptions, click here.
During the ramp-up to the administration of ISTEP+ exams to the 1,000 students at Tecumseh Junior High over the next week or so, school media specialist Dave Hobbs takes on another job title: logistics officer.
Hobbs and a team of several other staff members spent the better part of Monday preparing the 250 computers students will use to take the exam.
To ensure test administration runs smoothly starting Tuesday, Hobbs has to plan down to the minute, taking “hours upon hours upon hours” to open computers to the login screen where students launch their tests.
But “the big worry right now — the tech people have already warned me — is that CTB had so many problems today, they’re more than likely going to be rebooting their servers tonight, which means all this work that I’ve done for the last several hours will be for nothing,” Hobbs says Monday afternoon. “All these machines will have to be logged in tomorrow morning,” a process that takes three to four minutes per computer.
Many Indiana schools are using Everyday Mathematics, curriculum that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Indiana’s youngest students are learning math in a different way than their parents or even older siblings.
That’s because the new Common Core academic standards have changed how teachers introduce math in the early grades. In classrooms across the state, you’ll find kindergarten and first grade students using blocks and interlocking cubes to learn how to add and subtract.
Architects of the nationally crafted academic standards say kids need a better foundation in math skills before moving on to more advanced concepts and operations. But some parents and math scholars argue the new standards just don’t add up.
“The problems are always written sideways,” says Indianapolis parent Suzanne Sherby. “There’s just nothing that looks like traditional math.” Continue Reading →
Matthew Brooks points down the hallway of an old school building in Indianapolis in which he and other Project Libertas leaders are considering renting space next year. Project Libertas, a private, non-accredited school formed by charter school the Indianapolis Mayor's Office shut down last summer, is currently renting space in a church-owned gymnasium just northeast of downtown.
And about 20 defiant families have done just that.
The school they’ve opened, called “Project Libertas,” has very little money. But with about 35 students in Grades K-8 and a small staff of former Project School hands, the parents are now seeking a more permanent home.
“I don’t know there’s even a word to describe us,” says parent Matthew Brooks, sitting in a small room in the school’s current location — a church-run gymnasium on Indianapolis’ east side. “We’d need a few hyphenations. We’re an independent, hyphen… communal, hyphen… startup school.” Continue Reading →
Students in Dawn Grage's GED classroom are trying to pass the high school equivalency test before it changes on Jan. 1, 2014.
The nationwide move towards the Common Core State Standards isn’t just changing expectations for students in high school classrooms. It’s also raising the bar for those who dropped out.
The GED Testing Service is updating their high school equivalency exam to reflect the new, nationally-crafted academic standards 46 states around the country have — at least in part — adopted.
“Rumor is that it’s going to be much harder,” says Dawn Grage, who has been teaching GED classes in Indiana’s prisons for more than 20 years. “A lot of these guys have enough struggles getting through the current GED. And if it makes it harder and with computers, the older gentlemen … there are some guys who have never touched a computer.” Continue Reading →
Across the state, program directors are looking for ways to reduce expenses that don’t involve cutting kids from the program even as automatic federal spending cuts reduce their budgets by 5 percent.
“The want to not touch the families is our first priority, but when you’re talking about a number that high, there’s just no guarantee,” says Geminus Head Start Director Karen Carradine, who oversees programming for 1,500 kids in Lake and Porter counties.
Twenty-two of Lighthouse Christian Academy's 210 students use state vouchers to help pay their tuition. But the principal of the Bloomington private school says capacity isn't his biggest concern, saying he'd prefer to see eligibility requirements expanded.
But after $37 million in voucher payments, what’s stopping new schools from opening in Indiana? The $4,500 maximum the state will pay for a K-8 voucher, advocates say — which adds up to funding levels that are too low to attract a new school to the state.
“I want to make sure we are building new, non-public schools that serve children in need,” says Robert Enlow, head of the pro-voucher Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, adding “$4,500 does not get us there.” Continue Reading →
StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives. Learn More »