Lessons learned from the Choice Scholarships Annual Report

Six years in and counting, the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program has reached a point where those in favor of honest dialogue can look at the same set of facts to make conclusions. The recent release of the program’s annual report by the Indiana Department of Education offers opportunity to do just that.

The latest report, the first under the administration of new state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick was released last month with a whimper, a far cry from the most recent such Indiana Department of Education report under McCormicks’ predecessor, Glenda Ritz, a vocal opponent of the 2011 law.

And while indicators are that McCormick is no fan particularly of the state’s voucher program, the report and its release provides a less biased, objective voice of the program’s growth, allowing sheer numbers to tell the story. When considering school choice in the broadest sense, the report further confirms the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, coupled with charters and other options, have resulted in marked growth and participation of students utilizing choice options, with a slight decline for traditional public schools, though at just over 88 percent the traditional system remains overwhelming the option of first resort.  

From strictly a financial standpoint, voucher advocates may take away that on the whole, the 34,000 plus students  utilizing these scholarships in 313 private Indiana schools this school year have actually saved the state dollars of approximately $68 million if these same students were enrolled in a traditional public institution.

However, various findings from the DOE Office of Finance generated report also give some fodder to those for whom K-12 school aged vouchers will never be an acceptable choice. Most notably, the 2016-2017 school year demonstrates a clearer downward trendline of students that have previously attended a public school, a contentious component that was essential for the program’s legislative passage.

What also bears out is that with the broad expansion of enrollment pathways and income eligibility, the diversity of scholarship redeeming families has also increased over the life of this program; a double edged sword depending on one’s position for more means tested versus universal participation.  

For example, when the Scholarship program was introduced only income eligible students that either attended a public school or had previously received tuition support through a recognized Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) would gain eligibility. Today the seven pathways for eligibility has resulted in broader avenues for participation, though at 73 percent students continuing their choice options indicates family satisfaction in their ability to exercise this option.  This further bears out as the numbers demonstrate that over 95% of Choice Scholarship students completed a full school year at the Choice school in each of the past two years of the program.

So once families gain these vouchers, whether at 90 % or at 50 % of support, there’s little going back. And, while there is an uptick of families on the higher income ladder, 17 percent of this year’s recipients received scholarships have household incomes above $75,000, the median scholarship receiving household does not reflect the total departure that alarmists would suggest. In fact, the average household size and income for these families is 4.71 at $48,563, or roughly 150 % of federal poverty guidelines.

Still, where voucher advocates can raise concern is not the growth of those with greater household incomes gaining access, it lies in some flattening to a slight decrease in percentage of those on the lowest end of the economic rung. Additionally, from a racial demographic, Black students were the only group that saw a slight decline in total number and percentage of scholarship receiving students during the current school year. Unfortunately, these data tell who, but for this quandary it does not explain the why.

Admittedly, much work remains as the state navigates the true impact of the state’s Scholarship program directly to students and to Indiana Education as a whole. What is refreshing however, is that the numbers carry no bias. And that is the basis from which honest conversation can occur.

Copies of the Department of Education report can be found online, http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/choice/2016-2017-choice-scholarship-program-report-feb24-final.pdf

Watch: Sesame Street adds a new Muppet to educate children about Autism

http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/File:Julia-Muppet.png

http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/File:Julia-Muppet.png

By Andrew Pillow

Autism tends to be very hard to teach children about. Particularly in a classroom setting. Sesame Street seeks to remedy this with a new addition to their cast. Sesame Street will soon welcome Julia to their television show. Julia has autism, and the creators of Sesame Street intend to discuss it on the show.

Julia has already been introduced to the print world of Sesame Street through the storybook We’re Amazing, 1,2,3!. She will make her television debut on April 10th.

The puppeteer of Julia, Stacey Gordon, actually has a son with high functioning autism which has made her very invested in the character.

“I want to do my best to bring Julia to the world in the best light possible.” Says Gordon.

Get a sneak preview of Julia’s debut below.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Should school newspapers be treated like real newspapers? Potential Indiana law says yes.

By Andrew Pillow

Should high school journalists get some of the same legal protection as professional journalists? If Representative Edward Clere gets his way, the answer will be yes.

Clere is the author of House Bill 1130. A bill that would stop schools from disciplining students for content published in school sponsored media. Specifically, the bill holds that:

“...a public school, school corporation, or state educational institution may not suppress school sponsored media unless the content is libelous or slanderous or gratuitously profane.”

The bill passed through the Senate Education Committee but with an added amendment the lets the State Board of Education decide disputes. The bill will now head to the Senate.

This case is not without precedent. The supreme court decided on a similar such issue in 1988 in the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case. According to supreme.justia.com the holding from that decision was:

(a) First Amendment rights of students in the public schools are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings, and must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school.
(b) The school newspaper here cannot be characterized as a forum for public expression. School facilities may be deemed to be public forums

The Bill does appear to have Bi-Partisan support as it is backed by multiple republicans and democrats. The next step for the bill is to the pass the Indiana State Senate.

Read more about the bill here.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Betsy DeVos Complimentary of Indianapolis’s Innovation Schools

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Betsy DeVos) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Betsy DeVos) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Pillow

During a Washington DC gathering of school district leaders, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was very complimentary of Indianapolis Public Schools. Specifically, DeVos praised IPS’s “out-of-the-box” approach to school management.

According to the transcript provided by Ed.gov, DeVos highlighted Elizabeth Gore and the Innovation Schools:

"One of the most important things we can do is highlight and celebrate out-of-the-box approaches.
One such example is the "innovation schools" program in the Indianapolis Public Schools district, represented today by Elizabeth Gore. These schools are under the governance of the Indianapolis Public Schools district, but they are freed up to operate independently and thus better attune themselves to the unique needs of their students.
I want to bring School 15 to your attention as an example of new thinking. School 15 has struggled for years with low-test scores, and the state gave it an "F" in 2016. But in recent months, parents and teachers in Indianapolis have come together to propose School 15 become a "neighborhood-run" school under the "innovation schools" program.
This isn't a school run by an outside, third-party operator—this is a school where parents are in direct control. The community takes ownership of developing the school's structure, staffing and performance.
This type of proposal gives everyone in the community a greater say—and greater responsibility—in the education of their children. It's this kind of local control that we want to empower, because when parents are in charge, students benefit."

Read the full transcript here. (via ed.gov)

Read more about Indianapolis’s Innovation Schools here. (via myips.org)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Read Trump’s Budget Plan for the Department of Education

By Andrew Pillow

The Trump administration has released a budget plan, America First A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.

The plan for the Department of Education is below:


DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

The Department of Education promotes improving student achievement and access to opportunity in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education. The Department would refocus its mission on supporting States and school districts in their efforts to provide high quality education to all our students. Also, it would focus on streamlining and simplifying funding for college, while continuing to help make college education more affordable. The 2018 Budget places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children by investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs. It continues support for the Nation’s most vulnerable populations, such as students with disabilities. Overall, the Department would support these investments and carry out its core mission while lowering costs to the taxpayer by reducing or eliminating funding for programs that are not effective, that duplicate other efforts, or that do not serve national needs.

The President’s 2018 Budget provides $59 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education, a $9 billion or 13 percent reduction below the 2017 annualized CR level.

The President’s 2018 Budget:

• Increases investments in public and private school choice by $1.4 billion compared to the 2017 annualized CR level, ramping up to an annual total of $20 billion, and an estimated $100 billion including matching State and local funds. This additional investment in 2018 includes a $168 million increase for charter schools, $250 million for a new private school choice program, and a $1 billion increase for Title I, dedicated to encouraging districts to adopt a system of studentbased budgeting and open enrollment that enables Federal, State, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.

• Maintains approximately $13 billion in funding for IDEA programs to support students with special education needs. This funding provides States, school districts, and other grantees with the resources needed to provide high quality special education and related services to students and young adults with disabilities.

• Eliminates the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, which is poorly targeted and spread thinly across thousands of districts with scant evidence of impact.

• Eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports beforeand after-school programs as well as summer programs, resulting in savings of $1.2 billion from the 2017 annualized CR level. The programs lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement. 18 Department of Education

• Eliminates the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, a less welltargeted way to deliver need-based aid than the Pell Grant program, to reduce complexity in financial student aid and save $732 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.

• Safeguards the Pell Grant program by level funding the discretionary appropriation while proposing a cancellation of $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding, leaving the Pell program on sound footing for the next decade.

• Protects support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions, which provide opportunities for communities that are often underserved, maintaining $492 million in funding for programs that serve high percentages of minority students.

• Reduces Federal Work-Study significantly and reforms the poorly-targeted allocation to ensure funds go to undergraduate students who would benefit most.

• Provides $808 million for the Federal TRIO Programs and $219 million for GEAR UP, resulting in savings of $193 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. Funding to TRIO programs is reduced in areas that have limited evidence on the overall effectiveness in improving student outcomes. The Budget funds GEAR UP continuation awards only, pending the completion of an upcoming rigorous evaluation of a portion of the program.

• Eliminates or reduces over 20 categorical programs that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, or are more appropriately supported with State, local, or private funds, including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs.


Read the rest of the budget here. (NPR)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Weekend Links (3/18/2017)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Aspiring Indiana Teachers Cannot Pass Licensure Exams

Last month, WTHR Channel 13 in their report, “Crisis in the classroom:  New Indiana teachers repeatedly failing state exams” highlighted that aspiring teachers are failing the CORE teacher assessments administered by Pearson Education, not once but multiple times and the pass rate for some subject areas is extremely low.  According to their report,

During the 2015-2016 academic year, only 36% of prospective English teachers passed the CORE middle school English language arts exam.

A dismal 32% of would-be Indiana math teachers passed the CORE middle school math test.

And only 18% of aspiring science teachers passed the CORE middle school science exam.

Other CORE exams – including history, social studies, reading, economics and geography – all show first-time pass rates of less than 50%, according to state testing data obtained by WTHR.

Action must be taken because the implications of this data ultimately affects the education of students in Indiana.

Parents

It can be concerning to parents to discover their child might have a teacher with an emergency teaching permit because the teacher could not pass his or her licensure exams.  Even though the teacher might be a great educator, the fact that the teacher has not passed the exam makes parents question if the teacher is truly competent in the content.

Aspiring Educators

Hearing the low passing rate may deter aspiring educators from completing their education courses.  Aspiring teachers have invested at least four years of their life to pursue a degree in education and the dream of becoming a teacher could be dashed because of failure to pass the licensure exams.  If these teachers have borrowed money to earn their degree, some may choose to switch their major because not obtaining a license ultimately means you will not be able secure a teaching job to pay back loans.

Professors

As an adjunct instructor for IUPUI School of Education, it is heartbreaking to hear when my students, who are mostly juniors and seniors, share how many times they have failed to pass the licensure exam.  Although my time with my undergraduate students is limited, I believe many of them have to potential to become great educators and it is disappointing that some of them quit or considering quitting before they could even get started.

Students

Many districts across the state have classes that are being taught by substitutes because of the teacher shortage.  Aspiring teachers not passing licensure exams adds to the teacher shortage problem.  This means more children in Indiana will not have an educator teaching them the skills they need to become productive citizens.

Pearson Education

Every time an aspiring teacher fails an exam and has to retake it, there is more money going into Pearson Education’s pocket.  Every time an aspiring teacher pays for a practice exam to prepare for the real exam, more money goes into Pearson’s pocket.  It is concerning that Pearson Education states educators gave them feedback on the exams, but they could not recall the feedback educators shared about the exams.

As shared in WTHR’s report, “The superintendent's office tells 13 Investigates the state board's Technical Advisory Committee is once again reviewing the Pearson CORE assessments, and will hopefully provide recommendations to the full board in March.”  I’m interested in what these recommendations will be because our students cannot afford to have the number of teachers in the pipeline decrease even more because they cannot pass teacher licensure exams.  Just as students are more than a test score, so are teachers.




 

Vast majority of America’s top science students are the children of immigrants

By The White House from Washington, DC (P031115PS-0736) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By The White House from Washington, DC (P031115PS-0736) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Pillow

Trump’s travel ban has sparked debate about the contributions of immigrants in America. The dominance of foreign and second generation students in math and science has long been known to those in education circles, but a new study has confirmed the general consensus: Immigrant children perform well in school.

33 of 40 finalists for the Intel Science Talent Search are the children of immigrants.  The Intel Science Talent Search is the foremost science contest for high school students, often referred to as the junior “Nobel prize”.

The ratio of immigrant to non-immigrant children was not lost on the National Foundation for American Policy who had this to say about the finding:

“An impressive 83 percent (33 of 40) of the finalists of the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search, the leading science competition for U.S. high school students, were the children of immigrants. Moreover, 75 percent – 30 out of 40 – of the finalists had parents who worked in America on H-1B visas. That compares to 7 children who had both parents born in the United States. The science competition has been called the “Junior Nobel Prize.” These outstanding children of immigrants would never have been in America if their parents had not been allowed into the U.S.
Today, both the Trump administration and some members of Congress would like to impose new restrictions on legal immigration, including on high-skilled immigrants. Policymakers seeking to restrict high-skilled immigration should note that an important, underappreciated benefit of high-skilled foreign nationals is the contributions made by their children. The findings tells us that if we prevent high-skilled foreign nationals from coming to America, we will not only lose their contributions but the significant contributions that will be made by their children. It is likely there are many more children of H-1B visa holders who will make outstanding contributions beyond those who qualified for one of the coveted 40 finalist spots in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search”

This contest reflects the data that we see across education. Immigrants are high academic achievers.

Read the full study here.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Oaks Academy: Vouchers May Not Be a Panacea But They Are Really Working For Some Families

Photo Credit: Paul D'Andrea Photography

True advocates of choice through vouchers shouldn’t suggest vouchers to be the panacea, the proverbial be all end all for education in our nation, no matter how much our President or Education Secretary maintain this assertion.

Vouchers, like all educational options, are one means through which we provide students and families the ability to choose their child’s school, free from arbitrary designations or systems that have for too long demonstrated an inability to serve all students.

While most supporters, generally conservative folks, use phrases like “free market” to bolster the case, vouchers are liberal, almost socialist in nature, when considered from a means tested standpoint with the mission of providing poor families with the same options that wealthier families already enjoy.

Nearly 35,000 Hoosier students today can boast direct access to the private school of theirs and their parent’s choice as a result of this program. And while that number is dwarfed by the nearly 1.05 million Hoosier students in a public school, there is evidence that suggests this effort has not been fought in vain.

Such is the case for 373 students who, through vouchers and Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) opportunities, are being blessed by the opportunity to attend The Oaks Academy. An unabashedly faith based institution, Oaks affords students a high quality classical education, complemented by a commitment to follow students as they matriculate to and through post-secondary opportunities. Based in Indianapolis Near East Side, the school has grown from 53 students in 1998 to 732 students in grades Pre-K through 8th grade, on three campuses purposely housed within close proximity of one another.

Academically, school data bear out the contention for its distinction as a high-quality school. Oaks Academy students are consistently among the state’s top performers on standardized assessments, with 82.2 percent passing both the Language Arts and Math portions of the ISTEP last year.

The schools’ 300 alumni who are tracked carefully after graduation, and the school has determined its 4-year college matriculation rate to be 87 percent.

Additionally, parental involvement is not optional for all Oaks Families, but mandatory as a caring, committed adult must participate in various activities during the admissions cycle and school year to ensure all stakeholders have skin in the game.  

While naysayers with inherent biases against private school choice would assert these positive distinctions to be the result of careful selection or “creaming,” the facts bear out a different truth. From a private funding standpoint, The Oaks Academy is a juggernaut with a reputation that invites a level of philanthropy necessary to maintain an average tuition of $10,300, 85 percent of the school’s student population receives tuition assistance. Its economic diversity is matched ethnically, with over 30 percent of the schools’ collective population being African Americans.

Anything less, according to Oaks CEO Andrew N. Hart, would undermine the mission that the school’s founders envisioned almost 20 years ago.

There’s a level of accountability that has given us strength,” Hart said. “We’re not about exclusivity or forming an elite culture. We’re going against this message that the Oaks is a private school. We’re guided by Gods spirit, which brings renewal.

With the recent acquisition of the academy’s middle school, a former IPS school that historically was one of the best for the city’s Black student population, the Oaks Academy’s growth prospects bode well enough for the school to hold true to this mission. The fact is, however, in terms of sheer sustainability, the Oaks schools are positioned strategically in an area in the midst of an infusion of urban renewa. According to wait list data, there has been a significant increase in upper income families chomping at the bit to get their children into Oaks.

Charged with the responsibility to sustain this growing high quality model, Hart candidly admits a shift in direction could be otherwise lucrative from a practical standpoint. However, doing so would diminish the identify for which Oaks has gained its strength.

We want to be diligent about maintaining this tricky balance. It’s something so unique to this place but very fragile. “The admissions pool is dominated by white families, who are moving back into the neighborhoods,” Hart added. “It would totally relieve our philanthropic burden, which would be great, but we want to make sure this unique proposition that Oaks is maintained over time.

Strictly speaking from a community standpoint, the Oaks Academy, like vouchers or other forms of choice, cannot be all things for all students. But through its commitment to service to the least of these, coupled with strengthening community school options, this high-quality option is an exciting complimentary piece to a community focused on overall renewal.