learning to work

A sweeping plan to boost Indy’s economy will push high schools to prepare students for open jobs

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
The IPS administration is proposing adding more career training programs to high schools.

Former Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth today announced a new $7 million effort aimed at strengthening the connection among K-12 schools, colleges, training programs and local employers.

The effort, called Ascend Indiana, will include partnerships with existing and new career and technical education programs to ensure that students learn the skills that will qualify them for jobs that companies are currently struggling to fill.

Indianapolis employers have jobs available, but some companies have great difficulty filling open positions. There are enough job seekers to fill those jobs, but most do not have the right qualifications. So jobs go unfilled and job seekers remain unemployed.

The workforce skills gap is one of the biggest problems facing the city, Kloth told a packed room of business, community, and education leaders at the Skyline Club atop the OneAmerica Tower. Those leaders included Mayor Joe Hogsett, former Mayor Greg Ballard, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, and others whom Kloth hopes will pitch in to solve it.

“A lot of people think unemployment is driven by not enough jobs being created,” Kloth said. “But in the U.S. and central Indiana a lot of unemployment is driven by not having enough education or content expertise to obtain the jobs that are open.”

The Ascend initiative includes four strategies to get more kids to graduate high school, complete college or training programs, and go into jobs in Indiana. The plan is to:

  • Study employer needs to determine what skills will lead to good jobs;
  • Identify workers who could move to better jobs and fill employer needs and offer them additional training;
  • Build new talent pipelines for industries that have jobs but not enough qualified applicants; and
  • Shift public policy to make the first three strategies work more easily.

Kloth said he envisions Ascend Indiana strengthening programs at local schools, connecting students directly with job opportunities, and providing employers with a steady flow of qualified candidates as they grow and create more jobs. The intended result: a stronger economy.

“This is a very attractive place for companies to expand and grow if they can access the talent they need to be successful,” Kloth said.

Ascend is a project of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, whose board of directors includes more than a dozen top executives of companies and organizations in Indianapolis. The effort is funded by seven local foundations, but the bulk of the funding came from a $5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. (Lilly Endowment also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.) Some funding also came from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

By 2020, Kloth said, labor market research estimates nearly two-thirds of jobs will require study beyond a high school diploma. But right now only about 42 percent of adults have enough education, and the right training, to access those jobs. That translates to a gap of about 215,000 adults who could be employed in good jobs but fall short of the qualifications they need to land them.

Joyce Irwin, president and CEO of Community Health Network Foundation, gave the example of nursing as a changing field that needs its talent pipeline to evolve.

With the large Baby Boomer generation aging, the demand for health care services is growing at the same time when there is a shift toward more services delivered outside the hospital. That requires more nurses who can work more independently or as a part of integrated teams with other professionals.

So Community and other healthcare networks, she said, want to hire more nurses with bachelor’s degrees. Through Ascend Indiana, Community is crafting a program that will help its nurses work toward four-year degrees in partnership with universities, with some instruction delivered at work.

But in the long term, Irwin said she would like to see that pipeline extend back to K-12 schools, so that younger students have information about the skills they will need to complete a four-year nursing degree.

“At the beginning of the pipeline we can help them understand where nursing is going,” she said. “If you catch people younger you can get them to go toward the higher level skills.”

New role

Principal Donna Taylor retiring from Brooklyn School of Inquiry, moving to DOE

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Kindergarten students at Brooklyn School of Inquiry

Brooklyn School of Inquiry Principal Donna Taylor announced this week she is stepping down from her position next month.

Taylor, who has been with the Bensonhurst school since it opened in 2009, will take a position with the Department of Education, where she will support principals implementing progressive education and gifted and talented programs — two focuses of BSI. The school, which runs from kindergarten to eighth grade, is one of five gifted and talented schools open to children citywide.

“BSI was created by a team who believes that students need an inquiry-based, arts-infused curriculum, steeped in technology, where everyone is encouraged to think critically,” Taylor said in a statement. “We came together down here in Bensonhurst to grow our practice and build capacity. I am proud of the work I’ve done together with the school’s community to build and grow BSI.”

Her announcement comes the same week that BSI graduated its first cohort of eighth-graders. Moving forward, Taylor is working with other school staff and her superintendent, Karina Constantino, to ensure a smooth transition. A new principal has not yet been named.

BSI is the only citywide gifted school that participates in the city’s Diversity in Admissions program. The admissions pilot allows principals to set aside a percentage of seats for students who are low-income, English learners or meet other criteria. In the case of BSI, the school set aside 40 percent of its available kindergarten seats for low-income students.

While it met that target in its admissions offers this year, it had few open seats because siblings of current BSI students get priority. That meant that only 20 slots were reserved for low-income students.

It will be up to Taylor’s successor, alongside city officials, to decide where to take the pilot program next.

“We have no way of knowing what the new leadership will do or who they will be or what their position will be on the program,” said Sara Mogulescu, the parent of two children currently studying at BSI. “But I know there is a very strong core of commitment to that pilot and to continue to strengthen our community in all kinds of ways, regardless of whether Donna is the principal.”

Despite her many accomplishments, Taylor’s eight years at the helm of BSI were not without controversy. In 2014, Taylor made headlines for a comment she made at an open-house meeting at BSI. She remarked to prospective parents, “If you don’t speak Spanish, you’re going to clean your own house.” Taylor subsequently apologized.

Mogulescu said Taylor had built a solid foundation at BSI, and she and other parents were confident about the school’s future — and Taylor’s.

“As much as we are all sad to see her go,” she said, “I think the parents take solace in the fact that she is going to be spreading her wisdom and experience to other schools.”

planning ahead

Big assignment for group of Colorado education leaders: rethink the state’s education priorities

File photo of student at Marrama Elementary School in northeast Denver. (The Denver Post)

A newly constituted group of educators, lawmakers and state officials led by Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne will be charged with creating a sweeping new strategic plan for education in Colorado.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order this week giving that task to a reconstituted Education Leadership Council, which formed in 2011 but has become inactive.

The new-look council will identify statewide priorities for how to better educate the state’s children so they can contribute to Colorado’s workforce, according to the order.

In an interview Thursday with Chalkbeat, Lynne said she expects the plan to include recommendations for how the governor’s office, relevant state departments, the legislature or others can work toward the state’s goals.

The group will begin meeting in August and will spend its first year setting priorities. It is supposed to give recommendations for possible legislation by 2018 or 2019.

Lynne said various state departments and groups already work on initiatives tied to education, but “we don’t have a place where we weave it all together.”

For example, Lynne said, the group could examine whether certain districts still need help getting access to the internet, whether students are being introduced to STEM careers early enough and whether graduates are prepared for the workforce.

Having a strategic plan and clear goals for what schools should be accomplishing could also give officials a better chance of changing school finance, Lynne said, if the group determines that is needed. Reports routinely rank Colorado near the bottom in per pupil funding among states.

“I think it’s hard when people want to talk about changing school finance or they want to address things like compensation for teachers, if you don’t have the core foundation of what do we want to achieve and how do we get there,” Lynne said.

Bipartisan legislation introduced this spring would have created a group with similar goals, but Republicans killed the so-called “vision” bill. Critics said the bill would have created more state bureaucracy and potentially conflicted with school districts’ strategic plans, and called it a ploy to ultimately ask taxpayers for more money.

Lynne said the group commissioned by the governor — which will have as many as 25 members — will include a diverse group of people representing different interests across the state to ensure local districts have a say in the statewide work. It will include directors from five state departments, a superintendent, a school board member, a teacher and a principal.

The original Education Leadership Council was commissioned in 2011 by a Hickenlooper executive order. Recently the group stopped meeting. Members’ terms had expired, and excitement had decreased after the 2013 defeat of Amendment 66, which would have raised taxes for schools. The council helped push for the measure.

When Lynne succeeded Joe Garcia as lieutenant governor, she said she knew she wanted to revive the group.

Her office started planning to regroup the Education Leadership Council in late 2016 before the legislature considered the same work, but she said she paused while legislators considered their bill. When that effort failed, Lynne said her office got back to organizing the council.

The group, Lynne said, will work under a shorter timeline than the one outlined in the failed bill.

Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican who sponsored the “vision” bill, said the council is the right avenue for this kind of work.

“The legislature is not suited for long-term strategic thinking,” Rankin said. “It’s more about shorter-term action. This is a better way to do it — with our involvement.”

Sponsors of the vision bill, including Rankin, will be part of the leadership council.

Here is a copy of the executive order:



EO Education (Text)