Choosing college

Which Indiana colleges have well-paid grads? A new tool for applicants has answers

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
A student walks through the hallway of University Prep, a Denver charter school.

High school students making crucial decisions about where to go to college might find traditional college rankings helpful, but some Indiana leaders say Hoosier students need better tools.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education recently rolled out a new college information system called the Indiana College Value Index that gives students and their parents a host of information about Indiana colleges and universities, including important feedback from alumni and details such as the percent of majors that earn salaries higher than the state median.

The new tool paints a fuller picture of the cost, atmosphere and support provided by the state’s public two- and four-year colleges and universities and deliberately avoids giving colleges a ranking because the best school for each student could vary with each student’s grades, interests and priorities.

“We have all this great data, but we’ve known for a long time what we’re missing is the qualitative measure of the value of a college degree that you can’t just capture in numbers,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson.

The new index includes information from the commission’s existing reports about how much colleges cost, how long it takes a typical student who enrolls to graduate and how much remediation they might need later on. It also factors in results from a survey earlier this year of 14 public colleges and universities that asked alumni to answer questions about a range of topics, including internships, extracurricular activities, college debt, and job satisfaction and income post-graduation.

Some of the state’s larger institutions, such as Indiana University, did not participate in the survey, but other information about the state’s largest university is recorded in the index.

The largest source of new information in the index is feedback gathered from alumni.

“The voice of the student is a pretty important one that we should, to the extent possible, try to factor in to provide a more representative picture of what’s going on and where there’s room for improvement,” said Jason Bearce, the associate commissioner.

Using the new tool, students and families can see information about whether colleges offer services to support job searches and how Indiana stacks up nationally when it comes to relationships with faculty, among other sortable data points.

The index is still in its early stages, said Commissioner Teresa Lubbers, but it’s another part of a conversation that is happening in various stages among Indiana educators and policymakers about how to make sure students are prepared and able to eventually contribute to Indiana’s workforce and economy after they leave high school.

The tool could serve as a way to not just help students and families navigate the college admissions process, it could also be a useful way for state colleges and universities to see how they compare to their peers. Years ago, Bearce said, colleges mostly relied on enrollment numbers as the main indicator of success. Later, graduation rate became the popular metric.

By offering more information, Bearce said the goal is to encourage participation from colleges that might have had reservations about college rankings that look at just one or two factors.

Supporters of the index recognize that it’s not as simple to use as rankings like the controversial annual college list from U.S. News and World Report, but Lubbers said the Commission is working to make its new tool as accessible as possible to families that might be overwhelmed by college choices, particularly students who will be the first in their families to go to college.

As they work to add more colleges to the index and tweak how the data is presented, the Commission is also looking for feedback from people who use the tool this year. They’re working with the Indiana Youth Institute as well as local school districts and the principals and superintendents associations to figure out what information is still needed and how the index could work better.

“If we waited to have it just right … we’d never do anything,” Bearce said. “There are some gaps, but we didn’t want that to prevent us from putting something out there.”

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)