Dear readers,

We are very excited to introduce Chalkbeat Indiana, a news site focused on delivering you the most relevant news about education policy and practice right here in our community.

Since first soft-launching on Oct. 21, we have leapt right to work writing stories about State Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s battle with Gov. Mike Pence, Indianapolis Public Schools, and more. And (as you can see) we’ve been building a lovely new website to improve your reading experience.

This is a critical period of change for Indiana schools. Lawmakers continue to push to expand their efforts to make educational change through school choice and new statewide changes to the way teachers are judged, students are taught, and schools are graded.

We plan to cover the action and inaction, keeping policymakers, educators, and the public informed as well as accountable. To do that, we have selected four areas of focus for the year: implementation of the Common Core, the expansion of private school vouchers, a new effort to overhaul Indianapolis Public Schools, and major changes to the way teachers are evaluated.

Chalkbeat readers will get in-depth information about:

  • Common Core: Indiana was an early adopter of these new guidelines, which all but a handful of states have agreed to follow. But lawmakers now have second thoughts. All the state’s schools have adopted Common Core standards through second grade and some already have them in all grades. But state policymakers are taking another look and a vote next summer will decide if Indiana continues with Common Core or forges its own standards.
  • Vouchers: Indiana has the fastest-growing private school voucher program in history. With more than 20,000 students using tax dollars to attend private schools through vouchers in the program’s third year, only Wisconsin’s 20-year-old program has more. The swift changes present a host of challenges—both for the public schools that have lost students and the private schools that have gained them.
  • Teacher evaluation: This spring, all Indiana teachers will have undergone new, tougher evaluations of their work. The stakes are high: supporters of the evaluations argue that they will be key in improving student achievement, but exactly what will happen is unknown. Teachers face more observation from supervisors, and the test scores of their students will be scrutinized. For the first time, those test scores will play a role in determining pay raises for most teachers.
  • Indianapolis Public Schools: IPS is entering its second year under a new school board majority that is determined to make changes to the way the district operates. It has a new superintendent, Lewis Ferebee, who is promising a reform plan early this year. The district also faces a multimillion-dollar budget deficit that could force school closings before next fall.

But our stories will be strongest if we get your help. Here are a few ways to pitch in:

Soon we will be hiring a community editor, who will be creating more opportunities for you to share your experiences and help deepen our coverage of public schools. To start, please consider submitting to our First Person section, which highlights the experiences of teachers, administrators, students, policymakers, and parents. To find out more or pitch an idea, e-mail bureau chief Scott Elliott at selliott@chalkbeat.org

Another way to share your experiences and thoughts with us is through our comments section. Here is a look at our new comments policy, which we will be enforcing aggressively with the help of our engagement director, Anika Anand. We want Chalkbeat Indiana to be a place where educators, policymakers and families can come to voice their concerns, talk to one another and ultimately, act in a way that leads to better schools for everyone. So please, be courteous and respectful in your comments so that we can all learn something from each other.

Here are some other ways to stay up to date on our reporting and help us make our reporting the best it can be:

  • Sign up for our morning Rise & Shine newsletter, which includes the day’s major education headlines in Indiana and nationally.
  • Follow us on Twitter @ChalkbeatIN and Like us on Facebook
  • Got a story idea for us? Send an e-mail to intips@chalkbeat.org
  • Fill out our survey to tell us what stories you want to read and learn more about Chalkbeat.

Happy reading,

Scott Elliott, Chalkbeat Indiana bureau chief

Elizabeth Green, Chalkbeat editor-in-chief