Who Is In Charge

Indiana might pay for teachers to go back to school to save dual credit program

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
College acceptance letters in the main entrance at Tindley Accelerated School.

A top Indiana lawmaker says the state is willing to spend thousands of dollars to help schools across the state continue to offer dual credit courses.

The popular classes, which let high school students earn college credits, have been put in jeopardy by new rules that, by 2017, will require all teachers of dual credit classes to have a master’s degree or 18 graduate credits in their subject area.

Those rules would disqualify most of the high school teachers currently teaching the classes. Almost 75 percent of Indiana’s existing 2,531 dual credit teachers don’t completely meet the new requirements.

The state’s Dual Credit Advisory Council, a committee of educators, college officials and policymakers, said today that Indiana is planning to apply for a five-year waiver that would allow current dual credit teachers to continue teaching those courses until at least 2022.

Whether or not that waiver is granted, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who heads the House Education Committee, said the state plans to help teachers with the expense of returning to school.

Behning said a bill passed last year set up a fund to give current dual credit teachers stipends toward completing their additional credits as long as districts offered to match the funds.

Once actual money is approved for the next two-year budget this session, the state would contribute up to $2,000 per year for teachers who are already teaching dual credit classes, and the district could match for a total of up to $4,000, he said.

“I have commitment from House and Senate fiscal leaders that they are behind it so far,” Behning said. “The goal was to give an incentive (for teachers) to go back and get those master’s (degrees).”

Mike Beam, the director of Indiana University’s Office of Pre-College Programs, said that kind of yearly stipend could go a long way toward helping teachers get missing credits or even master’s degrees in their content areas. At IU, he said, a 30-credit hour master’s degree could cost about $10,000 to $12,000. While some teachers might need more classes than others, the stipend coupled with a five-year extension makes the new requirements much more attainable.

IU, along with other universities, have been looking at ways to help teachers as they try to beef up their certifications, but so far there’s been some confusion in the field, said state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. As the state readies its waiver application, it also needs to communicate with teachers about what they should be doing in the meantime.

“Teachers are starting to take classes, and some are taking classes that don’t actually count towards what they need,” Ritz said. “There’s a lot of anxiety going out there as teachers are already getting busy … those faculty who need to do something, they need to know specifically, here’s what you need to take and here’s the coursework you need in order to be certified and do dual credit.”

University officials on the council said teachers should contact the programs their districts are partnered with, such as IU or Ivy Tech Community College, to ask questions about classes and requirements before they act.

Ken Sauer, with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, said that the commission hopes to release guidance to teachers about the situation in October. Once the waiver is sent out, it could be just two to three weeks before the state hears a response.

Turnaround 2.0

McQueen outlines state intervention plans for 21 Memphis schools

Candice McQueen has been Tennessee's education commissioner since 2015 and oversaw the restructure of its school improvement model in 2017.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has identified 21 Memphis schools in need of state intervention after months of school visits and talks with top leaders in Shelby County Schools.

In its first intervention plan under the state’s new school improvement model, the Department of Education has placed American Way Middle School on track either for state takeover by the Achievement School District or conversion to a charter school by Shelby County Schools.

The state also is recommending closure of Hawkins Mill Elementary School.

And 19 other low-performing schools would stay under local control, with the state actively monitoring their progress or collaborating with the district to design improvement plans. Fourteen are already part of the Innovation Zone, the Memphis district’s highly regarded turnaround program now in its sixth year.

McQueen outlined the “intervention tracks” for all 21 Memphis schools in a Feb. 5 letter to Superintendent Dorsey Hopson that was obtained by Chalkbeat.

Almost all of the schools are expected to make this fall’s “priority list” of Tennessee’s 5 percent of lowest-performing schools. McQueen said the intervention tracks will be reassessed at that time.

McQueen’s letter offers the first look at how the state is pursuing turnaround plans under its new tiered model of school improvement, which is launching this year in response to a new federal education law.

The commissioner also sent letters outlining intervention tracks to superintendents in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Jackson, all of which are home to priority schools.

Under its new model, Tennessee is seeking to collaborate more with local districts to develop improvement plans, instead of just taking over struggling schools and assigning them to charter operators under the oversight of the state-run Achievement School District. However, the ASD, which now oversees 29 Memphis schools, remains an intervention of last resort.

McQueen identified the following eight schools to undergo a “rigorous school improvement planning process,” in collaboration between the state and Shelby County Schools. Any resulting interventions will be led by the local district.

  • A.B. Hill Elementary
  • A. Maceo Walker Middle
  • Douglass High
  • Georgian Hills Middle
  • Grandview Heights Middle
  • Holmes Road Elementary
  • LaRose Elementary
  • Sheffield Elementary
  • Wooddale High

These next six iZone schools must work with the state “to ensure that (their) plan for intervention is appropriate based on identified need and level of evidence.”

  • Sheffield Elementary
  • Raleigh-Egypt High
  • Lucie E. Campbell Elementary
  • Melrose High
  • Sherwood Middle
  • Westwood High

The five schools below will continue their current intervention plan within the iZone and must provide progress reports to the state:

  • Hamilton High
  • Riverview Middle
  • Geeter Middle
  • Magnolia Elementary
  • Trezevant High

The school board is expected to discuss the state’s plan during its work session next Tuesday. And if early reaction from board member Stephanie Love is any indication, the discussion will be robust.

“We have what it takes to improve our schools,” Love told Chalkbeat on Friday. “I think what they need to do is let our educators do the work and not put them in the situation where they don’t know what will happen from year to year.”

Among questions expected to be raised is whether McQueen’s recommendation to close Hawkins Mill can be carried out without school board approval, since her letter says that schools on the most rigorous intervention track “will implement a specific intervention as determined by the Commissioner.”

Another question is why the state’s plan includes three schools — Douglass High, Sherwood Middle, and Lucie E. Campbell Elementary — that improved enough last year to move off of the state’s warning list of the 10 percent of lowest-performing schools.

You can read McQueen’s letter to Hopson below:

Mergers and acquisitions

In a city where many charter schools operate alone, one charter network expands

Kindergarteners at Detroit's University Prep Academy charter school on the first day of school in 2017.

One of Detroit’s largest charter school networks is about to get even bigger.

The nonprofit organization that runs the seven-school University Prep network plans to take control of another two charter schools this summer — the Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies elementary and the Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies middle/high school.

The move would bring the organization’s student enrollment from 3,250 to nearly 4,500. It would also make the group, Detroit 90/90, the largest non-profit charter network in the city next year — a distinction that stands out in a city when most charter schools are either freestanding schools or part of two- or three-school networks.

Combined with the fact that the city’s 90 charter schools are overseen by a dozen different charter school authorizers, Detroit’s relative dearth of larger networks means that many different people run a school sector that makes up roughly half of Detroit’s schools. That makes it difficult for schools to collaborate on things like student transportation and special education.

Some charter advocates have suggested that if the city’s charter schools were more coordinated, they could better offer those services and others that large traditional school districts are more equipped to offer — and that many students need.

The decision to add the Henry Ford schools to the Detroit 90/90 network is intended to “create financial and operational efficiencies,” said Mark Ornstein, CEO of UPrep Schools, and Deborah Parizek, executive director of the Henry Ford Learning Institute.

Those efficiencies could come in the areas of data management, human resources, or accounting — all of which Detroit 90/90 says on its website that it can help charter schools manage.

Ornstein and Parizek emphasized that students and their families are unlikely to experience changes when the merger takes effect on July 1. For example, the Henry Ford schools would remain in their current home at the A. Alfred Taubman Center in New Center and maintain their arts focus.  

“Any changes made to staff, schedule, courses, activities and the like will be the same type a family might experience year-to-year with any school,” they said in a statement.