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.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”