Indiana

In surprise move, Indiana's charter school association could close

Indiana

Indiana's big test score gains prompt debate over cause

Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test, which released scores today. Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test of reading and math known as the "nation's report card," according to data released today. Indiana's 2013 gains were top five among the 50 states on both fourth grade reading and math. Eighth graders posted smaller gains in both reading and math. Hoosier test takers scored above the national average on all four exams administered. "“I am encouraged by the gains that Hoosier students showed on these tests, particularly their gains in the fourth grade," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said in a statement. "This is yet another sign of the hard work and dedication exhibited by our educators, administrators, parents, and most importantly, students every day in our schools.” The state's success instantly renewed debate about reforms pushed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and ex-state Superintendent Tony Bennett over four years beginning in 2008. Bennett was defeated in the 2012 election in a stunning upset by current state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, said Bennett's fight for reform may have cost him his job but it appears to have yielded improvements. "I think we're starting to see results," said Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. "These battles are hard-fought, and if we didn't see any results, then we might wonder if it's worth it." Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, attributed the gains to standards reform in the early 2000s, specifically rejecting Bennett and Daniels' policies as a reason for the improvement.
Indiana

Judge to Ritz's lawyers: How can she sue without Zoeller?

Ritz did not attend today's hearing, at which her lawyers argued her suit against the State Board of Education should be allowed to proceed. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg had a tough question for state Superintendent Glenda Ritz today: Why should he let her lawsuit against the Indiana State Board of Education go forward? That was just one of the queries Rosenberg put before the department's staff lawyers that Ritz used to represent her over Attorney General Greg Zoeller's objections. If Ritz's legal team can't convince Rosenberg that they have a right to stick with the case, the suit that riled both sides of the aisle in the statehouse could be over by next week. Ritz last month sued the other 10 members of the Indiana State Board of Education in a protest of their push to move forward with calculating A to F grades for schools faster than Ritz had advocated. The lawsuit blew the lid off simmering tensions among Ritz and state board members, who disagree on a swath of education issues, from accountability to how to promote students between grades. Ritz's lawsuit targeted their latest disagreement. State board members have been frustrated that A to F grades for schools have not yet been released. But Ritz argues that problems with online testing last spring are the cause of the delay. Still, board members wrote a joint letter to legislative leaders asking them to have the Legislative Service Agency calculate the grades while Ritz was out of the country. In her lawsuit, Ritz argued that the move violated the state's transparency laws. By jointly signing a letter to lawmakers, she argued, the board effectively made a decision outside of a public meeting, which her suit contends is a violation of state law. In court today, discussion focused on whether Ritz has the right to file a lawsuit at all. The case was originally made by Zoeller, who asked the court to remove Ritz's attorneys from from the case, a step that would effectively end the suit altogether. Zoeller argued that Ritz could only initiate a lawsuit with assistance from his office.
Indiana

IPS loses when teachers face constant moves, report says

TeachPlus unveiled its report examining how frequently new teachers are forced to change schools against their will at a meeting on Monday at WFYI. (TeachPlus) When Alyssa Starinsky was called to the principal's two years ago at Shortridge High School, she thought she might be in line for an honor. Two years in a row, in fact, the classes she taught had posted among the highest test score growth of any of their peers in Indianapolis Public Schools; a student group she moderated was a two-time national award winner; and everyone at the school was buzzing about an upcoming Teacher of the Year announcement. But instead of an award, the assistant principal handed a letter telling her she was being fired — not for performance but because the district expected to need fewer teachers the next year. "I read it three times and I was crying uncontrollably," Starinsky said. "You know when you're a teacher, kids come to school for you and you come for them. You are working as hard as you can for them to achieve. I didn't know how to tell my kids, with a month and a half left, that I wasn't coming back." IPS didn't have to lose her. They eventually tried to hire her back, but it was too late. Starinsky did continue teaching. She kept her move quiet until the end of the school year and now she's at Carpe Diem, an Indianapolis charter school. But this sort of forced move — school changes that teachers don't want to make and that are not based on performance — are common and disruptive, both to the teachers and to the learning of their students, a new report states. "I'm a statistic," Starinsky said. "I'm in the majority, not the minority, of teachers who are moved involuntarily. It's heartbreaking."