on the horizon

GED hubs renamed, reflecting new test and upcoming deadline

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Student Malik Peterson unveils the new name for the city’s GED Plus centers, behind Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

As a huge shift approaches for students who are looking to earn GEDs, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced Thursday a few smaller changes to the system designed to help them.

GED Plus, the name given to the city’s preparation programs for students, was about to become an awkward moniker when the GED stops being administered in New York next year. Though that exam that has long been synonymous with a high school equivalency credential, the state will begin giving a new Common Core-aligned exam with a different name in 2014.

So starting January 1, the student centers will be known as Pathways to Graduation, Walcott announced today. Five of those 62 locations will also host staff members from the Office of Adult and Continuing Education, allowing at least some of the students who age out of the Pathways to Graduation centers the chance to stay put as they continue trying to pass the exam.

For the thousands of students enrolled right now, the name change also reflects their deadline for passing all of the GED’s five component tests before the January switch to a new exam. At that point, students who had already passed portions of the GED exam will have to start from scratch.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the GED Plus programs have served about 8,500 students per year for the last six years, but could not say on Thursday how many students have only passed a portion of the exam. (In 2011, a report from the Center for an Urban Future showed that the passing rate for the GED citywide was only 48.1 percent, compared to 66.9 percent for the rest of the state.)

At the 35th Street Alternative Education Complex on Thursday, Walcott told a class of students taking a practice exam that he had a son and daughter who both earned GEDs, before wishing them good luck and heading out.

“I felt really good because they all gave me evil looks, and that’s a good sign, because they were so serious and so intense preparing that they were like, who is this guy coming in and interrupting me?” he said at the press conference later.

Twenty-year-old Malik Peterson—who found out that he had earned his GED this week—was a bit more responsive to the chancellor’s visit, exuberantly informing Walcott of his results in the hallway before requesting multiple pictures with the outgoing schools chief. “For Instagram,” he explained.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.