More on Indiana school improvement grants, winners and losers, creativity

The Indiana Department of Education has awarded a second round of school improvement grants, and this time none of the more than $13 million is going to charter schools. Of course, two of the three charter schools that applied for the grants were funded in the first round. (Five of the 13 non-charters that applied have now been funded).

The DOE last week awarded $5.7 million to George Washington High School, $5.5 million to John Marshall High School and $2.5 million to Bendix School. Washington and Marshall are part of Indianapolis Public Schools; Bendix is an alternative school in the South Bend Community School Corp.

The grants, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, are designed to make dramatic improvement in the state’s lowest-performing schools. Washington and Marshall will implement a “turnaround” model of improvement, which includes replacing the principal and half the staff.

Real winners and losers

We wrote three weeks ago about the risk that “winners and losers” could result from Indiana’s growing reliance on local property-tax referenda to fund public schools. In Illinois, which relies heavily on local taxes to fund schools, according to federal data, there certainly are some winners.

The Chicago Tribune reported recently that almost half the teachers in the affluent Chicago suburbs of Highland Park and Deerfield were paid more than $100,000 a year. In Park Ridge and Hinsdale, about 43 percent of teachers earned more than $100,000.

“Six-figure teacher salaries of that magnitude are rare elsewhere in Illinois and in most parts of the country,” the Tribune reported. “The highest-paying districts note that they are top performers that get accolades and national rankings, and they need to be competitive to attract top teachers as parents expect.”

The creativity gap

A recent Newsweek cover story titled “The Creativity Crisis” may have implications for the importance of maintaining arts programs and restoring ECA stipends in the Monroe County Community School Corp. The story reports on research by Indiana University professor Jonathan Plucker, who found that scores on childhood creativity tests were more than three times as likely as IQ scores to predict future success.

And while the IQ scores of U.S. students continue to rise, scores on the Torrance creativity scale have declined since 1990. “One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities,” write Newsweek’s Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. “Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: There’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.”

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