Indiana ‘at-risk’ funding has declined

Indiana needs to spend more money on K-12 education. And it should target more of its spending to school districts that serve a large share of students from poor families.

Statehouse domeThose were key take-aways from a study presented Tuesday to a legislative committee examining Indiana’s complexity index, which channels extra money to schools to compensate for their enrollment of students who may require additional resources.

Robert Toutkoushian, a professor at the University of Georgia, produced the study, which found that Indiana’s per-pupil complexity index funding has declined by half in the past 10 years. As a share of overall state school funding, complexity funding fell from almost 20% to less than 10%.

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Advantage, public schools

Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski challenged conventional wisdom when they published research that found public schools were better than private schools at boosting student achievement.

Book cover The Public School AdvantageFive years later, their conclusions have been confirmed several times over – especially by studies of state voucher programs that provide public funding for students to attend private schools.

“In the last four years, every study of student achievement in voucher programs has found large negative impacts, except for a couple of studies that found no impact,” Christopher Lubienski said recently. “The programs are hurting the learning outcomes of children using the vouchers.”

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Charter schools excel – at PR

Research has found that charter schools, overall, are no more effective than public schools at raising student achievement. But there’s one area where they seem to run circles around public schools:

Marketing and public relations.

How else can you explain the way individual charter schools generate so many favorable stories in the news media? It’s an impressive skill, one that public-school leaders might want to study.

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Teacher strikes ‘changed the narrative’

The teacher strikes that started in West Virginia in 2018 and leapfrogged to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona succeeded beyond what organizers could have imagined, journalist Eric Blanc said Thursday.

Eric Blanc

Eric Blanc

The strikes, largely led by women, were “overwhelmingly successful” in winning better pay for teachers and more funding for schools, he said. They also transformed teachers in conservative states from public servants resigned to low pay to activists who were excited about their power to effect social change.

“These were people who had never been political before,” he said. “They were skeptics who became militants. That sense of power is not something that’s easy to take away.”

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Court rejects charter schools’ funding claims

The Indiana Court of Appeals has dealt a setback to charter schools that sued to get more money from the state. The decision, written by Judge John Baker, overturned a Marion County trial court decision that the schools were entitled to additional funding.

CourtroomAnd this could be a big deal. If the charter schools had prevailed, it could have opened the door to complaints by other charters, costing Indiana tens of millions of dollars.

Indiana Connections Academy, a virtual charter school, sued the state in 2016. Two other schools, Andrew J. Brown Charter School in Indianapolis and Aspire Charter Academy in Gary, joined the lawsuit.

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Proficiency gaps deserve a look

IUPUI faculty member and Indianapolis Recorder columnist Marshawn Wolley makes a provocative statement in a recent piece on Indiana’s 2019 ILEARN results:

“It just doesn’t seem to matter when Black students fail state standardized tests.”

He’s got a point. Everyone has been up in arms about the steep drop in proficiency rates that resulted when Indiana shifted from its former ISTEP test to the new ILEARN assessment. But very little attention has been paid to the gap in proficiency between black and white students.

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The stakes are the problem

Indiana’s ILEARN scores have been made public, and the freakout is underway. I guess we should be grateful. A decade ago, business leaders and newspaper editorial writers might have pointed to the scores as evidence that schools were broken. Now the consensus seems to be that the test is broken.

Here’s another possibility. Maybe the problem isn’t with the test. Maybe the problem is what we do with it. Maybe it’s the high stakes, not the testing, that we should reject.

Results for the new ILEARN assessment were released today during a meeting of the State Board of Education. As expected, the rate at which students were found to be proficient was considerably lower than the passing rate on ISTEP, Indiana’s previous test.

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