Enrollment up, but only a little

Enrollment in Indiana public and charter schools bounced back last fall as most districts returned to full-time, in-person learning. But not all the way back.

According to data released this week by the Indiana Department of Education, 1.03 million students were enrolled in public and charter schools at the start of the current school year. That’s up slightly from the previous year but about 14,000 short of number in fall 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enrollment had declined in the fall of 2020 as the pandemic took hold and many schools switched partly or fully to online or hybrid instruction. Much of the decrease was in the early grades, especially kindergarten, where enrollment shrank by over 7%.

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Study: Indiana voucher students fall behind in math

Students who use Indiana’s voucher program to transfer from public to private schools aren’t seeing the test-score gains they may have expected. When it comes to academics, they could be better off staying in their local public schools, according to a long-awaited study released today.

The study, by Joe Waddington of the University of Kentucky and Mark Berends of the University of Notre Dame, finds that voucher students experience significant losses in mathematics achievement after they transfer to private schools. Receiving a voucher did not have a significant effect on English/language arts test performance.

The findings are based on a detailed and rigorous analysis of ISTEP-Plus scores for students who received private school vouchers in the first four years of Indiana’s program.

The study follows a spate of negative evaluations of voucher programs in Ohio, Louisiana and Washington, D.C. But Indiana’s program is especially helpful to study. It’s the nation’s largest and most generous voucher program, enrolling more than 34,000 students; and it is unusual in that private schools that participate must administer state standardized tests the same as public schools.

You can read a detailed report on the study on the National Public Radio website.

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Jonathan Plucker straight up

Jonathan Plucker has been guest-posting this week at Education Week’s Rick Hess Straight Up blog, and it has been great reading for anyone who’s interested in Indiana education politics or education policy in general.

Plucker was director of Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy until last fall, when he returned to his home state to become a professor at the University of Connecticut. He offers an inside take on the email controversies involving former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and state Superintendent Tony Bennett, along with original thoughts about teacher preparation, poverty and special education.

// Tony Bennett – Plucker did work for Bennett’s Indiana Department of Education, and he likes Bennett while being blunt about some of the man’s faults. Notably, he helped develop the initial framework for the state’s A-to-F school grading system, the subject of the Bennett email flap. “IDOE staff eventually took our model in a different direction, one I didn’t agree with,” he writes, downplaying the frustration that he no doubt felt.

// Teacher preparation – We don’t really know a lot about what types of preparation produce the best teachers, he writes. Therefore it makes sense to encourage innovation and let “1,000 flowers bloom” while evaluating what works. He says teachers are professionals and should have some control of what it takes to join the profession.

// Mitch Daniels – This is Plucker’s take on the emails in which Daniels, the former Indiana governor, insisted that students and prospective teachers shouldn’t be exposed to American history according to Howard Zinn. He says attempts at political intimidation are a fact of life when you work in state policy. Continue reading