Deja Vu for School Accountability

SIt’s only been a couple of years since the uproar over Indiana’s school accountability measures. To be sure, there were a lot of reasons for the pushback from educators and eventual legislation invalidating the current system. But one of the leading reasons was the decision to base “student growth” measures on comparisons of students to other students with similar starting points rather than measuring their progress toward the state’s academic standards.

But a year after legislative leaders, the Governor and the state superintendent convened a panel to construct a new accountability system, nothing has changed and the majority of the panel is set to recommend the same approach that is already in place – the same “growth” measure that has already been forbidden by the state Legislature.

How could this happen? Well, there are lots of factors.

Most importantly, the staff of the Department of Education and the Governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation have simply worn out the panel. After 11 all-day meetings, committee members have been given none of the data that has been requested (and promised at the first meeting) to help develop alternatives; and the staffs have provided no outside experts other than people who developed Indiana’s current accountability model.

The staffs have also played games with terminology, suggesting most recently that they have accomplished the law’s focus on “criterion standards” because their peer-based growth measures create a new target performance level.

But the law doesn’t call for that. Rather, it is quite a bit simpler – as stated in the 2013 legislation:

“The new standards of assessing school performance: (1) must be based on a measurement of individual student academic performance and growth to proficiency; and (2) may not be based on a measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.”

The final proposal must still be reviewed by the Legislature and approved by the State Board of Education. But if passed as currently drafted, it’s hard to imagine how a school that’s unhappy with its grade wouldn’t have solid standing for challenging it.

The state superintendent has been an outspoken opponent of school accountability, generally, and Indiana’s accountability system, specifically. But why the Governor’s staff would support this re-adoption of a failed and outlawed accountability system is baffling.

Numbers to Ponder

rThree totally unrelated, but intriguing, numbers courtesy of Governing magazine:

  • 33%: Americans with past-due debt that’s been turned over to a collection agency
  • 15%: Proportion of voting-age residents who cast ballots in the 25 states that held primaries in the first six months of this year. In 15 of those states, turnout was the lowest ever. (Indiana’s primary turnout was slightly below the 15% average)
  • 146: Number of U.S. counties that account for half of the country’s 316 million people. The rest of the population is distributed across the remaining 2,998 counties. Indiana’s largest and smallest counties, respectively, are Marion with 928,281 people (54th largest in the country) and Ohio with 5,994 people (ranked 2,758 nationally)

Time to Talk Area Code Changes

FIt must be a sign of advancing age that I fondly recall the days of three area codes that covered the state of Indiana. Today, that number is six with a seventh set to go into effect next month and public field hearings underway now on 317 area code relief.

Indiana had three telephone area codes (219 for the north, 317 for Central Indiana and 812 in the south) from the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s.

Today, the state has six area codes with a seventh to go into effect in October 2014.

Technology brought pagers, fax machines, wirelese phones and more. The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says efforts to conserve existing number supplies and prolong the life spans of area codes have been successful, but the only way to provide new numbers in the long run has been to introduce new area codes.

The number of area codes throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean has more than doubled since 1995, with Indiana, 38 other states and eight of the 10 Canadian provinces adding new area codes.

The 317 area code was changed in 1996 with the addition of 765. Now, 317 is projected to run out of numbers in 2017. A hearing took place in Indianapolis last Friday. Four more are scheduled in Carmel (October 1), Franklin (October 14), Danville (October 29) and Greenfield (December 1).

An overlay method is being proposed. A similar procedure is being implemented in the current 812 area code with the new 930 coming into play yet this year.

Full details, including additional opportunities to submit comments.

John Green Talks About Authenticity at ExactTarget Connections Conference

Indianapolis resident John Green, most famous for authoring the best-selling book “The Fault in Our Stars” — and a series of notable Crash Course videos about history, among other things — gave the keynote address at ExactTarget’s popular Connections conference yesterday. Other speakers included TV writer/actress Mindy Kaling and rapper/seven-time Grammy winner Will.I.Am.

Retirement Plan Sponsors: Feeling Out of the Loop?

ProCoursePrince is with ProCourse Fiduciary Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor.

Seventy-three percent of human resources professionals said they have needed to become experts on health care and retirement to do their job effectively. When was the last time you were comfortable stating that you understood all of the rules and regulations your job title or position requires you to comply with?

With regard to regulatory matters, one thing is constant: change. As regulators are starting to more closely examine retirement plans, it is important for those individuals who are responsible for overseeing their company’s retirement plan to pursue continuous training and stay up-to-date with industry-related best practices. Fortunately, you do not have to go far to seek this training as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce is hosting, “Best Practices for Retirement Plan Fiduciaries,” which will help you:

  • Learn from the mistakes of others by reviewing recent court cases (with an emphasis on what they should have been doing)
  • Review current trends from the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor and know what to be on the lookout for
  • Identify how you can perform a self-audit of your retirement plan and potentially uncover easy fixes that could otherwise lead to costly errors
  • Hear about what politicians and regulators are considering changing with respect to your role in administering your retirement plan

Our goal is to help retirement plan sponsors obtain a better grasp on their roles and responsibilities and determine areas where they can improve their efforts so to better protect themselves as a fiduciary and, in the end, provide a better retirement plan for their employees.

Transportation’s Future Focus of Summit

08Solving the National Transportation Crisis is the theme of the 12th annual Indiana Logistics Summit. More than 300 participants are expected from the transportation, logistics, distribution and manufacturing industries.

Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith are among the speakers. Innovator Lawrence Burns, who spent 40 years with General Motors, will deliver a presentation on The Future of Transportation.

Purdue University, Conexus Indiana and the Ports of Indiana are the hosts for the Oct. 7-8 event at the Indiana Convention Center. Learn more and register.

Students: Some Tips for Saving Money While You’re Still in School

87649503College is expensive. There is just no way to sugarcoat that. It’s not just tuition, room and board and textbooks. There are parking fees and printing fees. There’s pizza to buy, events to attend and t-shirts to order. Even with significant help from scholarships, grants and loans, my school bill is still nearly $10,000 a semester. This semester I was told I needed to buy an economics text book that would cost me almost $400! What could possibly make one textbook be worth $400?

In many ways, there is no avoiding the financial blows that college life will inflict, but I have compiled a list of eight really easy ways to save that might help ease the pain:

  1. Cool it on the Chipotle. I love the deliciousness of a burrito bowl as much as the next girl, but all of those fast food runs start to add up. Set a limit on the number of times you will eat fast food each week and then stick to it. Keep a few simple groceries in your room so that you will have the ability to avoid temptation when it strikes.
  2. Don’t buy your books from the bookstore. I totally get the convenience of it. I mean it’s right there within walking distance. But like I said, my bookstore tried to get me to buy an econ book for $400. Not cool. With just a little time management and advance preparation you can save HUGE amounts by buying your textbooks online. And that brings me to number three …
  3. It may not have to be the exact edition your professor is using. I am taking a constitutional law class this semester. The required text was the most current edition and it was over $200. I got on Amazon and bought the same book just a few editions removed for only $5. I mean, let’s be real, when was the last time the constitution changed? For the most part, “new” editions of text books are the same material just moved around a little.
  4. No more Starbucks. I love Starbucks. I mean, I love it a lot. The frothy goodness of a latte is good for the soul, but it’s also $5. Just like with the fast food runs, those pumpkin spice lattes will sneak up on you and before you know it you’ve spent $250 in one semester. (True story from my life – and no I am not proud of that.) During this season of your life, you may need to forget you ever heard of Starbucks. The lattes will still be there later when you can actually afford them.
  5. Find out where you can get a student discount. Local businesses love college students. Many places will give discounts or even free things if you just flash your student ID. Ask around your school and keep your eyes open in the local shopping venues. In addition, many national brands offer discounts to students — especially in the areas of electronics and software. And don’t forget to check into good student discounts for your automobile insurance!
  6. Don’t fall into the trap of online shopping. I know, it is so easy. You don’t even have to get out of bed. They’ll deliver it right to your door. Essentially online shopping is the greatest invention since, well, Starbucks lattes. Because it is so easy, online shopping has cost me big bucks in the past. Set a budget, tell your roommates, have someone tackle you when you pull up the Macy’s web site. Whatever you need to do, do it. Shopping therapy is not the way to get through the stress of college.
  7. Take advantage of the campus facilities. My school just built a big, beautiful recreational center and it is totally free to students. I mean kind of free… we do pay for it in our tuition. That’s the point, though; part of what we pay for in our school tuition are the great facilities and activities that our school offers. Take advantage of those rather than going out and spending more.
  8. Go to class. Okay, technically this doesn’t save you money. But it keeps you from wasting the money you are already spending. And mentally, going to class helps you learn to assign value to the investment you are making. You are paying for this class. Skipping it is like setting fire to money.

Most importantly, enjoy your time in school. Life is expensive, and college is kind of like a trial run on life. Learn how to budget now and “real life” will be much easier when the days of ramen noodles and wearing leggings as pants are gone.

Poll: Almost One in Four Americans Open to Separating from U.S.

CAlthough Scotland’s movement to secede from the United Kingdom fell a bit short at the ballot box, it appears it’s not just 45% of Scots who have separation on their minds.

And frankly, it’s no secret most Americans aren’t enthusiastic about the federal government these days. Between gridlock, behemoth budgets and trying to solve the health care puzzle, many have grown frustrated. Poll results explained in this Reuters article, however, are still a bit alarming.

Whoever takes the White House in 2016 may have his/her hands full in trying to unify the country. 

Time for Work Share to Happen in Indiana

Work share is a positive option for both companies and their employees in times of economic need. It is a voluntary program that allows employers to maintain a skilled and stable workforce during temporary economic downturns.

Here’s an example of how it works. Instead of laying off 10 workers due to decreased demand, a company could keep the full workforce in place but reduce the hours of 40 workers by 25%. The impacted employees would receive three-quarters of their normal salary, as well as be eligible for partial unemployment insurance benefits to supplement their reduced paycheck.

Just like regular unemployment insurance, work sharing benefits would not fully cover lost income. They would, however, help mitigate the loss.

There is no negative impact on the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

Work share programs are in place in more than 25 states. They are intended as temporary solutions, usually lasting no more than six months. The biggest users are manufacturers, where work flow often varies based on current contracts.

Neighboring Michigan and Ohio passed legislation that authorized work share programs. Indiana failed to do so the last two years, despite support in both political parties. Let’s finally make it happen in 2015.

Toy With Me: Holiday Toy Crazes are Gone but Not Forgotten

TWhat was your favorite childhood toy?

Mine was the Barbie doll. For hours at a time, I transformed my bedroom into an imaginary world. Strategically placed atop my carpet were Barbie’s favorite hangouts such as the beachside hot dog stand, ice cream shop, pool and glamourous dream house.

Each Christmas, I eagerly (and sometimes not so patiently) anticipated which coveted Barbie toys I would receive as gifts. During Christmas 1983, I added another item to my wish list: a Cabbage Patch Kids doll. That was the year of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze. Parents braved crowded department stores – and brawls even ensued – as the supply dwindled. My mom was at a department store and had just picked up a doll when a man reached down and literally grabbed it out of her hands. The nerve! I hope Santa left him coal in his stocking. Every year, there’s a holiday craze that defines a generation.

Check out this photo gallery, which illustrates 12 must-have toys over the past 80 years. What did the popular Shirley Temple doll cost in 1934? How much is Teddy Ruxpin, a huge hit in 1985, worth today? Channel your inner child and find out!