An Overhaul of High School Policies

What do we do to help our K-12 education system function at a higher level? There is no shortage of suggestions or recommendations.

Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is one of the more authoritative voices in this area. An excerpt from a recent column focuses on turning the system upside down. Currently, he writes:

“We have a system whereby millions of teenagers sleepwalk through so-called college-prep classes, graduate (sometimes without earning it), get pushed into college (often into remedial courses), and quickly drop out. It’s “bachelor’s degree or bust,” and for the majority of kids, the result is bust.

So what might work better? Twelve years ago, the Tough Choices or Tough Times report made an intriguing set of recommendations that would make the American system more like those in Europe. It’s time to dust it off again. Here’s my spin on them.

  1. In ninth or tenth grade, all students should sit for a set of gateway exams. Think of them as high school “entrance exams” rather than “exit exams.” They would assess pupils on reading, writing, math, science, history, and civics – the essential content and skills that all students should be expected to know to be engaged and educated citizens. There would also be a component assessing students’ career interests and aptitudes as best as these can be gauged for fifteen-year-olds.
  2. Students who pass the exams would then choose among several programs for the remainder of their high school years – programs that all could take place under the same roof. Some would be traditional “college-prep,” with lots of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or dual-enrollment courses. Others would be high quality career and technical education offerings designed to lead directly into degree or certificate programs at a technical college. All of the programs could set entrance requirements that ensure that students are ready to succeed in them. And their selectivity would make them prestigious and appealing to a wide range of students. At the end of high school, students would graduate with special designations on their diplomas indicating that they are ready for postsecondary education or training without the need for remediation.
  3. Students who don’t pass the exams would enter developmental programs specifically designed to help them catch up and pass the tests on their second or third (or fourth or fifth) tries. Those that catch up quickly can join their peers in the college-prep or CTE programs.

It’s a lot to tackle. It’s harder than just chastising teachers and principals who graduate kids who can’t read or do math. But in my view, its time has come. Perhaps one of the men or women running for governor this year would like to give it a try.


U of Indy Unveils Enhanced Digital Mayoral Archives


History is fascinating.

When we moved my grandmother to a long-term care facility several years ago, our family was sorting through some of the boxes of keepsakes she had stored in her garage, including items from her childhood.

At the time, I had a young daughter and came across a pamphlet of advice for new parents from the 1950s. It was shocking to see the words of wisdom I was being given today versus the advice of even recent history. Later, we found cookbooks from the 1960s and 1970s containing recipes filled with way too many Jello and cream cheese combinations. Yuck. But fascinating!

If you’re a student of history – or even have a passing interest in learning about those who came before us – here’s something you’ll love: the University of Indianapolis recently unveiled a digital tool that enables anyone to access information about Indianapolis civic history.

The “Digital Backpacks” collection is a free, interactive feature where users can create folders with items collected during the administrations of Indianapolis mayors back to 1968, including an emphasis on sports history.

“The Digital Mayoral Archives enhances the University’s ability to extend its reach beyond the campus,” said Institute Director Edward Frantz. “By connecting to the history of our city, University students also are able to comprehend the way in which the past interacts with the present.”

”We believe this will become a significant teaching tool in Indiana and an important resource for political scholars and armchair historians around the world,” added Frantz, a history professor at the University of Indianapolis.

The backpacks feature is an enhancement to the Digital Mayoral Archives created as part of an ongoing partnership with digital history leader HistoryIT, a Maine-based company that leverages technology to improve access to historical archives. In 2013, HistoryIT began the process of digitizing more than 600 file boxes full of documents, images, recordings and other artifacts from the administrations of Indianapolis mayors Richard Lugar, William Hudnut and Stephen Goldsmith, and from the records of Indiana politician L. Keith Bulen.

Today, more than 400,000 items, including previously confidential documents, are available online. Nearly 23,000 users have logged on and searched the Digital Mayoral Archives.

#BizVoiceExtra: Tuition Support Makes a Difference

Balancing work, family and life is challenging – throwing in a full-time, or even part-time, education on top can seem near impossible.

One thing that can ease the struggle of pursuing a degree as a working adult? Employer tuition support.

Employers that provide tuition support are making a long-term investment in their employees, and employees take that investment to heart. I learned that recently when speaking with several people for the March/April edition of BizVoice® about their experiences with tuition support and the benefits of attaining those advanced degrees through WGU Indiana.

(You can read that story in our new edition here.)

All of those interviewed couldn’t speak more highly of the impact of knowing their employer is actively supporting them. The return on investment for those companies yields people that are devoted to the organization, on top of the more tangible benefits of skilled and educated employees.

Dan Minnick

Dan Minnick

One of the WGU Indiana graduates featured in the story is Dan Minnick, a nursing professional development educator at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie. I asked representatives from IU Health to provide more information on their tuition support program.

An abridged Q&A via email with Lauren Zink, vice president of Total Rewards and Shared Services at IU Health, follows:

BV: What is the benefit to IU Health as an employer when its team members have finished their degrees or have completed advanced degrees?

LZ: “Our goal at IU Health is to provide long-term career opportunities for our team members. We have a wide variety of jobs and a continuous need to fill them with dedicated, talented individuals. As our team members obtain the education they need to qualify and apply for new positions, it allows IU Health to retain them as valued team members and provides them with the opportunities to advance their careers. This mutually beneficial partnership leads to stronger employee engagement and retention, and that too is a very important priority at IU Health.”

BV: What would you say to employers who aren’t currently supporting team members with tuition support? How has this been beneficial for your organization?

LZ: “We understand that most organizations have many competing priorities and limited dollars to invest. However, the return on this investment is one that can be tracked and measured, and has a significant positive impact on the culture. When we invest in our most valuable asset, our people, we build a sustainable workforce that can grow with the organization. It also sends a very positive message to job seekers that their ongoing career development will be a priority at IU Health.”

BV: What do you tell your team members who aren’t sure if they want to go back to school?

LZ: “Education requires a time, energy and resource commitment. Only an individual can truly discern if they are ready to embark on this journey, and if they are, we are there to support them.”

Key Workforce Development Legislation Still a Work-in-Progress

In the Indiana General Assembly, both House Bill 1002 and Senate Bill 50 have been significantly amended in ways that we support, but also in ways that give us some concern. We have strong support for the thoughtful and deliberate work on the study by the Legislative Service Agency of all workforce programs. It is extremely thorough and we look forward to the results of each year’s report and presentation. We also support the language regarding the Next Level Jobs Employer Training Grant program. The career and technical education (CTE) student information portal for local employers is a prime example of a creative model without having to spend extra capital. And we also support expanding the Employment Aid Readiness Network (EARN) Indiana program to include part-time students.

We hope to continue the conversation on the makeup of the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet in conference committee and have some questions as to how this will work in conjunction with the State Workforce Innovation Council (SWIC), a similar existing cabinet that is required to have its membership be 50% employers. We appreciate the language in the bill allowing the Indiana Chamber to be consulted with on a gubernatorial appointment for a business leader to the panel; however, we question why we cannot simply utilize the SWIC.

If we are tied to the idea of creating a new cabinet, we feel strongly that we should have more employer voices at the table, plus give the Indiana Chamber a seat as well. The Chamber’s place on the cabinet would provide historical knowledge on workforce issues, representing the voices of thousands of members and investors throughout the state and providing consistency when we have a new Governor who would make the majority of the appointees (be they employers or agency heads).

In close, though these bills are better and moving in the right direction, they still need work. The Chamber will continue to advocate for strong policies throughout conference committee.

#BizVoiceExtra: SMWC’s 3+1 Degree

Anna Madden

Anna Madden will graduate from Terre Haute’s Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) with both her bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

That’s not unique – most schools offer graduate degree programs. What is more unusual, however, is that Madden will get both of those degrees in just four years, with the SMWC 3+1 accelerated degree program.

(We’ve got more coverage on other accelerated degree programs around the state in our new edition of BizVoice. See the story for more here.)

It was because of a short walk to class with Dr. DJ Wasmer, professor of business and business department chair, that Madden decided to change majors to business and pursue the 3+1 degree.

The benefits, in her perspective: Getting her master’s degree earlier puts her ahead of the competition coming out of school, and the cost savings for an accelerated degree are well worth the rigorous program.

The compressed timeframe was also appealing to Madden.

“My parents were pushing me to do a master’s, but I wasn’t really interested in doing it. I hate that six years of time; I’m eager to get into everything. That’s part of my personality. In four years I’ll have two degrees and be able to study abroad. It’s a win-win,” she adds.

At SMWC, the Masters in Leadership Development (MLD) is the graduate degree piece, which was started in 2007. The 3+1 accelerated program currently is available for business majors, but the MLD program is open to anyone and can be completed in a year’s time. It contains two tracks: organizational leadership and not-for-profit leadership.

Wasmer notes the accelerated program is tough.

“They carry heavier loads and do all the same work as you would do in four years; it’s just compressed. It’s demanding, but it’s doable,” he says.

The challenge is enticing for students like Madden.

“This is awesome. I love the idea of pushing myself harder,” she exclaims.

“I think this program is difficult and challenging, but I have not seen this amount of attention and appreciation (from the staff) anywhere else. It’s so achievable with their help.”

Wasmer adds, “We want to graduate people that can think, emphasize critical thinking skills, emphasize creativity, problem-solving skills, which includes quantitative reasoning.”

Dr. DJ Wasmer

The MLD degree is available online, as well as in person in Terre Haute and Indianapolis; any undergraduate degree can be enhanced with an MLD, not just business majors, Wasmer notes.

“Leadership is essential to our educational enterprise here; one of our core values. We try to graduate leaders who will effect positive change, whether it’s in their community, their workplace, through their religion,” he says. “Leadership is not just for business people. We try to infuse it in everything we do and all the opportunities.”

To learn more about the program, visit

SMWC is also featured in our new edition of BizVoice, along with three other private Indiana institutions of higher education, highlighting unique campus programs or offerings. See that story here.

IMPACT Awards Celebrate Internship Success

Internship excellence, and the interns, employers and career development professionals that make it possible, were honored today by Indiana INTERNnet during the 12th annual IMPACT Awards Luncheon. Indiana INTERNnet is the statewide resource for internship opportunities managed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and has helped connect students and employers across the state since 2001.

Appropriately supporting the luncheon’s theme of “Wild about Workforce Development,” Chris Heeter, founder of The Wild Institute, delivered the keynote address, “Guiding the Team to Success.” She combines business expertise with stories from her sled dog team and experience as a whitewater trip guide.

“Experiential learning is a key piece of Indiana’s workforce development plans, and the nominees we celebrated this year are a promising indication of Indiana’s future,” offers Indiana INTERNnet Executive Director Janet Boston. “Internships are making a difference in our young professionals’ skill levels, and often, these opportunities are leading to full-time jobs either with the intern’s employer or another Hoosier company. Everyone benefits from meaningful internships.”


  • College Intern of the Year: Jerica Mitchell (Indiana Minority Health Coalition, Inc.; Indiana State University)
  • High School Intern of the Year: Camisa Vines (South Bend Code School; John Adams High School)
  • Non-Traditional Intern of the Year: Miranda Goodwin (Wabash Valley Community Foundation)
  • Career Development Professional of the Year: Nathan Milner (Indiana Wesleyan University)
  • Employer of the Year (For-profit): Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance (Indianapolis)
  • Employer of the Year (Non-profit): Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem (South Bend)


The full press release, with a list of all nominees and additional information about the winners can be found here.

In addition, the second annual School Counseling-Business Partnership of the Year award was presented to Perry Central Jr./Sr. High School and Jasper Engines and Transmissions. The recognition, developed by the Indiana Chamber Foundation to highlight innovative approaches to college and career readiness, comes during National School Counseling Week. The Indiana Chamber Foundation and the Department of Workforce Development jointly presented the award.

The luncheon was sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College and held at the Ivy Tech Community College Culinary and Conference Center in Indianapolis. Gerry Dick of Inside INdiana Business was the event emcee.

For more information about the Indiana INTERNnet program, visit or call the hotline at 317-264-6852.

Long-Term Federal Study Shows Postsecondary Education Results

The results of a major federal longitudinal study that began in 2009 are in: Postsecondary education pays off in a big way for students.

Inside Higher Ed has the breakdown of the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The study tracks a nationally representative sample of 20,000 students who were in ninth grade in 2009 through February 2016, offering a longitudinal look at how students flow through (and out of) the American education system.

Of the sample, 92 percent had received a high school diploma by February 2016. Additionally, 72 percent of the 2009 ninth graders had enrolled in some form of post-high school education by February 2016. Postsecondary attendance was defined as including enrollment in an undergraduate degree or certificate program, as well as taking classes outside such a program.

The study showed a strong link between privilege and education. Students who went to a private high school were much more likely to go to college. About 80 percent of private school graduates went on to college by 2016, while 48.7 percent of public school students were enrolled in postsecondary education.

The study broke the students’ outcomes down by race, with clear trends (and advantages) emerging. Of the overall sample, 88.2 percent of those who identified as Asian went on to postsecondary education, compared to 75.7 percent of white ninth graders, 68 percent of Hispanic ninth graders and 64.7 percent of black ninth graders.

Nearly one-quarter of the 2009 ninth graders who initially enrolled in a postsecondary degree had dropped out as of February 2016. The reasons varied: nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said they withdrew from university due to a family situation; 40 percent said they left due to financial constraints; 24 percent attributed academia and 22 percent said work stopped their education.

postsecondary credentials

Those Who Had Not Enrolled

Those who had not enrolled at all in postsecondary education offered various reasons for this decision. The most common explanations — about 80 percent — were financial or personal. Nearly one-third of respondents said work prevented them from pursuing a tertiary degree, while 9 percent cited academics as a barrier.

Of the never-enrolled ninth graders, one-quarter were employed full-time, 11 percent had a part-time job, 8 percent were unemployed and another 6 percent were unemployed with no plans to find work.

Nearly one-third of respondents who hadn’t pursued post-high school education said their job was closely or somewhat related to what they expected to do at age 30. Another quarter didn’t think their job resembled their expected role at all.

A significant number of respondents without post-high school education reported experiencing issues to do with finances.

Three-fifths of the respondents worried about having enough money for day-to-day expenses like food, clothing, housing and transportation. This concern traversed race and ethnicity. Among those without college degrees who were employed, 39 percent had an income of $10,000 or less in 2015.


Indiana INTERNnet: My Experience With A Virtual Internship

Tech Talk: Catching Up on Some Conversations


Two of the focus areas of the Indiana Chamber’s EchoChamber podcast are education and technology. Both take center stage in the early months of 2018.

Two conversations – with Marian University President Dan Elsener and WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber – are available now. Three more to come feature Trine University President Earl Brooks (January 30), Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Bob Stutz (date to be scheduled) and South Bend’s Rich Carlton, president and COO of Data Realty (February 27).

Innovation is one of the themes that carries throughout these discussions. Elsener was greeted with a great deal of skepticism when he announced plans to start a medical school at the private Indianapolis university. Its first graduates came in 2017. That is among a variety of initiatives that has Marian well on the way to doubling in size by 2025.

WGU Indiana brought a new online, competency-based approach when it became the state’s eighth public university in 2010. It offers an avenue for working students (80% are employed full time) to advance their skills and earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Trine has expanded its academic and athletic offerings, with significant growth both geographically and in enrollment.

Stutz has touted Indiana’s tech environment since his arrival in 2016. Carlton is passionate about data management and community development. We know you will enjoy their insights and getting to know them a little better.

You can listen to all EchoChamber conversations online. Subscribe at iTunes, GooglePlay or wherever you get your podcasts to be notified about the latest episode. Also, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts.

These Students Are the ‘Major’ Switchers

(Published originally in Inside Higher Ed)

Almost a third of first-time college students choose a major and then change it at least once within three years, and students who started out in mathematics and the natural sciences are likelier than others to switch fields, federal data show.

The report from the National Center for Education Statistics, drawn from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, finds that 33 percent of bachelor’s degree pursuers who entered college in 2011-12 and 28 percent of students in associate degree programs had changed their major at least once by 2014. About one in 10 had changed majors twice.

Students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs were likelier than those in non-STEM fields (35 versus 29 percent) to change majors.

And students who started out studying math were likeliest of all: 52 percent of those who initially declared as math majors ended up majoring in something else, followed by 40 percent of those in the natural sciences, 37 percent in education, 36 percent in humanities disciplines and 32 percent in engineering and general studies.


What does it mean that math majors are likelier to leave their major than students in other fields? Given the marketplace demand for math majors (and students in other STEM fields), is it a problem that STEM majors are abandoning their majors at a greater rate than other students are?

Ed Venit, managing director of the student success collaborative at EAB, which published a study last year showing that students who changed majors graduate at a higher rate than those who don’t, said many students who plan to major in rigorous fields like math because they excelled in high school may find themselves “in a little over their head” in the college-level discipline.

Given employers’ strong demand for math majors and other students with strong quantitative skills, and by extension the desire among students to pursue such majors, it’s essential that educators seek ways to make those fields less off-putting to students – and not by reducing rigor, Venit said.

Michael Pearson, executive director of the Mathematical Association of America, acknowledged that math has sometimes been seen as a barrier to postsecondary success and that math educators were striving to improve instruction and the perceived relevance of the discipline.

But he noted that enrollments in math courses at all levels of education are up about 20 percent in the last five years, and said that the interest in graduates with strong quantitative skills was strengthening the “pervasiveness of mathematics.”

Pearson said he was inclined to attribute the large proportion of students leaving math for other fields more to the reality that college students “are exposed to new areas of study, like engineering, that don’t have nearly as much visibility in high school” than to a decision against math.

“I suspect they’re choosing to use their math skills in new ways,” he said.