Indiana’s K-12 Education Standards Debate — Nearly Settled

Monday is the day the State Board of Education votes on the draft K-12 academic standards. It’s the final hurdle in putting in place new standards for Indiana schools.

The origins of this standards debate were rooted in concerns about federal control. The Common Core academic standards, actually developed by governors and state superintendents, were viewed as a federal intrusion because President Obama and his Secretary of Education supported the standards – and they used federal “Race to the Top” grants to help entice states to adopt the standards.

Indiana selected the Common Core as its standards back in August of 2010  – a full four months after withdrawing from the Race to the Top grant competition. Nonetheless, federal intrusion theories took hold.

So just as the state Legislature mandated and Gov. Pence promised, a process was developed to assure – with absolute certainty – that Indiana had control over its standards. Indeed, no set of standards in Indiana’s history has ever engaged so many Hoosiers and provided for so much public input. They are Hoosier developed, Hoosier adopted and Hoosier controlled.

Ironically, those who pushed the hardest for this review process are now unhappy with the outcome. That’s because, as it turns out, Hoosier educators actually liked the Common Core standards (no surprise to us!) – even when compared to Indiana’s old standards and to other well-respected models.

So, yes, the new standards look a lot like Common Core. But it’s also important to note that Indiana’s old standards were a primary source in the development of Common Core, and Indiana policy leaders were actively involved in that development.  In reality then, the outcome of this review should come as no surprise to anyone.

In the end, Indiana’s new standards are consistent with the process that was demanded by some and promised by others; it has produced a set of standards that Hoosier educators have identified as the best standards for Indiana students. And wasn’t that the original goal of those who opposed Common Core in the first place?

Like it or not, Indiana has identified its own standards; we are adopting them voluntarily; and we have asserted and will maintain complete control over the future of those standards.

NOTE: On Monday, April 28, you can watch the State Board discuss and vote on the draft standards beginning at 9 a.m. EDT.

‘We are Surrounded by Snobs’

Why are we talking about “snobbery,” you ask? Because it’s a direct cause of “career anxiety,” according to philosopher Alain de Botton.

“A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are,” said de Botton during a 2009 TED talk.

And here’s the workforce relevancy: “The dominant form of snobbery these days is ‘job snobbery.’ You encounter it within minutes at a party when you get asked that famous, iconic question of the early 21st Century: ‘What do you do?’ And according to how you answer that question, people are either incredibly delighted to see you or look at their watches and make their excuses.”

De Botton makes the argument that never have expectations been so high to achieve in our careers. He says that often our views of success (ie. high status, lots of money, etc) are not our own.

With IndianaSkills.com, we are working to broaden the idea of career success and promote the value of middle-skill jobs. Our economy desperately needs workers in manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, information technology, the skilled trades, etc. These sectors are vitally important and they offer career stability and satisfaction.

Watch Alain de Botton’s full TED talk:

Avon High School Rocks the House

How about a little change of pace when it comes to a story about a school? Usually, it’s a lot of doom and gloom with school stories these days…school standards, budget cuts, failing schools, etc.

But, Avon High School just did something pretty cool when it got what appears to be the entire student body, teachers and administrators involved in an adorable pop music mash-up featuring a pretty diverse mix of the school in Hendricks County.

The Avon High School 2014 Lip Dub featured band and drama kids, sports teams from lacrosse to cheerleading and everything in between, to color guard and many others.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had to Google “lip dub.” Alas, I’m not a teenager any more. (No, wait. Thankfully, I’m not a teenager anymore.) Anyway, Wikipedia says it’s a “type of video that combines lip synching and audio dubbing to make a music video.” The other significant part of a lib dub is that these are often done in a single, unedited shot that usually travels through a number of rooms. Color me impressed.

What a fun way to boost school morale. Everyone in the video is happily participating. Sure, there’s probably a few broody kids in the back – this is high school, after all. But there were smiles, dancing and cheers all around. Kudos to Avon High School for giving us all a remembrance of what it’s like to be young and young at heart today!

Now, excuse me while I go plan an intricately choreographed lip dub featuring my daughter’s stuffed animals.

Vincennes University Working to Tackle Skills Gap

Our team recently had the opportunity to visit Vincennes University (VU). We spoke with their administration about the work they do to prepare students for today’s high-demand jobs.

We toured their campus, including a visit to the impressive Red Skelton Performing Arts Center. We also walked through the Indiana Center for Applied Technology, which had several labs with technical equipment used by manufacturing companies for students to train. Some of the machines were “welding robots,” and each was given a human name. Vice President Dave Tucker said that, while machines exist to ease human labor (welding in particular is difficult on the body), there is still a need for skilled engineers and mathematicians to program the robots.

We also toured Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMMI) in Princeton, IN. VU has a partnership with TMMI called the Toyota Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (AMT). The program includes a two-year degree in Computer Integrated Manufacturing: Robotics that combines cutting-edge curriculum and paid working experience, along with learning highly sought-after business principles and best practices of a world-class manufacturer. Their giant robots were affectionately named “Godzilla!”

 

Complete College on Time with 15 Credits Per Semester

On-time graduation rates at public Indiana colleges and universities are staggeringly low. Only one in 10 students at two-year colleges finish a degree on time, and only three in 10 students finish a four-year degree on time, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s 2014 College Completion Reports.

The reports provide a robust, comprehensive picture of student success at each public college and university in Indiana. They include data on transfer and part-time students and disaggregated data by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status to focus attention on persistent achievement gaps.

Statewide, there’s a 24-point completion gap at two-year colleges between the highest-performing racial/ethnic group and the lowest-performing group. At four-year colleges, the gap is 31 points. Additionally, less than 4% of Pell grant recipients graduate on time from two-year colleges. About 17% of students receiving this need-based grant graduate on time from four-year colleges.

Why do these low graduation rates matter? First, graduating on time yields greater returns for students by lowering their cost per degree. The estimated cost of an additional year of schooling to a student is $50,000 in tuition, fees and lost potential income. What’s more: Indiana college graduates borrow over $27,000 for a four-year degree. As loan default rates rise, so does the importance of cutting college costs. The surest way to lower a student’s cost per degree is to finish sooner.

Second, institutions and the state bear significant costs for extra semesters as well, in lost productivity and additional financial aid awards. According to the College Completion Reports, four-year schools spend about $62,000 for each degree produced. About 30% of students don’t complete a four-year degree within eight years, adding to productivity losses for institutions.

Of course, for many students who are working or raising families, attending part-time may be the best option. Unfortunately, as students take additional semesters and hit state and federal financial aid limits, their probability of completing the degree declines. In fact, full-time students are six times more likely to graduate with a four-year degree than part-time students. And students who invest in their education but do not receive a diploma bear the greatest lost, reaping nearly zero return on their investment, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s Return on Investment Reports.

Fortunately, the state has made great strides on both policy and institutional levels to improve completion rates. For instance, thanks to recent reforms, state financial aid now funds completed credits rather than attempted credits to incentivize completion.

Additionally, credit creep legislation cut the number of credits per degree to 120 for four-year degrees and 60 for two-year degrees. This means students who take 15 credit hours per semester set themselves up to finish on time.

As we work to combat student loan default rates and the rising costs of college, we must continue to ask how we can use dollars more efficiently. Tackling graduation rates, and ensuring those who invest in their education complete it in the shortest time possible, is imperative to minimizing those costs.

To read institution-specific data in the 2014 College Completion Reports, visit the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s web site.

Hannah Rozow is a senior at Indiana University – Bloomington and a student representative on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

GUEST BLOG: Poverty, Inequality and Opportunity

New national research reveals that America is still a land of opportunity, but many Indiana communities rank poorly in fostering upward economic mobility for children and youth.

According to Harvard University’s Equality of Opportunity Project, despite a growing income gap between wealthy Americans and the rest of the country, the prospects of moving up the economic ladder are at least the same and even a little better today compared with 1971.

After examining changes in income over time for 40 million children and their parents, the Harvard researchers concluded, “Contrary to the popular perception, measures of (economic) mobility have remained extremely stable. If anything mobility may have increased slightly. The rungs of the ladder have grown further apart, but children’s chances of climbing from lower to higher rungs have not changed.”

However, economic advancement is not equal in all places. The Harvard study divides the United States into 741 regions and ranks those regions on the likelihood of a child moving from the bottom fifth of income into the top fifth. Of the 17 regions in Indiana, only five – including cities such as Vincennes, Greensburg, Madison, Wabash and Lafayette – are above the national median.

More concerning, four Hoosier regions – including cities such as South Bend, Muncie, Richmond and Indianapolis – rank in the bottom fourth in the country. In fact, among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, children raised in the Indianapolis region have the fifth worst likelihood of improving economically.

Yet, people move to Central Indiana for jobs in life sciences, technology, health care, higher education, advanced manufacturing and logistics. So how can the region that includes the state’s capital city fare so poorly in comparisons of economic mobility?

“There’s an important distinction between kids who grow up in an area and kids who move to an area to find a job,” explained Sarah Abraham, a senior researcher in the Harvard study. “When we’re talking about (the Indianapolis region) being a place of low mobility, we’re talking about the kids who are born and raised in those school systems and in that environment.”

Quality K-12 education is essential, as is additional education after high school. Without discounting the importance of the other factors, Raj Chetty who leads the Harvard project and his colleagues place priority on raising educational outcomes to improve economic results – starting at the earliest grades.

“There’s an incredibly powerful relationship between kindergarten test scores and earnings 20 to 25 years later,” Chetty told the World Bank. “If we can figure out (how to help more of our youngest students succeed academically), we can potentially have really big effects on children’s success.”

Bill Stanczykiewicz is President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. He can be reached at iyi@iyi.org.

A Good Focus: Highland High School’s Parent University

Our Ready Indiana staff recently traveled to Highland High School (Lake County) to talk with parents about their children’s options post-graduation. We were so impressed the Highland guidance team brought parents in to listen to experts on different school, graduation and post-graduation topics. Sometimes we forget that students spend much more time at home than at school — and parents play a major role in students’ decisions!

In our session, we defined “middle-skill” jobs and discussed statistics showing those jobs are most in-demand in Indiana right now. We demoed www.IndianaSkills.com and also discussed the Technical Honors Diploma. We were pleased with the interest parents had in learning about ALL the options their student has during and after high school.

We hope high schools that don’t have a similar program in place consider reaching out to parents with this information so they can help their student make informed post-graduation choices.

$1.3 Billion Available to Help Communities Advance Manufacturing

The following is a release from the U.S. Office of the Federal Register:

Indiana is a manufacturing state. Now, there is federal assistance available to communities to support economic development strategies to expand manufacturing.

The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) is a federal initiative designed to cultivate an environment for businesses to create well-paying manufacturing jobs in regions across the country, thereby accelerating the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing. IMCP rewards communities that employ best practices to attract and expand manufacturing through planning their economic development in concert with local government, business, universities, and other stakeholders. Such efforts also build on local assets and align investments to local industry needs, such as capital, workforce education, infrastructure and research.

To date, IMCP has awarded 44 communities a total of $7 million to support the creation of economic development strategies. In the newly opened second phase, communities will be able to compete for some $1.3 billion in federal dollars, and assistance from 10 cabinet departments and agencies. In addition, communities will have access to a playbook of federal economic development resources and a new data tool for assessing their manufacturing strengths. An announcement of the competition was released in December as were a Federal Register Notice, resource playbook, and data tools. Please note that, while the announcement indicates a March 14, 2014 deadline for applications, that deadline is no longer accurate and is in the process of being revised.

Learn more online.

Fighting Back Against Childhood Obesity

You’ve heard the statistics more than once: Indiana is one of the unhealthiest states in the country. In the 2013 report “F as in FAT,” our state was ranked the eighth most obese state in the nation.

Through the Wellness Council of Indiana and our own Chamber-driven efforts to get Indiana into better shape (not only economically, but also through health and wellness efforts), we talk a lot about workplace wellness and the opportunity that employers have through encouraging healthy behaviors at work.

But, we have a bigger problem than that, and it starts much earlier than working age. Childhood obesity is an epidemic not only in Indiana, but around the world. The Wall Street Journal just reported that bariatric surgery is increasingly being used as a solution to curb life-threatening obesity in children, and even toddlers, in countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Locally, a recent article in The Indianapolis Star told the story about a 14-year-old freshman named Eric, who attends Franklin Community High School. The 510-pound boy was too large for desks and chairs at the school and was increasingly withdrawn from his classmates, many of whom teased the boy for his girth.

But one teacher pulled him aside and asked what was going on. It turned out the child had lost his father and then broken his leg, leading to surgeries and sedentary living – two crushing factors that contributed to his weight gain.

The teacher reached out to an upperclassman to begin working with the boy; his classmates and other staff members also became involved and began influencing a healthy lifestyle of walking and exercise and good nutrition.

The Star reports that the story has gained national attention, and an H.H. Gregg executive is donating a treadmill and exercise equipment to the school. Even Subway spokesman Jared Fogle (famous for dropping a serious amount of weight through eating healthy Subway sandwiches and walking) has contacted the teachers involved to speak to classes at the school.  A local hospital has offered to teach Eric’s family about healthy nutrition and cooking.

While this is just one story out of many relating to childhood obesity, it is an important example of how positive, lasting change can occur – through education and support from parents, peers,  schools, communities and even businesses.

By making this everyone’s responsibility and encouraging our youngest citizens to become healthy adults, we have a real opportunity to curb this growing problem.

What can you do to help support this change?

Education: Common Core, Career-Ready Standards Debates to Heat Up

(Above) Chamber Vice President Derek Redelman discusses the status of the state’s Common Core academic standards.

Additionally, the following is Redelman’s analysis of SB 91 (authored by Sen. Scott Schneider) on education standards:

As amended, SB 91 re-establishes guidelines for the review and adoption of state standards that is currently underway at the State Board of Education and is expected to be completed prior to July 1. It voids current state standards (Common Core) on July 1. It also eliminates restrictions on the State Board of Education in the development of a new state assessment system to be aligned with the new state standards, and requires the assessment plan developed by the State Board to be reviewed by the State Budget Committee.

Chamber Position: Neutral

Status: Amended and passed by the House Education Committee; now eligible for consideration by the full House.

Update/Chamber Action: As reported here previously, this bill does little other than allowing the standards review, currently ongoing with the State Board of Education, to continue. Yet, the continued rhetoric of Common Core opponents – suggesting for unexplained reasons that this bill somehow bans Common Core in Indiana – is likely a precursor of much more debate to come.

That debate now shifts to the draft math and English standards that were released this week and will now be the subject of public hearings, a month-long public comment period and likely more.

The Indiana Chamber is conducting a review of the draft standards and will share the results in coming days. As many people have anticipated, the draft standards contain a lot of components that are identical to Indiana’s current standards, which are the Common Core State Standards.

Opponents of the Common Core, including Sen. Schneider, have spent much of the last two weeks pronouncing that such an outcome would be an “outrage” and “unacceptable.” They’ve even spent time reviewing the credentials of those involved with the current review and have suggested that too many of these standards and curriculum experts have already shown support for Common Core.

Meanwhile, the closest that Common Core opponents have come to suggesting alternative standards has been their stated preference for Indiana’s 2009 standards, which were drafted but never adopted.

The incredible irony of that position is that Indiana’s 2009 draft standards were used as a primary model in the development of the Common Core State Standards. So if Common Core opponents continue to insist that the new standards cannot look in any way like Common Core, then it will also be impossible for the standards to look like Indiana’s 2009 standards, which Common Core opponents have touted!

But alas, this has been the nature of Indiana’s Common Core debates to date; all indications of the last two weeks suggest that those debates will continue with intensity throughout the next month. Public hearings on the draft standards will occur Monday in Sellersburg, Tuesday in Indianapolis and Wednesday in Plymouth. Online public comment will also continue through mid-March. And if all goes as planned, then the State Board of Education will be presented with new standards to adopt at its April meeting. We certainly look forward to the approach of that long-awaited conclusion – yet we know full well that there is much more still to come in these debates.