Focusing in on Student Engagement and Hope

tCareer readiness preparation begins long before a student makes it to college and begins pursuing internships to explore strengths and interests. It even begins before high school, when students are making postsecondary decisions.

Career readiness largely hinges on success students experience when they are much younger – even back to fifth grade!

The Gallup Student Poll (Fall 2015) measures four dimensions of student success – engagement, hope, entrepreneurial aspiration and career/financial literacy – and analyzes how those impact student behavior. The poll is administered to U.S. students, grades 5 – 12.

For example, students who are “engaged” and “hopeful” are 4.6 times more likely to say they do well in school than “actively disengaged” and “discouraged” students.

The aim of the Gallup Student Poll is to enable superintendents, principals and educators to take direct action based on the results to provide a more robust educational experience. This early action is critical in preparing students for college and the workforce.

One of the most interesting pieces of data from the poll relates to entrepreneurial aspirations. A staggering 42% of respondents indicate they plan to start their own business. However, these aspirations dwindle as students get older, especially for females, indicating that entrepreneurial aspirations should be identified and supported in middle school.

Of the respondents, 50% were “engaged,” 29% were not engaged and 21% were actively disengaged, meaning they are totally disconnected from the learning environment.

The data finds that engagement is different across the age groups. As you go up by grade, engagement goes down. For example, 75% of fifth graders are engaged at school, while 33% of 10th graders are engaged at school.

This suggests students are not getting the needed mentorship as they go through school and are not receiving praise and recognition.

  • 48% of students are hopeful
  • 34% of students are stuck
  • 18% of students are discouraged

When students know what they do best and have opportunities to develop their strengths, they are more motivated and enthusiastic about learning and are more likely to be engaged at school. High engagement in primary and secondary school, especially a focus on “hope” (defined as ideas and energy students have for the future), can only improve postsecondary and career outcomes.

The 2016 Legislative Session: Some Noteworthy Shots Made

Silhouette of Teen Boy Shooting a Basketball at Sunset, copy space

With the NCAA basketball tournament in full swing and baseball season just around the corner, slam dunks and grand slams are both center stage. Neither of those terms, however, can be used to describe the 2016 Indiana General Assembly session. We’ll have to settle for a solid jump shot or maybe a line drive double in the gap.

The number one priority for the Indiana Chamber and its business members was enhanced funding for roads and transportation infrastructure. A total of $1.1 billion, when counting money for local governments, is a strong start. What’s even more important is the commitment legislators made to address longer-term needs in the 2017 budget-writing session.

All four legislative caucuses and the governor’s office offered plans and spent considerable time working toward solutions. That is an excellent sign of even better things to come. In the education arena, the disastrous ISTEP test implementation in recent years led to several needed pieces of legislation. Teachers and schools will not be negatively impacted by the 2014-2015 test results, but all-important accountability remains in place and a summer panel – with the Indiana Chamber at the table – will determine a more suitable testing future for our state’s students.

Other positive legislative results included funding the third Regional Cities program, scholarships for prospective top-of-their-class teachers, a long-sought solution to the unregulated lawsuit lending industry and saving hundreds of millions of dollars with more appropriate property tax assessments of large retail facilities (aka “big box” stores).
Unfortunately, there were also two significant missed opportunities. Indiana must be seen as a welcoming place for all in order to retain and recruit top talent, new business investment and tourism. Failing to pass civil rights legislation doesn’t put Indiana in the strong position it could have been, or arguably needs to be. While this proved a bridge too
far for legislators to cross in this election year, all of our state leaders must find a way going forward to work together to craft a solution.

Despite bipartisan support, implementing a work share program barely even got out of the starting gate. Work share would benefit employees, employers and communities when the next economic downturn occurs. At the request of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the Indiana Chamber partnered with them to commission an independent study of why a work share program is needed. The Chamber also took the extra step of identifying viable funding options for the program’s administration. However, DWD still was unable to get on board. Until they do, this policy will, unfortunately, face an uphill climb.

If these last two items had been added to the plus column, we might just be talking slam dunks and grand slams. Still, there will be another game in town next year, and the Chamber will be back at it – pushing these policies and others that support making Indiana a more prosperous place for employers and their employees.

Read further analysis from Brinegar on several of these issues in this summary

Internship Gets IUPUI Senior International Experience in Dentistry

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Nicole Quint is a senior at IUPUI studying chemistry. She plans to apply to dental school this summer. This post originally appeared on the Indiana INTERNnet blog.

quint pic tallIndiana INTERNnet: How did your mission trip to Panama solidify your interest in becoming a dentist?

Nicole Quint: When I went to Panama last August, I was able to see how challenging and rewarding the profession of dentistry can be. Not only did I recognize the joy in the eyes of community members after they had their painful teeth removed, but I was able to see the strong impact a dentist has on the community. People may think that dentistry is a silly profession, but when you have witnessed a person that is completely malnourished because their teeth are giving them so much pain they are unable to eat, it is thought otherwise. I have seen the good, bad and ugly side of dentistry, and I still can’t wait to enter dental school and become a strong leader in the community.

IIN: What has your research focused on in the IUPUI Life-Health Sciences Internship?

NQ: My research consisted of analyzing oral bacterial that are known to create cavities called Streptococcus mutans. I treated the bacteria with various dilutions of nicotine and then analyzed the results. The hypothesis of my research was: those who smoke increase their chance of containing a higher amount of oral bacteria, causing an increase in the amount of cavities and leaving the patient with a higher chance of the serious heart disease known as atherosclerosis. All because oral bacteria have the opportunity to thrive in nicotine, then make their way into the blood system, and bind to the walls of arteries potentially reducing blood flow to the heart. Overall my research has taught me that it is just as important to have good oral hygiene as it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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IIN: You frequently presented your work, even at IUPUI Research Day and at the annual meeting of the Indiana Branch of the American Society for Microbiology. How were those experiences?

NQ: While presenting my research at both events, I had multiple people come up to me who were interested in my research. I was able to share with them the importance of good oral hygiene. It was my first time ever presenting my research when I attended the Indiana Branch of the American Society for Microbiology annual research conference, so I was quite nervous. However, I was able to prove to myself that I was confident in my work by proudly presenting my research again at the IUPUI Research Day.

IIN: You’ve completed more than 100 hours of community service during your undergrad at IUPUI. Why is community service so important to you?

NQ: One of the main reasons I like to donate my time is because it has such a strong value to the community. I also find joy in seeing what an impact I have made around the community. For example, when I volunteered with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, I spent five hours one day cleaning up the streets. I had a lady come up that thanked me because she no longer had to worry about her children cutting their hands on broken glass that was in the streets. It’s small moments like that one that encourage me to continue to volunteer.

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Bill to Boost Teacher Pay Dies

96631972Due to significant misinformation from the teacher’s unions and lack of support in the Senate and Governor’s office, Chamber-supported SB 10 died in the House Thursday when it was not called for a vote.

Senate Bill 10 would have allowed school corporations to provide supplemental funding in excess of a teacher’s salary; this would have been extremely helpful in filling high-need positions.

The Indiana Chamber has always supported paying good teachers more. Being able to give administrators the flexibility to provide additional funding on top of salaries is an important step toward recruiting teachers in areas such as STEM subjects and special education. We believe this flexibility would have helped add another incentive to assist with Indiana’s teacher shortage.

The Senate killed a similar provision in HB 1004 last week and Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) publicly asked House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) to follow suit. The Governor’s office also had tepid support for the bill. In the end, due to the significant concern that the bill might not be signed by the Governor, Bosma decided not to put his caucus through a difficult vote.

We are very disappointed that a pro-teacher, pro-superintendent flexibility bill was not able to pass the Legislature this session, but still thank Speaker Bosma for his overall assistance on HB 1004 and SB 10.

Mitch Daniels on the Future of Undergrad Education

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels doesn’t shy away from the challenges facing higher education. He embraces the opportunities and shares his insights in this one-on-one interview. Read our full interview in the latest edition of BizVoice (and the story includes a QR code link to more video of the Daniels interview). 

Chamber-Supported Teacher Benefit Bill Offers More Options for Teachers

96631972HB 1004 was heard in Senate Pensions and Labor Committee on Wednesday; it was amended and then passed 7-4 and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

The bill establishes the teacher’s defined contribution plan as an account within the Indiana state teachers’ retirement fund and specifies rules and regulations regarding the fund. It also provides that a school corporation may hire an individual to teach if the individual: (1) has a bachelor’s degree with at least a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in a content area related to the area in which the individual intends to teach; (2) has passed content area licensure assessments required by the Department of Education to teach in the area in which the applicant intends to teach; and (3) has a valid teaching license in another state; provides that the individual is considered a certificated employee; provides that a school corporation may provide a supplemental payment in excess of the salary specified in the school corporation’s compensation plan to a teacher who is, or will be, employed in a position that is difficult to fill by the school corporation; and incorporates some recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission regarding solutions to a teacher shortage.

An amendment was adopted to include some recommendations from the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Blue Ribbon Commission. Another amendment was defeated that would require the supplemental pay provision to be subject to collective bargaining

The Chamber is in favor of giving teachers a choice when it comes to their benefit plans and therefore supports the idea of having the option of a defined contribution plan for teachers. We believe that providing teachers with more options and choices in retirement benefits will be a strong incentive and a perk of entering the profession. It will also leave them with more options if, down the road, they choose to move to a different school district or leave the profession.

We also believe that allowing reciprocity of teaching licenses from out of state will provide an opportunity to address any potential teacher shortage issues in Indiana. It’s another motivation for teachers to relocate here.

Lastly, the Chamber strongly supports the language in the bill that would allow for school corporations to provide additional salary flexibility for high-need positions. The Indiana Chamber has always supported rewarding good teachers for the important job they do. Giving administrators the ability to offer additional payment beyond the standard salary is an important step toward recruiting the teachers we need.

All three provisions in this legislation help elevate the teaching profession and assist with potential teacher shortage issues.

Indiana Chamber Outlines Priorities for School Testing Reform

19173605In testimony this week, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce began outlining its priorities for school testing reform. Caryl Auslander, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of education and workforce development policy, expands on some of her remarks:

Pause school accountability for one year only:

“The Indiana Chamber fully supports a one-year pause in school accountability due to the many missteps in the latest ISTEP testing cycle. Teachers should still be subject to the important classroom and other evaluations that take place, but not have test scores used for that purpose for this one year.

“With a new test administrator in place going forward, our hope is that the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) will work very closely with them to ensure that the test is administered accurately and that scores are finalized and reported in an appropriate timeframe (i.e., by the end of August). Many of the ISTEP issues can be traced to past vendor-DOE relations; those need to improve and DOE needs to take a more aggressive role in ensuring deadlines and expectations are met.

“We urge legislators to resist any efforts to lessen our overall accountability process. Accountability measures for schools, teachers and students are critical. They allow us to accurately predict student progress, rate teacher effectiveness and compare and contrast school performance relative to state and national peers. We have to be able to grade ourselves.”

Rescore of current data necessary:

“If we are pausing accountability for the schools, it is important to keep the unadjusted scores/data as a baseline for growth measurement next year. That means it’s essential for the scores to be correct and trusted. And the only way that can be accomplished is through a rescore of the exams by an independent third party.”

Rebrand test; no need to start process over:

“We have new, more rigorous academic standards and the new assessment exam to go along with them. There is no need to spend more of the state’s money to change the assessment. The length of this test or any test is something DOE can and should address with the new test vendor.

“The new test was labeled ISTEP out of a sense of continuity. Let’s rebrand the test to reflect that it is indeed new and simply work to ensure future tests are executed properly and timely. That’s all that needs to happen.”

ESSA Passes Final Hurdles, Signed by Pres. Obama

36107229Last week, the Senate passed and President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – sweeping education legislation that replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Most notably, this legislation sends significant power back to the states and local districts, while still maintaining some limited federal oversight over policies.

NCLB created a national system that judged schools based on math and reading scores, and had significant requirements to raise test scores every year or face significant penalties. ESSA, on the other hand, shifts power to the states and locals while providing flexibility. This legislation seeks to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education and close student achievement gaps.

Still, this legislation is not perfect by any means. We wish stronger accountability measures were included, but in the spirit of compromise and collaboration, it is a strong step forward in ensuring a balance between federal, state and local governments. It has an emphasis on challenging academic standards and accompanying assessments and accountability plans; it also institutes changes to funding for innovative programs – including Preschool Development Grants, a competitive one-year grant program to develop, update or implement a strategic plan that facilitates and improves coordination, quality and access for early childhood education, which will now be administered jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and U.S. Department of Education.

A special thank you to Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer for their tireless work on ESSA while sitting on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Indiana Chamber Unveils Our Top Six Legislative Priorities for 2016

statehouse picTransportation infrastructure funding, reverse credit transfer to the state’s accredited two-year colleges and expansion of the state’s civil rights law are among the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s top priorities for the 2016 session.

These objectives were announced at the organization’s annual Central Indiana Legislative Preview in Indianapolis today.

The Indiana Chamber proposes an array of strategies to establish a sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, highways and bridges. These include dedicating more of the state’s sales tax on fuel purchases to infrastructure, increasing and indexing fuel excise taxes and implementing fees on alternative fuel vehicles.

“Indiana benefited greatly from the Major Moves program that accelerated our timeline and funded $4 billion worth of projects over the last decade. But those dollars are spent or allocated. It’s time to move forward with the next generation of resources to drive our economy by moving people and products throughout our state and beyond,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“Legislative action is needed in the coming session to address glaring needs and begin implementing long-term strategies to allow our state to live up to its ‘Crossroads of America’ designation.”

Brinegar concludes that the good news is that legislative leaders, the Governor and others are on the same page about the need; the challenge will be how to get there.

Higher education is also a focal point for the Indiana Chamber. One specific proposal the organization will be pushing for is a method to allow for more students to turn their existing college credits into a two-year degree. This would be accomplished by allowing specific credits earned at state-supported colleges and universities to be transferrable to Indiana’s accredited two-year schools, such as Ivy Tech and Vincennes. Credit is already generally transferrable from the two-year schools to their four-year counterparts.

“This would give students more opportunity for post-secondary attainment and then obviously help with employment,” Brinegar offers. “Specifically, it would help fill the gap for those individuals who first went to a four-year school but for whatever reason couldn’t continue. This would be a viable path for them to turn their efforts into a two-year degree and become more attractive to employers.”

Earlier this month, the Indiana Chamber announced its support for expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity, with Brinegar noting:

“The time has come for Indiana to expand protections against potential discrimination. This action will increase the state’s future business competitiveness in the recruitment, attraction and retention of talent, as well as enhance respect for all employers and employees. We encourage our state leaders to work together to take this next critical step.”

Another initiative the organization will again pursue is a work sharing program, which will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns and enable employees to keep their jobs but with reduced hours and salary (which is partially offset by unemployment insurance). This program has enjoyed support on both sides of the aisle the last few years, but has yet to cross the finish line.

“There is no negative impact on the state’s unemployment insurance fund. Instead of paying full benefits to a smaller group of recipients, a larger group of employees will receive limited benefits – but most importantly remain on the job,” Brinegar explains. “There is no reason not to enact a work share program to help meet future employee and employer needs. They deserve that option.”

The other two legislative priorities for the Indiana Chamber are maintaining a fair and equitable system for the state’s commercial property assessment and appeal procedures (in the face of recent “big box” retail stores’ appeals and reaction to that); and expanding publicly-funded preschool from the pilot program to statewide so more children are prepared to enter kindergarten.

A complete rundown of the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 key legislative initiatives (top priorities and additional areas of focus) is available at www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

Also at the legislative preview event, four state legislators were honored as Indiana Chamber Small Business Champions “for their hard work and dedication to improving Indiana’s small business climate.” This award is based on voting and advocacy during the 2015 legislative session.

The 2015 Small Business Champions are: Sen. Rodric Bray from Martinsville, District #37; Sen. Carlin Yoder from Middlebury, District #12; Rep. David Ober from Albion, District #82; and Rep. John Price from Greenwood, District #47.

Recap of the Indiana Chamber’s Top 6 legislative priorities:

  • Support an array of strategies to establish a sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, highways and bridges
  • Support specific credit transfer from Indiana’s four-year, state-supported institutions to the state’s accredited two-year colleges
  • Support expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Support a work sharing program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns
  • Support maintaining a fair and equitable system for the state’s commercial property assessment and appeal procedures
  • Support the development of publicly-funded preschool initiatives statewide

Student Scores: ISTEP and ‘National Report Card’

The Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE) met last month with the plan to set cut scores and finalize ISTEP grades from the 2014-2015 school year. As a reminder, setting cut scores is done by a panel of educators that determines the passing score for that year’s test. However, during that meeting, questions were raised regarding the differences between the online and paper-pencil versions of the exam. This was identified in a report submitted to the Indiana Department of Education in early October – yet that report was not provided to the test’s Technical Advisory Committee or the SBOE until right before the meeting. The SBOE then requested a comparison study done by its own test experts to determine any discrepancies. Sarah O’Brien, vice chair of the SBOE, had originally made this request back in July.

SBOE – after the comparison studies were in hand – set pass-fail benchmarks for the latest ISTEP scores. What’s anticipated is that a notable increase in students will see drops in their scores, with a portion falling below the pass line. While no one wants to see test scores go down, it is explainable as students and teachers were adjusting to the new, more rigorous academic standards and a new assessment that were adopted for the same school year. In other words, this drop is expected, and many other states have experienced similar decreases. In fact, Indiana’s scores were either on par or higher than other states that have recently adopted new standards and/or a new assessment. While the news of dropping ISTEP scores is disappointing, it is important to note that the changes to the standards will benefit students as they will be more prepared for college and career in the future. The Indiana Chamber appreciates all of the hard work of Indiana teachers and students.

Due to this somewhat turbulent transition year, Gov. Pence released a letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and SBOE members recently stating that he is working with leadership in the Indiana General Assembly to have legislation drafted to ensure that the 2014-2015 test results would not negatively impact teacher evaluations or performance bonuses this year. The Chamber has a longstanding policy to support accountability and transparency for students and teachers but understands that unforeseen circumstances with ISTEP delays and testing issues would allow the need for this pause.

Positive news:

The recently-released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores – aka a “National Report Card” – shows that Indiana is achieving more than other states in all four categories:

  • Fourth grade math: Indiana 248; national average 240
  • Eighth grade math: 287; 281
  • Fourth grade reading: 227; 221
  • Eighth grade reading: 268; 264

Indiana is actually widening its advantage over other states. We commend our teachers and school administrators for their important role in helping our students reach these higher levels of achievement.

While our ISTEP scores are lower as expected, these NAEP scores reinforce that our students are achieving at a higher overall level than many of their counterparts. We expect that to accelerate going forward with the enhanced college and career ready standards in place.