On the Beat in Bluffton

Friday, November 4, 2011

What kind of schools receive vouchers?

The Indiana Department of Education recently released how many students used vouchers, allowed after legislators passed a law this year, to help pay for tuition to attend private schools.
Five students from Wells County used the vouchers this year, though data was not available showing where they went.

However, they had to attend a private school that qualified to receive students with vouchers. The state has a list of requirements schools must meet to qualify. Some of those are listed below; for a complete list of the requirements, click here.

To learn more about where the Wells County students attended last year and how much it could cost a local school district this year, see the Friday, Nov. 4, News-Banner.

The following comes from the Department of Education:

1) What are the basic conditions/requirements if my school is considering participation in the Choice Scholarship Program?  
To be approved as an “eligible school,” the school must meet seven basic conditions:
  • Be located in Indiana; 
  • Require an eligible student to pay tuition or transfer tuition to attend;
  • Voluntarily agree to enroll the eligible student; 
  • Be accredited by either the State Board or a national or regional accreditation agency that is recognized by the State Board; 
  • Administer the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) program (for a high school, administer End-of-Course Assessments) to all students at the testing grade levels;
  • Not be a charter school or the school corporation in which an eligible individual has legal settlement under IC 20-26-11; and 
  • Submit to the department data required for A-F grading (see question 28 below for more information about how schools are graded)
19) Does my school need to remove its religion classes and/or religious affiliation to qualify?  
No. The legislation is clear that the department may not use its implementation authority for the Choice Scholarship program to regulate or interfere with the religious mission of nonpublic schools.

21) What if we admit a student, receive the state payment, and determine later in the year that we must expel the student for academic, disciplinary or other reasons? 
The department will not interfere with your ability to run your school. However, you must notify the department immediately if a student does not finish the school year. The school‟s receipt of Choice Scholarship funding for the expelled student will be affected, depending on when the expulsion occurs.

28) What data will schools provide to the department for A-F ratings? 
The data used for A-F will include the following:
  • ISTEP scores (these scores will be considered both for student growth and student achievement) 
  • End-of-course test scores in Algebra 1, English 10 and Biology 1 
  • Graduation rates 
  • Student-level Advanced Placement scores; (this will require a signature on a standard waiver form that authorizes College Board to release this data to the department) 
  • Dual credits awarded 
  • Industry certifications for Career and Technical Education programs/pathways (provided to the Department of Education via the Indiana Department of Workforce Development) 
  • While not an explicit part of the A-F ratings, students who do not already have a state-issued Student Test Number (STN) must be assigned one as part of the Choice Scholarship program. The STN helps the state protect against duplicate state payments (both to public and nonpublic schools), improves test security, and allows tracking of student performance over time. Personally-identifiable information is used only to ensure that individual students do not have multiple STNs, and the process itself improves protection of privacy
 37) Will my school be bound by the new teacher evaluation requirements? What exactly will that entail? 
Yes, albeit not to the extent required of public schools under Senate Enrolled Act 1. Note also that this requirement takes effect for the 2012-2013 school year, and the requirements apply regardless of whether the student receives a tax credit scholarship, a Choice Scholarship, or both. The state budget legislation (House Enrolled Act 1001) includes the language making IC 20-28-11.5-4(a) and (b) in Senate Enrolled Act 1 apply to Choice Scholarship and tax credit scholarship schools. These schools will be required to conduct annual performance evaluations of all individuals providing instruction to students, including principals. Participating schools are free to use the model evaluation tool being developed by the department and the State Board, the system for Teacher and Student Advancement (i.e. the TAP model), or the Peer Assistance & Review model. They may also develop their own local evaluation, and/or utilize master teachers in their building to conduct the evaluation. The department will include an assurance on the Choice Scholarship school application form (to the department) that this requirement will be fulfilled.

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