Researchers from Indiana University’s Center on Education and Lifelong Learning recently issued a policy brief from a comprehensive survey of current Indiana educators regarding their beliefs about teacher evaluations and their confidence in the evaluation process. The survey addressed the measurement of student growth and achievement, the new teacher-evaluation legislation, and how changes in the teacher evaluation process have affected teaching and learning. Findings indicate that superintendents view the evaluation system more favorably and have more confidence in it than do the teachers they are evaluating. However, data gathered also suggest there is an opportunity to secure teacher support for meaningful change in policy and guidance. IU Center on Education researchers provided a variety of recommendations for meaningful changes. Suggestions include creating differentiated rating systems for district teacher evaluation plans that recognize plan quality, reviewing the methodology, using weights for student growth in the evaluation system; anchoring the weight and measure of student growth and teacher evaluation in research; and reviewing how evaluations are linked to compensation. Hardy Murphy, co-author of the research brief, described the primary goal of the research as QUOTE “a fairly comprehensive view of educator feelings about significant changes in teacher appraisal in the state of Indiana and the perceived impact upon teaching and learning in districts across the state.” Murphy says he hopes the Center’s findings will provide insights into the development of policy and legislation requiring changes in the evaluation of teachers.
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Beginning in January, the City of Bloomington and Bloomington Meadows Hospital will establish a new suicide support group for teens and children in the community involving free ongoing monthly meetings for community youth affected by suicide. City of Bloomington Health Projects Manager Nancy Woolery and Clinical Social Worker Peter Link of the Bloomington Meadows Hospital will collaborate to facilitate the group meetings. To address the needs of grieving local youth after recent suicides in Monroe County high schools and IU Bloomington, Woolery and Link attended a training in Indianapolis conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP. This training focused on teaching adults the skills to facilitate a peer grief support group for teens and children. Bloomington hosts a similar support group for adults in the community. Woolery, who also co-chairs the Monroe County Suicide Prevention Coalition, said that the youth support group will have a different approach than its adult counterpart.
The youth suicide bereavement support group is the first of its kind in Bloomington, and Woolery plans to meet with the AFSP again soon for further guidance. According the AFSP website, their organization works to address suicide stigmas through public education. Woolery said Bloomington group will also make an effort to create a space where suicide is not viewed with stigma.
Meetings for the free adult group “Survivors of Suicide” take place in the Monroe County Public Library every fourth Sunday of the month from 1 to 3 p.m. The exact dates and location for the youth support group have yet to be determined.
Secretary of State Connie Lawson released the official voter turnout report yesterday for the 2014 general election. Indiana’s turnout was 30 percent overall, but some counties such as Martin, Ohio, Perry, Pike and Spencer had at least a 48 percent turnout rate. Jay County was the only district with a turnout higher than 50 percent. Monroe County was one of the lowest in Indiana, with only 26 percent of registered voters casting a ballot. Although the low turnout was not unexpected, nationwide it was the lowest percentage turnout since World War II. Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins said that the turnout was low because people are growing more and more weary of politics.
Robbins also said that age groups played a big role in the turnout, and that 83 percent of the voters were over 45. She said that younger people don’t think their votes have the power to make a difference–but Robbins says that they do.
Robbins said that young people need to be more involved. And she thinks that it needs to start in schools.
Robbins thinks that political awareness needs to start before high school, and that schools should emphasize how students can be a part of community and government in history classes.
Even into her adult years, Robbins said that she felt passive toward the government. But after working in healthcare and learning about the unfairness of health insurance, she became interested in politics. Robbins made inquiries to all of the then-presidential hopefuls about their stances on healthcare. She received one response. It was from Barack Obama’s campaign. A few months later she received an invitation to help with the primary election in Iowa.
That was the first time she had been asked to participate, she said. And so she did. Robbins returned home and worked on elections, eventually running for her current position as County Clerk. Robbins said that she has higher hopes for voter turnout next year, when more high-profile races will take place. She said that she hopes political parties and candidates will work to involve young people in the election.
School Boards seem to have arisen alongside public schooling in general. In 1826 Massachusetts formally established the system of school committees by requiring each town to elect a separate school committee to have “the general charge and superintendence” of all the public schools of the town. Over time, this model spread to the rest of the nation, insuring that local citizens would have a direct voice in the development and governance of their public schools.
But groups like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) want to do away with the School Board; state legislatures across the country continue to take away the power of communities to educate their citizens requiring measures of success that do little to foster learning. How can a School Board fight back?
Ray Golarz is a former Indiana teacher and superintendent and co-author of the 2012 book The Problem Isn’t Teachers; he has been recognized especially for his pioneering work in implementing site-based shared decision-making. During his career he has served as a middle and high school teacher, administrator at various levels including superintendent, and has taught at St. Joseph’s College, Purdue University Calumet, Indiana University Northwest, and City University in Seattle.
Jenny Robinson is a parent with two children attending MCCSC schools, and a board member of the Monroe County branch of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education (or ICPE Monroe County).
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The Monroe County Public Library has been awarded the Indiana Library Federation Programming Award. The Indiana Library Federation is a member-driven organization that promotes the professional growth of Indiana libraries and is made up of librarians, library staff, administrators and trustees. According to an Federation’s press release, the Monroe County Public Library won the 2014 Programming Award for its successful, creative, and contemporary program efforts. In particular, the library’s programming during Disability Awareness Month during March, 2014 was the culmination of two years of focused efforts by library staff and others to better serve those in the community with disabilities as well as their families and received honorable mention. In the library’s 2015-2017 Strategic Plan the library pledged to improve services to the underserved disabilities audience. This was an effort conducted in partnership with the City of Bloomington,The Indiana University Center for Disabilities and Community, The IU Health Bloomington Hospital Children’s Therapy Center, StoneBelt ARC and local disability services agencies. A working group of library staff, approved by the library trustees, was established to conduct research, collect feedback and make recommendations as to how to expand the library’s capacity to serve patrons with disabilities. They addressed such issues as physical barriers to the library, creating a web page focused on disabilities services, and coordinating staff development on such issues.
The Monroe County Plan Commission held off on adopting new rules for rural areas at a meeting November 18th. As with previous meetings, the Commission heard complaints about the regulations from the public, mostly from local realtors. The issue was complicated by recent problems with the County’s website. Several speakers said they have not been able to access documents related to the ordinance. Commission member Ron Foster suggested what he called a roundtable discussion with concerned citizens.
Foster said, “We’ve had a lot of realtors and builders here. It seemed like there was still a lot of miscommunication between what they perceived and what is actually going on. They talked about a roundtable- and that we have another month’s. Can we get a round table either with some of us and staff, to sit down with them to work out the miscommunications? I think it’s embarrassing that people have been trying to get on the website for three weeks and they can’t even download their documents.”
The regulations would set limits on how rural property owners could subdivide their land. The goal, according to Commission members, is to prevent sprawling development. The rules would not apply to any of the municipalities in Monroe County or to the two-mile fringe around Bloomington. Greg Young, a farmer in Benton Township, asked the Commission not to impinge on his property rights.
Young said, “Let’s not let government get so big so that guys like me can’t do our quality of life. If you start tying my hands, one day I’m not going to sell it, I’m going to give it to my grandkids. They want to build a home on it, how many building lots in Monroe County don’t have a 15% slope or aren’t in a flood plane? Come on, people. Not many. Out of my 160 acres, I’ll get ten lots if I’m lucky. I have five grandchildren, and we’re not done yet. You never know, I might need more than ten. I respect all of your hard work, believe me, you’re looking out for Greg, but old Greg can get by without you, everybody.”
The Commission did not set a date for the roundtable discussion.
Kathleen Falk, the Regional Director for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services appointed by the Obama Administration in 2013, serves as the Midwest’s connection to the Affordable Care Act. She stopped through Bloomington today in an event hosted by Nancy Woolery, Health Projects coordinator for the City of Bloomington. Information about the open enrollment period here, in today’s community report.
United Way and City of Bloomington produced open enrollment assistance cards that will be going out to residents to help explain the affordable care act registration process.