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.
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.
The Ellettsville Plan Commission agreed it is time to revisit the possibility of requiring permits for yard sales during their meeting on November 6th. The commission has addressed this issue in the past when concerns regarding health code came up regarding a resident who operates a weekly yard sale and keeps items in his yard during the week. Planning department administrator Denise Line said she looked for guidance from Indiana Code but nothing specified a limit to how long a yard sale can last.
The commission put the issue on their agenda for their next meeting, December 4th, though they said they’d come to a standstill with the issue in the past.
The commission also gave the go ahead for a development on a property that had formally been designated a sinkhole.
The property was surveyed again in 2005 and 2014 and both times classified as inactive. Commission member Dan Swafford asked if the commission could be held liable if the sinkhole causes property damage in the future.
The sinkhole easement adjustment was unanimously approved.
The city of Bloomington is planning to install a new stop light on West Bloomfield Road. Matt Smethurst, an engineering field specialist for the city, told the Board of Public Works about the project at a meeting November 18th. He says the new stop light will improve access to the recreation center, and the construction will allow for some utility relocation.
The Board approved a $3,000 contract with James Stanger Excavating to remove the sidewalk and the tree.
The city council heard from street vendors and restaurateurs during their meeting last night about a proposed ordinance that would address the growing street-food sector of Bloomington. Jason Carnes assistant director of economic sustainable development described some of the changes in an early presentation of this ordinance to the board of public works meeting over the summer. He says that the ordinance will be split to food trucks, push carts, and solicitors. The separation is intended to help streamline the process.
Councilmember Steve Volan said that last nights meeting was cordial, and everyone agreed that the ordinance needs an update, but that details still need to be worked out to balance the varying interests of food vendors. He related the experience to his past experience with the local food market.
A vocal vote on the ordinance showed the council in favor of the proposal 4 to one – two members were absent.
- A portion of the city’s B-Line trail will be closed Monday, November 24 to all pedestrian and bicycle traffic for the entire day. According to Dave Williams, Operations and Development Director of the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, this closing of the B-Line between 4th Street and Kirkwood Avenue will allow for replacement of paver stones on the trail. Repairs are weather dependent, but weather forecasts are favorable and the work should be completed by Monday evening.
- Republican Kelly Mitchell was sworn in as Indiana State Treasurer yesterday. Earlier this month she was elected to a four-year term which starts in January, but she has been appointed by Governor Pence to start the position early because the previously elected treasurer, Richard Mourdock, resigned last August. Until yesterday, Daniel Huge has was serving as interim Treasurer. Mitchell’s previous experience includes six years working in the Treasurer’s Office as director of the investment fund TrustINdiana. According to a press release from the State Office, Mitchell said, “From protecting and investing our tax dollars, to raising financial literacy, to helping Hoosier families save for postsecondary education, we have a lot of work to do in the Treasurer’s office. I can’t wait to get started.”
- Indiana will soon have a new Deputy Secretary of State. Davey Neal has resigned as of December 11. But he won’t be straying too far from the Statehouse. He is taking a job at Clark Quinn, an Indianapolis law firm that lobbies the state government on behalf of businesses. He will be President of Clark Quinn Public Affairs and an attorney with the firm. Secretary of State Connie Lawson will appoint Brandon Clifton to replace Neal as Deputy Secretary of State and chief of staff, according to a press release from her office. Clifton has previously served as Deputy General Counsel at the Indiana Department of Administration and he also spent time working with the Indiana Department of Education as a staff attorney and policy advisor. Clifton will start his new position on December 1st.
- The Indiana State Police will conduct a Sobriety Check Point operation somewhere in Monroe County this Friday night, November 21st. In a press release, State Police announced that drivers should be able to produce their driver’s license and vehicle registrations if stopped, and should plan ahead if they intend to consume alcoholic beverages. Such plans might include using a designated driver, calling a taxi, offering non-alcoholic beverages at events, or refusing to let friends drive while impaired. Troopers also ask for the public’s cooperation in reporting erratic driving with a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel. The Sobriety Check Point operation is designed to apprehend impaired drivers, deter others from drinking and driving, and make Indiana roadways safer for everyone.
Indiana University School of Medicine researchers released a study earlier this week discussing inconsistencies in patient and doctor communication. The study compared physician counseling sessions in cases of babies born prematurely at only 22 to 25 weeks. Analyzing the difference in counsel between obstetricians and neonatologists, the researchers found numerical inconsistencies and conflicting terminology, according to a recent IU press release. The report states that better and more standardized communication is needed between pregnant patients and counseling physicians. The report also relates to the greater issue of infant mortality in Indiana. Study author Dr. Tucker Edmonds said the research does not suggest that infant mortality rates are increased by poor communication, but better communication could improve overall quality of care for pregnant women.
Dr. Edmonds also has an interest in overall public health and improving the many factors, including education and communication, that could lead to lowered infant mortality rates.
National health rankings from 2011 place Indiana as the 45th for the worst infant mortality rate in the country. Infant mortality rates refer to the number of infant deaths per thousand.
In response to the State’s relatively high infant mortality rates, the Indiana State Department of Health launched an annual Labor of Love summit. Last week the department hosted its second Labor of Love summit at the Indiana Convention Center, bringing together health professionals, providers and community members for a discussion on combating infant mortality. Infant mortality rates serve as an indicator of health status. The Indiana State Department of health lists birth defects, post-birth injuries and maternal complications as top reasons for infant mortality. Indiana also has the 20th highest national rate of unintended and teen pregnancies, according to a 2011 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services.