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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Senate Bill 342, a new law that just wrapped up in the statehouse session, will require schools to use a more comprehensive search of potential teacher hires’ backgrounds and criminal histories.

Indiana State Sen. Aaron Freeman, the sponsor of the bill, joins News 8 to discuss the bill, when it will go into effect, and to explain the bill’s importance in protecting students.

Enjoy the full interview above to learn more.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Test scores in history and civics have declined slightly for eighth grade students in the U.S., according to results that show an increasing number of children lack a basic understanding of either subject.

The scores were released Wednesday by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The same assessment reported in October that every single state had seen a decline in math or reading scores amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest scores, officials said, reflect more of the impact of the disruptions from the virus that shuttered schools across the country.

At a time of some pessimism about the state of the U.S. democracy, the test results suggest many young people are struggling to understand how government works and the importance of civic participation. Nearly one-third of eighth grade students cannot describe the structure or function of government, according to the results.

Many U.S. schools aren’t doing enough to reverse the trend, history and civics educators say.

About 68% of eighth graders said they are taking classes mainly focused on U.S. history. That’s compared with 72% of students in 2018. And only about half of eighth graders report taking a class mainly focused on civics and or government, which remains mostly unchanged compared to 2018, according to the report.

“We’re not putting a value there, and we’re not saying this is something that they really need to be active, informed and engaged in as they grow,” said Kerry Sautner, chief learning officer at the National Constitution Center, a nonprofit organization in Pennsylvania.

The CivXNow Coalition, a civics education advocacy group, reported last year that 38 states require a stand-alone civics course to graduate high school and only seven states require civics in middle school.

Patrick Kelly, a government teacher in South Carolina, said he has seen a growing emphasis on ensuring students are doing well in reading and math, and rightfully so.

“But every minute that you redirect to one place, it’s got to come from somewhere else. And so if literacy interventions don’t have a connection to social studies, then we lose ground in social studies instruction,” he said.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as the “nation’s report card” — tested about 7,800 students across the country in civics, and 8,000 students in U.S. history between January and March 2022. The test had last been given in 2018.

On a point scale of 0 to 500, the average U.S. history score dropped 5 points to 258, continuing a downward trend that began in 2014. Just 13% of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level. The latest average score was one point lower than the results of the first U.S. history assessment in 1994.

In civics, the average score dropped 2 points to 150 between 2018 and 2022. Just 22% of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level. The results, which are on a point scale of 0 to 300, are the first drop since 1998. The average score at its highest was 154 in 2014.

The civics test included open-ended questions that asked, for example, for students to name one advantage of having the government operate programs to provide for the needs of people, and to describe a way that political candidates use technology during political campaigns.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the scores highlight a need to provide more opportunities to learn about America’s history and government.

“Banning history books and censoring educators from teaching these important subjects does our students a disservice and will move America in the wrong direction,” Cardona said, referring to conservative efforts to impose new restrictions on how topics related to race and gender are taught.

According to the results, 40% of eighth grade students are performing below basic proficiency in history, meaning they likely cannot identify simple historical concepts in primary or secondary sources. Thirty-one percent are performing below basic proficiency in civics.

Data journalist Sharon Lurye contributed reporting from New Orleans. The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corp. of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Treasured Teachers: Mrs. Carter from Perry Township

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Teachers in Indiana work hard. It’s one of the biggest understatements you can say but every year some districts see a drop in teacher retention, stagnating salaries and wonderful educators leaving the calling to use their skills in another industry. 

Thursday on Daybreak, reporter Brenna Donnelly sought to honor one excellent local teacher for being exactly that, an excellent, treasured teacher. 

She didn’t have to travel far; she found Mrs. Kerri Carter in a first-grade classroom inside Douglas McArthur Elementary School in Perry Township. 

“Mrs. Carter is all heart for the kids,” said fellow first-grade teacher Angie Merder. “She is loving. She cares about them as a person.” 

Our news crew went to Douglas McArthur Elementary to learn what we could about Mrs. Carter without her knowing. We met with her class in the library and got to hear from fellow teachers and students about what makes Mrs. Carter such an impactful teacher. 

“I just want to read this to Mrs. Carter,” said Adrian, one of her students, as he held a hand-written nomination letter in his hands. “Mrs. Carter is the best.” 

“First she helps me,” said another student, reading off her paper. 

“She is nice and she helps me with math,” smiled another. 

“I think Mrs. Carter is a nice teacher,” another echoed. 

“She always makes every day good,” said a student. 

“She wears pretty dresses,” said a boy with his nose pressed to his letter. 

“I like the mistakes she makes and my class laughs,” grinned Adrian. 

Merder says the proof of Mrs. Carter’s diligence with the students is evident in their love not only for her, but for learning. She says that requires a lot on the part of Mrs. Carter.

“Patience. Some ability to get down on their level,” she said. “and just developing their personality traits. Good morals and values and trying to model those so these 6-year-olds can mimic them.” 

We gathered all the video clips of students and prepared to surprise Mrs. Carter in class a few days later. 

“Is this Mrs. Carter’s class? First grade? At Douglas McArthur Elementary?” Brenna Donnelly asked, walking in the classroom with two cameras rolling. 

Mrs. Carter looked dumbfounded but replied that it was. Brenna pointed at the group of eager students.

“They wanted to honor you as a great teacher on the news today, so we wanted to surprise you and let you know how much they love you, and how much we appreciate all that you’re doing for first-grade students,” Brenna said. “But we have another surprise for you.” 

Our team sat Mrs. Carter down and played the video of student letters, and as the students cheered, grinned, and spoke her praises, she became emotional 

“‘I’m very overwhelmed. I’m very touched. That kind of brings it all together of why I do this,” Mrs. Carter said. “It’s just made my world.” 

The school’s principal, Star Hardimon, said Mrs. Carter deserves every ounce of this recognition. 

“Year after year I have kids wanting to come back to the school and see her,” she said, noting a difference in students who have been through her classroom. “They’re very confident, they care about others and are so compassionate with each other.” 

As an exceptional teacher with 29 years of experience in first grade, we gave Mrs. Carter an opportunity to share advice or encouragement to her fellow teachers. She advised balance in your life, but an undying pursuit to do what’s in your soul. 

“After retirement, I will find other avenues to touch lives. It’s just something that was instilled in me. Both my parents were educators and so I, that’s just what I’ve seen. That’s just my calling as well,” she said through tears. 

We honor your Mrs. Kerri Carter, and thank you for your service and love for the students of Perry Township.

If you want to honor a teacher as one of WISH-TV’s Treasured Teachers, email Brenna Donnelly at or tell her about your nomination on Facebook

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Marian University welcomed a new class of aspiring teachers Saturday afternoon with a signing ceremony.

Incoming freshmen inked proclamations, also signed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, formally declaring their intent to pursue careers in education.

Faculty, staff and family members cheered as photographers captured the symbolic moment, reminiscent of student-athlete commitment ceremonies.

“It made me feel incredibly important and amazing,” said Max Horrigan, one of the new students enrolling at the university’s Klipsch Educators College. “It’s normally the sports signings that get televised and shown everywhere.”

He recalled a former teacher of his own – an 8th grade science instructor – who sparked his interest in education.

Fellow incoming freshman DeChelle Turner also cited middle and high school teachers as her inspiration, saying they “pushed [her] forward” and encouraged her dream of working in education policy.

The teacher signing ceremony at Marian University is the first event of its kind in the nation, according to Dr. Kenith Britt, dean of the Klipsch Educators College.

“Is there a profession that has more of an impact than education?” he asked the aspiring teachers and their families. “We need to do more for educators and more for people who want to go into education.”

Recruiting compassionate candidates who will pride themselves on teaching students of any background is at the heart of Britt’s values-focused plan for revamping teacher training, he explained. He said administrators are also focused on preparing K-12 teachers who have a thorough understanding of the curriculum they teach, as well as hands-on classroom experience.

“They need to know what they’re teaching and how to teach it,” Britt told 24-Hour News 8.

The university offers a five-year teacher training program that includes a year-long paid teaching and mentoring residency. Students will earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education upon completion.

Marian University President Daniel Elsener applauded incoming Klipsch students for following in his footsteps and choosing a career in education, dubbing them “angels” and “nation builders.”

“They teach people more than just multiplication tables,” he said. “They teach people about themselves and their nobility and their value in the world. They’re actually teaching how to be a good citizen [and] a good human being.”

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The high school graduation rate in the United States has hit a record high of 83.2 percent.

The White House released the new high school graduation statistics Monday morning. President Barack Obama is expected to visit Washington D.C.’s Benjamin Banneker Academic High School Monday to talk about the numbers.

Nearly every state has seen progress since the 2010-2011 school year. That’s the first year all states used a consistent, four-year adjusted measure of high school completion.

Across the country, the graduation rate increased more than four-percent. The only states to decline were Arizona and Wyoming, although both saw less than a one-percent decrease.

Alabama had the biggest gain of more than 17-percent over the 5 school-year period.

For Indiana, the increase was small. Hoosier high schools had a graduation rate of 86 percent in the spring of 2011. It was one of the highest starting points in the data we received from the White House. By spring of 2015, the graduation rate increased just a little more than one-percent to 87.1.

According to the White House press release, this shows the progress schools are making to help students prepare of college and careers.

“Education has always been the secret sauce, the secret to America’s success. That if you worked hard you’d have a chance to find a good job, buy a home, raise a family, send your kids to college. We didn’t promise everybody that they’d get rich. But we promised that everyone who worked hard would have a chance to get ahead,” President Barack Obama said in 2015.

The numbers do show progress for all groups, but especially for black students and those learning English as a second language.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Major changes are on the way for Indianapolis Public Schools. District leaders are looking at restructuring grade configurations.

The goal is to put similar aged students together and eventually phase middle school aged students out of high school buildings.

District leaders will vote on the first step of this plan Thursday.

The first step moves middle school students currently at Arlington High School over to John Marshall High School, and high school aged students at John Marshall over to Arlington. This would make John Marshall a middle school.

If approved, this change would start in the 2017-2018 school year.

District leaders said this creates a better balance in the schools and they’re hoping it will help improve student achievement.

School board members with IPS said this is a change many parents have been asking for.

“It’s kind of the first step but it is also the culmination of previous work from the board… That was one of our early requests of the administration because we heard from so many families that they were not happy with having middle school students in the high school,” says IPS board president, Mary Ann Sullivan.

This would be the first of many changes in the district. Board members said the goal is to move all middle school students out of high schools by the 2018-2019 school year.

Once that happens the district will close some of the under-utilized high school buildings, however district leaders said more research needs to be done before they determine which buildings.

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) – First day jitters aren’t just for students. Teachers feel it, too.

“Just scrambling around with excitement,” said Susan Hillman, a third grade teacher at Lantern Road Elementary School, as she tidied her classroom. “It’s like starting all over every year.”

That couldn’t be more true for her this year. Not only is she at a different school, she’s inside a brand new classroom that’s technically outside the main building.

“It’s nice and peaceful and you can walk outside and get some fresh air if we need to and I think that’s good for the students, too,” Hillman said.

Using money from the referendum Hamilton County voters approved in the spring, HSE hired 52 teachers. Doing so meant they needed more classrooms. The district added a dozen portable classrooms, creating a better student-to-teacher ratio.

“We’re now at about an average across elementary (schools), 24-25 students going on in a classroom,” said Beverly Redmond, Director of Schools and Community Relations. “Whereas (last year), in some cases we were tipping over into that 30 mark.”

Hillman’s class will have 22 students. Her portable classroom unit is shared in a trailer with three more, creating what the district calls a “quad.”

“This is probably the smallest class size I’ve had in maybe 15 years or more. So I think it’s overall just a better deal for parents and students and teachers as well.”

Parents like Matt Brown agreed with Hillman.  “I think it’s fantastic because it was allows for a little more one on one instruction,” he said.

Brown’s son Zachary was in a portable classroom last year at Hoosier Road Elementary. The school has four of them. Other than not having its own bathroom, they didn’t notice much of a difference between regular classrooms.

“The teachers do a great job of making sure the classrooms are exactly the way they would be in the building,” Brown said. “But we get to be outside a lot more,” Zachary said with a smile.

HSE now has a total of 37 portable classrooms. Most of them are used for third and fourth grade classes, some of which have been around for several years.

When asked if some of the portable classrooms could become permanent, Redmond said the school board is working on a plan for what to do next.

Redmond added that the money collected from the referendum will continue to go towards hiring teachers and making sure the students are “globally competitive.”

The district also added more assistant principals so that every kindergarten through fourth grade school would have one.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The Indiana State Board of Education moved forward on Wednesday on a new A-F grading formula for Indiana schools that and will take a final vote in mid-April.

The new grading formula would factor in each student’s improvement on the ISTEP test. Current grades for schools depend on the percentage of students who pass the ISTEP.

The board also put aside a measure that would have changed course requirements for high school diplomas. Critics said the measure was premature since the state recently changed requirements and has yet to gain data on its effect.

But the vice chairwoman said a recent review of Indiana’s troubled standardized student exam was not a subject of the board meeting Wednesday even though a summary of the independent report was found to have edits from a state employee.

Though the review on the validity of the 2015 ISTEP exam was deemed independent, The Associated Press found that the summary of the report contained alterations from State Board of Education executive director John Snethen, who was hired by Gov. Mike Pence. The board’s agenda Wednesday included the review which was commissioned last year, but that did not come up.

“From my standpoint, I do not have any questions,” Vice Chairwoman Sarah O’Brien said. “We’ve been in the loop and following the conversations.”

Samantha Hart, press secretary for State Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, also said the board did not seem to have any follow-up since the validity of the report findings had not been altered.

But what was changed was language in the summary that had reflected poorly on Pence and GOP lawmakers’ decision to drop national Common Core standards and adopt last year’s test with new state standards. The revamped test had tougher standards and produced dismal grades. Democrats criticized the new exam, saying it was hastily rolled out.

The Republican-controlled Legislature has voted to scrap the ISTEP test beginning in 2017 in favor of creating a panel to find an alternative test. The bill is still on its way to Pence’s desk.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Many school district administrators and Indiana’s teachers unions are arguing against a legislative proposal that would give districts the authority to negotiate higher pay with individual teachers.

Supporters of the Republican-backed bill say it would help districts recruit teachers in high-demand subjects such areas as science, math and special education.

The Republican-dominated state Senate on Monday rejected an effort to remove those provisions from a bill that won House approval last month. The Senate could vote on the full bill later this week.

Teachers unions argue allowing higher pay for some teachers outside district-wide contracts would cause division among educators. Some school leaders say allowing individual negotiations could overwhelm their administrative staffs.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana’s state government is accepting applications for interns who will be paid to work with state agencies this summer.

Those who are accepted to the Governor’s Public Service Internship Program will be paid $11.30 an hour and will work for one of 27 state agencies.

Interns will spend at least half of their time working on a predetermined project. They will also participate in a lecture series featuring elected office holders and state officials.

Applicants must be actively enrolled in college and have completed at least one year of undergraduate education.

For more information on the internships, click here.