A year in review: Indiana’s top 2021 education stories and trends

Schools across Indiana have dealt with a lot in 2021, from troubling TikTok trends and social issues, to teacher pay and ongoing COVID-19 disruptions. This year saw the end of the first full school year affected by the pandemic, more state education funding specifically to raise teacher pay, and a lot more attention given to schools for how they’ve handled COVID-19 and other issues. A lot changed for Hoosiers, and several trends affected schools in interesting or challenging ways.

Here’s a review of some of the most notable and important issues that made headlines in 2021, before we ring in the new year:

Changes at the top

Indiana got a new education secretary in January, as former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick finished her first and final term as the state’s schools chief.

Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed his education advisor Katie Jenner to the role, who chairs the Indiana State Board of Education as part of the position. The board and the department are now overseeing the development of the state’s new Graduates Prepared to Succeed school performance dashboard, which is expected to roll out sometime in the second half of 2022.

A more recent announcement is previewing an upcoming change; in November, long-time Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers shared plans to step down after the upcoming legislative session ends in March 2022.

Funding and legislation

The 2021 legislative session was a big one, as lawmakers made decisions about the state’s two year budget and how much of it should go to schools. Lawmakers approved millions of new education dollars – and for the first time earmarked some of it specifically to raise teacher pay. But another budget item was more controversial; lawmakers also approved a hotly debated expansion of school choice.

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Democrats in Congress also approved more relief funding to help communities continue addressing challenges caused by – or made worse from – COVID-19, which included massive amounts of funding for schools that will last until 2023.

Spring tests and online learning

The year started in the middle of the pandemic’s first full school year, with burnt out teachers doing their best to make it to summer after a year of hybrid learning. Students took ILEARN for the first time since 2019 – which later revealed just how much the pandemic disrupted classrooms.

As the year went on, families made the best of and reflected on a year of online learning , and many grappled with decisions about sending their kids back to school buildings.Hoosiers’ understanding about the full effects of the pandemic on education also continued to grow, including its role in ongoing problems impacting different groups of students . Controversy over mask mandates, Black Lives Matter, and school boards It wasn’t just the first full pandemic school year that came to an end over […]

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