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Richard Doty
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School of Education
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Last modified: Thursday, April 18, 2002

Learning Matters

News tips about education from Indiana University

The property tax is a stable funding source for Indiana schools but unpopular with the public, according to Neil Theobald, IU associate professor of education and an expert on school finance. Theobald, who directs school finance projects in the School of Education's Indiana Education Policy Center, said factors that make the property tax unpopular include fairness problems due to assessment practices, local differences in property wealth, and the regressive nature of the tax for low-income Hoosiers. The property tax currently is the subject of considerable debate between the Indiana governor and legislature, particularly about the best way to reassess this tax base. "If the property tax is to survive as a primary source of school revenue in Indiana," Theobald said, "supporters must highlight its strength as a highly stable source of revenue to help school corporations anticipate future tax revenue. Other strengths are that it produces new revenue as additional homes are built, and it is hard to avoid." For more information, contact Theobald at 812-856-8397 or theobald@indiana.edu.

Zero tolerance issues are reviewed in a newly published monograph co-edited by Russell Skiba, an IU School of Education faculty member and expert on school safety. "Zero Tolerance: Can Suspension and Expulsion Keep Schools Safe?" is the theme for the winter issue of New Directions For Youth Development: Theory, Practice, Research. Skiba described the monograph as "the most comprehensive scientific review of zero tolerance to date." Included are three articles assessing the effectiveness of zero tolerance (including one co-authored by Skiba) and three articles discussing alternatives to zero tolerance. Gil Noam of the Harvard Graduate School of Education is the co-editor of the 186-page monograph expected to be of primary interest to educators and policy makers. Skiba, an associate professor in educational psychology, is the director of IU's Safe and Responsive Schools Project (http://www.indiana.edu/~safeschl/). He has published extensive research on zero tolerance in recent years and has a national reputation in the field. Skiba can be reached at 812-855-5549 or skiba@indiana.edu.

Crash courses to train teachers don't work and shouldn't be considered as a way to alleviate the nation's teacher shortage, according to Jacqueline Blackwell, an associate professor of early childhood and elementary education at IUPUI and president-elect of the Association for Childhood Education International. "You don't learn about child growth and development and about the art and craft of teaching in five weeks," Blackwell said. "If you are transitioning or retooling from another career and already have the content area, we can discuss and plan for a shorter route to becoming a qualified, competent and caring educator. But you can't become the best-prepared teacher in just a few weeks, and you can't say that anyone can teach. I want to know that each teacher has the knowledge, skills, talents and disposition necessary for meeting the multifaceted needs of all students, because students want and deserve an unwavering commitment from their teachers." This month she became president-elect of ACEI, a worldwide organization concerned with children and youth, and she will begin a two-year term as its 59th president next April. For more information, contact Blackwell at 317-274-6830 or jblackwe@iupui.edu.

People can develop their creativity, according to Jonathan Plucker, IU associate professor of counseling and educational psychology, who has developed a model over the past five years for enhancing people's creativity. "A combination of personal factors, such as ability, experience, attitude and self-concept, and external factors, such as setting and attitude of co-workers, family and friends, can prevent people from being creative," explained Plucker, a School of Education faculty member who has 10 years of research experience in the field of creativity. In recent years he has tested ways to improve creativity with IU undergraduates who are studying the topic. "The initial results are very positive, with student attitudes about creativity becoming much more positive and much more realistic," Plucker said. "We still have a lot of work to do, because it is definitely complex. But it can be understood as well as other complex topics like intelligence and learning. I'm confident that we are headed in the right direction. Our undergraduates are in many ways our toughest audience -- a bit cynical, easily bored and full of stereotypes about creativity. We believe very strongly that if the model continues to work well with this population, it should work even better with younger students." For more information, contact Plucker at 812-856-8315 or jplucker@indiana.edu.

Educators should listen more to young children, especially pre-kindergartners, according to Jacqueline Blackwell, an associate professor of early childhood and elementary education at IUPUI and president-elect of the Association for Childhood Education International. "People don't realize that young children are pondering and thinking about so many things. We, educators and parents, need to listen to children more so that they feel their concerns and questions are valued," Blackwell said. She talks regularly with four- and five-year-olds enrolled in the Center for Young Children at IUPUI. She received varied responses when asking the young students what they want teachers to know about children and what teachers should do with children. These included comments such as "be nice," "watch the children," "listen to children," "know that kids can teach the teachers something," "talk with children" and her favorite -- "keep an eye on children so they don't get in trouble." Blackwell said responses like this make it obvious to her that children need to be more involved in teacher education programs. This month she became president-elect of ACEI, a worldwide organization concerned with children and youth, and she will begin a two-year term as its 59th president next April. For more information, contact Blackwell at 317-274-6830 or jblackwe@iupui.edu.