The last few weeks have brought a flurry of exciting policy reforms from the Midwest. In Indiana, a variety of new proposals aims to benefit students, teachers, and families.
Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN) is lending his support to a proposal to create scholarships for low- and moderate-income students in the state. The scholarship program would allow low-income families to receive as much as 90 percent of the cost of educating a child in a public school to be put toward tuition at a private school of their choice. Although there is strong opposition, the Indiana governor has stated, “We intend to become the first state of full and true choice.”
Indiana is also standing up for teachers, as well as students, by proposing a teacher tenure reform bill, which aims to reward teachers by connecting “teacher evaluations with test scores” and by introducing “a system of performance-based pay.” Additionally, the new law would “make it easier to dismiss teachers repeatedly rated ineffective or in need of improvement.”
For years, policies have protected ineffective teachers, most recently demonstrated by a lawsuit that resulted in the District of Columbia having to hire back 75 dismissed teachers who failed to do their jobs. (D.C. is also being made to pay back wages to these teachers to the tune of $7.5 million.)
But Indiana’s leaders are saying no to these types of policies, which not only hurt children but burden schools, not to mention making it more difficult for those teachers who are doing their best to help children learn.
Additionally, next year Indiana schools will increase transparency and accountability to those with the greatest stake in a child’s education—parents—by implementing a system that grades schools on an A through F scale, replacing “the more complicated category names now used to label a school’s performance.” Florida has implemented similar reforms, allowing parents to know whether their child’s school is succeeding. Said Tony Bennett, Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction:
Indiana citizens desire a clear picture of the performance of schools … Letter grades will provide a clear picture.
States around the nation are taking the initiative to stand up for the types of reforms that help teachers, students, and families. At a time when the U.S. education system is in dire need of reform, leaders like Indiana are sending a clear message that the time to give children the hope for a better academic future is now.