If you haven’t heard Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett talk about education, you’re at a disadvantage. Reading the words here, in a newspaper story or on a web site do little justice to the passion he brings to what is not only his current job, but his mission to improve opportunities for all Indiana students.
Bennett spoke to Chamber members earlier today in our monthly Policy Issue Conference Call. (The next round is June 4 at 9:30 a.m. EDT, the topic is infrastructure and the guest is INDOT Commissioner Michael Reed. Registration details will be available here soon). Bennett, by the way, will receive an honorary degree and speak at Marian University’s commencement ceremony on Saturday.
Just a few of his key points from Friday’s discussion:
- Bennett says you generally need "either a legislative framework to make bold reforms or union buy-in. And we don’t have either." While that may have kept the state from being a contender for federal Race to the Top funding, the implementation of the reforms will move forward under the Department of Education’s Fast Forward program
- Annual teacher and principal evaluations are a necessity, with student growth data being part of that process
- A barrier that needs removed are some collective bargaining laws that keep the lowest-performing teachers in the classroom simply because they have been there the longest
- Bennett sees many opportunities for municipal and school partnerships to maximize services that are offered
- The General Assembly has given the State Board of Education broad authority to establish a third grade reading proficiency program. He is hoping for board approval by the end of the summer
- Looking ahead, Bennett says work will continue on the student growth model, grading of schools (on a letter grade scale, as approved earlier this week), evaluations of teachers and schools, teacher tenure, additional options for children and more. "Indiana students can’t wait for us to act," he closed, emphasizing the need to move forward quickly and effectively