State Superintendent Begins Overhaul of Teacher Licensing

On a convincing 14-4 vote, the Indiana Professional Standards Advisory Committee has voted to proceed with the rulemaking process to overhaul Indiana’s antiquated teacher licensing system. Under the proposal prepared by State Superintendent Tony Bennett, new teachers in Indiana would be required to demonstrate much more knowledge in their content areas than is currently required. The proposed rules would also tie professional development requirements to school priorities, allow greater input by principals in teacher licensing decisions and provide school districts with more flexibility in the hiring of principals and superintendents.

To be certain, this effort is just beginning – and lots of vested interests are lining up to defeat the proposals. Most impacted are the schools of education that, according to several national education leaders, have created an ineffective training system that is in need of significant overall. But since "overhaul" means, in many ways, that their monopoly on education training would be loosened, the state’s schools of education are working overtime to defeat this proposal.

So far, the schools of education have dominated these discussions; but as the rule-making process goes forward, there will be much better opportunity to hear from the consumers of this system, including employers, parents, school administrators, school board members and even teachers themselves. The Indiana Chamber will stay on top of all developments and will keep our members informed through this and other outlets. In the meantime, you can learn more about the proposed changes in this brief summary document.

What are your thoughts on the proposal? Feel free to share in the comments section or let me know at [email protected].

Putting Education Quality at the Top of the Priority List

For too many years, the Indiana Chamber has been fighting an uphill battle in its various education reform initiatives. A number of other like-minded organizations have come and gone – and support from the second floor Statehouse offices of the Indiana Department of Education has been tepid, at best, and probably better described as missing in (in)action.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett promised a new day on the campaign trail and when he assumed office earlier this year. The latest in his series of changes for the better is today’s call for altering teacher licensing procedures to improve quality and increase flexibility in the hiring of school administrators.

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar offered the following statement:

“It’s proven in business every day that there is no longer just one route to effective organization leadership. Indiana school corporations cannot afford to close their doors to superintendent and principal candidates that do not possess the traditional education background.”

Brinegar, also a school board member in Noblesville, adds, “All school boards will have the opportunity to select the top person for the job. Degree, testing and licensure requirements – along with the abilities of elected school board members – will ensure that only the best will be placed in crucial school leadership roles.”

Regarding teacher licensing changes, Brinegar comments:

“The Indiana Chamber has represented the business community in the education arena for many years, advocating for teacher professional development and higher educator compensation. Eliminating any roadblocks to improving teacher quality will help avoid pending teacher shortages in key subject areas, make the state eligible for additional federal funding and, most importantly, help guarantee that our young people are receiving the best education possible.”

Preservers of the status quo will say that this opens the door to anyone and everyone to enter the classroom and the school leadership world. What it is doing is giving principals and the citizens we elect as school board members the flexibility they need to do their job and provide the best teachers and leaders for our students. Remember, that’s the mission here – giving those young people the best chance possible at future success.

Bennett to Superintendents: It’s Time for Full 180 Day School Year in Indiana

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett sent a memo to Indiana’s public school superintendents today outlining the need for a full 180 day school year. He states his case as follows:

I believe strongly that schools must do everything in their power to ensure students receive the full 180 days of education as prescribed by state law. Please be advised that beginning in the 2009-2010 school year, it will no longer be the practice of the Department of Education to adopt emergency policies allowing schools to apply for waivers of the financial penalty for canceled instructional days.

As President Obama said last week in unveiling his education agenda, "the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

We expect schools to find ways to ensure the 180 day standard is met, despite cancellation of school days due to severe weather or other emergencies. A full instructional day is defined in law as five hours of instruction at the elementary level and six hours of instruction at the secondary level. Lunch and recess are not counted as instructional time…

The Department of Education stands ready to assist school corporations in planning their calendars and seeking creative solutions to guarantee students receive the 180 days of classroom instruction prescribed in state statute.

Our own Derek Redelman lauded the decision in an Indy Star article:

Derek Redelman, vice president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, applauded Bennett’s decision, saying it was a step closer to ensuring Indiana children are in class long enough to compete in a global economy.

The state originally required 180 days of class as a compromise, with the understanding that it would work toward a much longer school year, he said.

"We are seeing that our competitors around the world are getting kids into school longer," Redelman said. "I think it’s pretty clear that you can cover more material if you’re in school more."

The Art of Prediction

Now that the results are in, it’s only fair to deliver a grade on how my predictions went: 

Correct Picks:

  • Obama would win Indiana.
  • Obama would win the White House and win 375 electoral votes to John McCain’s 163. With only North Carolina undecided, the count stands at 349-147.
  • 48 out of 49 states were picked correctly with only Missouri being incorrect with one state remaining.
  • Governor Daniels would easily win re-election.
  • 8 Congressional seats would remain unchanged. (I thought Mike Pence’s and Steve Buyer’s races would be closer, but they’d still win).
  • Greg Zoeller and Tony Bennett would narrowly win and be good bellwether races for the night.
  • Ed Charbonneau would win in the only competitive Senate seat.
  • House Democrats would keep their majority.
  • The Indiana House would end up 52-48 Democrat. One seat, HD26, is still undecided but Republican Randy Truitt is up by 20 votes.

 Incorrect Picks (or near misses):

  • Congressman Mark Souder would lose. Souder won easily with 55% of the vote.
  • Missed the correct winner in two House races (HD26 and HD97).

Overall, the correct picks tallied 183 out of 187 correct (97.9%). Not bad, but the misses sting.