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
Manchester College, in North Manchester, offered a "triple guarantee" Tuesday regarding what it can offer its students. During the announcement, President Jo Young Switzer offered the following educational trifecta for the private college’s incoming students:
1. Financial aid for all full-time students, and full tuition for academically strong low-income students who live in Indiana
2. Graduation within four years for all full-time students or receive free tuition for credits you need to graduate in five years
3. A job or post-graduate school within six months of graduation, or return for a full year tuition-free
“As families work hard to find money for college, those of us at Manchester continue our commitment to open the doors of a college education to students, to offer class schedules and advising and support so they can graduate in four years, and to prepare students for careers and jobs after college.”
Earlier this year, I featured the school’s Fast Forward program in BizVoice, which outlines how the college is offering an accelerated path to graduation for students who qualify. Pretty encouraging, as Manchester’s efforts show the importance of forward-thinking in a world that desperately needs answers to the tough questions proposed by the nation’s educational challenges.
Parents have enough to worry about these days when it comes to finances. "Do we have enough money to pay for utilities and go to Kings Island?" After all, the Vortex won’t ride itself. Or "can we afford those organic cereals with the adorable koalas and gorillas on the boxes?" Granted, those Panda Puffs might provide for a fantastic explosion of taste and peanut buttery excitement, but losing the aspartame comes at a price, folks.
And as the cost of living continues to rise, so do tuition prices for many Indiana parents hoping to help their children aspire for higher learning. One way to combat this financial scourge is simply for students to spend less time at school. Leading the charge in the Midwest, Manchester College has applied its three-year Fast Forward program to all 55 of its majors.
While critics argue the program deprives students of the full college experience, Manchester claims some Fast Forward students can still study abroad and take part in many extracurricular activities, depending on the major.
To read more about the program, turn to the Chamber’s BizVoice magazine.