Indiana Education: What’s Got to Change

February 12, 2007

With Indiana Writers Group column for 2/14/07
327 words

By Samuel Staley, Ph.D.
 
Five years ago the Indiana Policy Review Foundation commissioned a team of researchers to individually analyze the labor contracts of each of the 294 regular school districts in Indiana.

The resulting report, “Public Education Without Romance: The Impact of Collective Bargaining on Indiana Schools,” made clear that reform was impossible without systemic change in state law.

A follow-up study two years later statistically analyzed spending and test scores in each of the districts.  Again, the results argued against the status quo, that more money and bigger schools alone were having an effect on learning.

Building on this work and drawing on the expertise of nationally recognized policy analysts, the foundation is undertaking a year-long survey of Indiana’s current policy on public education.

In the first article, Matthew Carr, an education analyst for the Buckeye Institute and a national expert on charter schools, takes a look at the state of finance, spending and performance in Indiana’s public schools. In a later article, Carr will examine the lackluster performance of charter schools in Indiana

Lisa Snell and Darcy Olsen, adjunct scholars of the foundation and education experts for Reason Foundation and the Goldwater Institute respectively, will explore the potential for all-day kindergarten. In addition, Snell will examine a school finance alternative called the “weighted student formula.” The concept, successfully applied elsewhere, may be suited to Indiana schools.

Andrea Neal, a columnist and adjunct scholar of the foundation, will reexamine what went wrong at Geyer School in Fort Wayne, one of the first Indiana schools closed under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

In sum, a fuller understanding of education issues by legislators and citizens alike is necessary for meaningful reform in Indiana. Collective bargaining, teacher education, school choice and competition and school finance reform are at the heart of what needs to change if we are to improve the educational environment for all students, parents and professionals committed to providing a productive and engaging learning experience.
 
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is a policy director for the Reason Foundation. He is the project director for the Indiana Policy Review’s yearlong examination of state education policy.



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