Award honor districts that are engaged in best practices

Indiana has become famous — or infamous, in some quarters — for its testing zeal. Student performance is quantified. Teachers are measured. Schools are graded. Entire districts are rated. The message gets through loud and clear:

Demonstrate the kind of performance you are capable of and prove to us you deserve the money you are getting.

That would be the stick.

How about a carrot to go with it?

Here is one, of sorts. The Indiana Department of Education is starting a new program to recognize school programs and practices that work well. The department said Thursday that its new Promising Practices program plans to recognize 200 school programs by the end of the year that aim to help ensure students get a high-quality education.

According to a news release, the programs will be focused on students and geared toward innovation. The department said it has already identified 10 programs at schools around the state.

Fairfield Community Schools, to give one example, is being recognized by the Indiana State Board of Education for its “exemplary job of development and implementing a teacher evaluation system.”

The superintendent of Fairfield Community Schools sits down with each district teacher for 15 minutes, looks them in the eye and tells them exactly how they performed on their teacher evaluation and what that will mean for their salary or performance bonus.

“He’s in the conference room meeting every single teacher, shaking their hands,” Amy Bertram, principal of Fairfield Jr.-Sr. High School, told The Elkhart Truth.

“He’s spoiled us. He’s not just coming in to do the cursory walk through. He is pulling up his sleeves, and he is in there with them.”

Fairfield staff “overwhelmingly agreed that the evaluation system is a supportive, collegial and transparent system,” according to a letter of congratulations from Indiana University for the state recognition.

Singling out such successes accomplishes two things. It rewards achievement and encourages the honoree to try even harder. And it shows other school districts ideas they can emulate.

How about compiling a list of best practices from all across the nation? Now, there’s an idea worth of adoption by the U.S. Department of Education.

In fact, considering all the meddling done in local education decisions by Washington and all the mischief created by it’s “one size fits all” approach, we’d be very happy if that were all it did.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to