Mitch Daniels used his first term to get Indiana’s fiscal house in order. His second term sealed his reputation as the education reform governor.
“Truly historic changes” came to Indiana schools, the American Legislative Exchange Council said in its 2012 Report Card on American Education.
“Indiana moved up into the A’s for the first time after the reform-minded governor and legislature greatly improved the state charter law in 2011,” said the Center for Education Reform Report.
The Weekly Standard, a national journal of conservative thought, credited Daniels for “taking Indiana from the backwaters of education reform in America to the forefront.”
It’s a bit early to claim success. It will be several years before Hoosiers know if reforms instituted by Daniels will actually boost test scores. ISTEP passage rates are creeping up and graduation rates are higher, but there’s yet to be noticeable improvement on the National Assessment of Education Progress or the SAT. Further complicating the picture was the unexpected defeat of Republican School Superintendent Tony Bennett by Democrat Glenda Ritz Nov. 6.
Daniels took office in 2005, but his first term was consumed with budget balancing and recession, which delayed his educational initiatives until the middle of term two. Once he and Bennett turned their sights on schools, change was fast and furious.
Collective bargaining with teachers unions was limited to wages and benefits, which means schools can pursue their own reform ideas, such as longer school days.
Teacher pay raises are now based on many factors, including student test scores, as well as the previous criteria of seniority and education. Teachers rated as ineffective can’t receive a pay increase.
The State Board of Education uses letter grades — A to F — to judge school quality instead of vague labels like commendable and academic progress. The new system takes into account test scores, score improvement, graduation rates and college readiness.
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