Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

By The Associated Press

The Journal Gazette. Nov. 20. 2012.

Table license plan

The first indication of how Indiana's education establishment will respond to election results could come Dec. 5, when the State Board of Education is expected to consider more changes to licensing requirements. The proposed Rules for Education Preparation and Accountability II have drawn strong protests from teachers, administrators and teacher-education officials across the state.

Given that Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett was soundly defeated in his re-election bid, pushing the proposal through before he leaves office is the wrong approach. Voters spoke loudly about the aggressive tactics Bennett and his department used over the past four years. Delaying any changes until Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz has time to respond is the best course.

As proposed, REPA II would:

—Eliminate the requirement for principals to have a master's degree.

—Create an "adjunct" teacher permit available to anyone with a bachelor's degree and at least a 3.0 grade point average in any area, provided he or she passes a content-area test.

—Allow a teacher licensed in any subject area to add other licenses, including special education, early childhood, music and art, by passing a test.

"That we would expect anyone to teach a special needs child with expertise solely on the basis that he or she passed a standardized test is certainly inviting a spectacular failure," Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the School of Education at Indiana University-Bloomington, testified last June.

At least one state board member shares the same reservations about some provisions.

"The main areas where I have concerns are special education, because I really feel there are a lot of things in special education that you have to know," said Michael Pettibone, superintendent of Adams Central Community Schools. "You have to know the laws, the regulations regarding (individualized education plans) and timelines. The other area concerns who is able to provide licensing and how broad that picture is."

He said the current requirement of a college-level teacher preparation program gives Indiana "some type of a gate" to the classroom.

Pettibone also questioned the wisdom of dropping the master's degree requirement for building-level administrators.

"I think possibly the one person who can have the most impact on learning is the building principal," he said.

"To be a successful building principal, you need to have experience as a teacher and you need to have shown growth in your field."

Department of Education officials have argued that critics are confusing licensing and hiring - school districts don't have to hire minimally licensed teachers and administrators.

But it's not hard to imagine they eventually could be forced to do so - passing on more qualified candidates because of budget restraints. It's also no coincidence that provisions of REPA II are among the model bills pushed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

Bennett has participated in activities of the national group, where mostly Republican lawmakers and business representatives meet to develop policy initiatives that inevitably benefit for-profit companies such as those that sell standardized tests and virtual learning programs.

While Pettibone was the only state board member to attend the June public hearings on the licensing proposal, he said he believed there were others who had concerns.

He also said he hoped Ritz will revisit the A-F school-grading program and the new requirement that third-graders pass a reading test to be promoted to fourth grade.

"I have confidence in many of the state board members that they are looking at what's best for children in education," he said. "I think they will be listeners and work with Glenda Ritz to make good decisions."

If the Department of Education moves ahead with its licensing revision next month, the first step in listening to and working with Ritz would be to table REPA II - indefinitely.

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Journal & Courier. Nov. 16, 2012.

Purdue as the poster child for 'bloat'?

Bloomberg created quite a stir on campus last week with a report that put Purdue University front and center in the discussion about college costs and the growing administrative bloat sweeping U.S. higher education.

The bits and pieces have been rolling around in public forums, faculty senate meetings and in local media for some time now in West Lafayette: the expanding ranks of vice presidents, an expansive marketing department and faculty discontent over an administrative-driven enterprise. But having Purdue held up as a poster child brings it home in a new way.

But if we had to bet, Mitch Daniels is way ahead in this game.

Bloomberg's point was on the money: Nationwide, the number of administrators has increased 60 percent since 1993, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Education. That was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured professors, according to the same set of data. The fact that so many of those administrators pull down six-figure salaries adds some fire to those stats.

Daniels starts his new job as Purdue president in January, right after his second term as governor ends. In his conversations with faculty, students and staff since being appointed to the job in June, Daniels has said he'll be open to new ways of doing things on campus, particularly when it comes to making a Purdue education more affordable.

Given his preference for leaner operations, matched with faculty grumbling about Purdue's layers of administration, you probably didn't need to wait for a national media outlet to get Daniels to talk about administrative costs he suspects are "marbled" throughout the university.

Daniels has been throwing those words around in public forums for months. For those in administrative roles at Purdue, they have to be wondering whether national coverage like that will motivate Daniels even more.

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The Times, Munster. Nov. 14, 2012.

Draft a prescription for trauma care

Indiana health officials have concluded from their statewide listening tour that Indiana needs more trauma centers. We've been making that point for years.

Trauma centers exist in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Evansville -- but not in Northwest Indiana. Major trauma cases here are shipped to South Bend or Chicago.

What's different this time, we hope, is that State Health Commissioner Greg Larkin and members of Indiana Department of Health's Trauma and Injury Prevention Division are building a strong case for helping Indiana develop what 41 other states already have -- a statewide trauma system.

Doing this right requires moral and financial commitments.

The moral commitment should be easy.

"As many as 35 percent of trauma patients will die because optimal acute care is not available," Michael McGee, chief of emergency medicine at Methodist Hospital, told the Indiana General Assembly's Health Finance Commission last month.

The commission has agreed to a feasibility study on a new teaching and trauma hospital in Northwest Indiana.

Credit should go to state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and others who persuaded the commission to use existing funds for this study.

In 2011, the General Assembly set aside about $3 million for architectural and engineering work on a proposed hospital at Indiana University Northwest. Proving the need for that hospital, though, is a necessary first step.

Meanwhile, heed the advice Larkin has after the statewide listening tour. That includes combining the EMS program, currently at the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, with the trauma program at the state health department. The two are closely related.

It would be irresponsible for the state that has the most interstate highway miles, enough to justify the "crossroads of America" motto, to continue to shy away from creating a statewide trauma care system.

How much this will cost, and who should fund it, remains to be determined. The Indiana General Assembly should applaud Larkin's initiative and set up its own study committee to map out how this trauma system might work.

Proving the need should be relatively easy. Working out the operational details might take some time, however, so get started now.

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The Indianapolis Star. Nov. 13, 2012.

How will Ritz lead on education?

Glenda Ritz's surprise win in the state superintendent of public instruction's election last week leads to an essential question: What happens now to the drive to dramatically improve student achievement in Indiana?

Ritz and her supporters have made clear their disdain for the efforts of outgoing Superintendent Tony Bennett to reform Indiana's education establishment. Much less clear, however, is what Ritz wants to do as superintendent.

The critical need to continue to push hard to improve Indiana's schools should be evident. Our state has one of the least-educated workforces in the nation. Student test scores are too low in comparison with other states' and certainly with other nations'. And far too many of our high school graduates are ill prepared for the academic rigors of higher education.

Bennett may have pushed too hard and too fast for his own good in attempting to improve our schools, but Indiana cannot afford to sink back into complacency. Before Bennett, the state Department of Education was an enabler of mediocrity rather than a champion of excellence. We must not return to those days.

Ritz has portrayed herself as a champion of teachers and of true learning rather than of mastering test-taking skills. That's fine if she challenges educators not to fall back on tired excuses for failure. Poverty can't be seen as destiny. The fact that neither Indiana nor any other state has unlimited resources for education must not be held up as a rationale for subpar performance.

In Indianapolis and elsewhere in the nation, education reform has attracted bipartisan support. But Indiana's Democratic Party's strong financial ties to the Indiana State Teachers Association, the largest and most influential teachers union, have led to a political split between reformers and defenders of the status quo.

Ritz, a Democrat and strong advocate of the teachers union, needs to understand that her role has abruptly shifted. She must not only manage the state Department of Education, which is charged with setting and enforcing standards for schools, but she also must stand up to the teachers union if and when it puts the needs of its members ahead of the state's needs.

Ritz must be all about results. If that makes her friends in the union uncomfortable, so be it. Our students and our state must come first.

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