2011 wraps up a year of intense education reform across Indiana, but whether or not it was good or bad depends on the point of view.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett says it was a year of achievement, specifically in giving parents and students a choice in where they get their education with the school voucher program.
Bennett also looks to the teacher performance reviews as a positive because it allows all good teachers to be rewarded and seek out the opportunity to improve while identifying those teachers who shouldn‘t be in the classroom.
“I think it‘s a real shame,” he says, “in the 21st century, that we have only one teacher of the year and one Milken Award Winner that we recognize when what we should be doing is recognizing every teacher who‘s doing a great job and helping teachers who want to get better get better.”
The Indiana State Teachers Association, however sees a much darker picture when looking back on the year. Vice-president Theresa Meredith says 2011 was disappointing and discouraging as a number of teaching positions were eliminated as a school districts looked for ways to tighten their belts with continued losses in funding.
“While there may be places where student populations were down,” she says, “there were other places where the student population remained the same or grew, and so when you didn‘t replace teachers that retired you ended up cutting programs, or increasing class sizes, or in some school communities, both occurred”
Meredith says students are ultimately the ones who suffer as they are subjected to program cuts and larger class sizes. The ISTA also sees the limitations on collective bargaining as a step back with the teachers who can make a difference losing their voices in how to effect change in their districts.
Meredith says the state‘s teachers union is looking forward to 2012 where a definitive answer from the court will determine the constitutionality of the school voucher program.
She says they are also hopeful that the state legislature will re-invest the state‘s budget surplus back into education, replacing the funds that were lost, which would ultimately lead to the reinstatement of some of the 5,000 teaching positions that have been lost over the last two years.