A new study from The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an Ohio-based education think tank, ranks Indiana as having better education standards than even the national standard the Institute recommends. But though the report lauds the state’s curriculum, it also points out Indiana schools still face some intractable problems. For instance, though the survey gives Indiana a grade of “A” for both its English and mathematics curricula, Institute Vice President Michael Petrilli points out the achievement gap between white and minority students in the Hoosier State continues to grow.
“Indiana is an interesting case, like California,” Petrilli said. “It’s got very high standards, but it certainly has not gotten much traction with those standards. In a contrast with Massachusetts, that also has high standards but has gotten lots of traction and had huge gains for all students — for minority and low-income students — is a big difference. This also is a chance for a fresh start for Indiana to not only have some standards that are somewhat different, but also to try to do the implementation right.”
Fordham Institute President Chester Finn said the way to generate traction may be to increase the sense among students that meeting educational standards matters — perhaps through a test or a roadblock which stands in the way of a student advancing in school without collecting the necessary skill set.
“The states that have had the greatest traction have typically had something that I don’t believe Indiana has had, which is an accountability system that actually makes a difference in people’s lives whether you learn these things or not,” Finn said. “Massachusetts famously, actually, lays it on the kids to know these things and pass the graduation test or they don’t get their diploma. That tends to get people’s attention.”
Only Indiana, California and the District of Columbia have standards in place which exceed what are known as the “common core” standards for education in the U-S. The survey says though states are working to adopt the “common core,” 37 states still have standards which lack the necessary rigor.