Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Want More Students To Graduate? Don't Tell Them To Go To College, Bennett Says


Indiana's Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett discussed strategies for improving graduation rates Wednesday in Greenfield.

State Superintendent Tony Bennett was in Greenfield this week discussing drop out rates with the Hancock County Graduation Task Force. His message? Not all students go to college, so stop teaching like they will.

Bennett’s remarks echo what Washington Post columnist Robert J. Sampson wrote earlier this week about the usefulness of a college degree:

The rap against employment-oriented schooling is that it traps the poor and minorities in low-paying, dead-end jobs. Actually, an unrealistic expectation of college often traps them into low-paying, dead-end jobs — or no job. Learning styles differ. ‘Apprenticeship in other countries does a better job of engaging students,’ says Lerman. ‘We want to diversify the routes to rewarding careers.’ Downplaying these programs denies some students the pride and self-confidence of mastering difficult technical skills, while also fostering labor shortages.

Sampson’s column has prompted several thoughtful responses on the future of post secondary education. We have to stop treating college-ready and career-ready as two distinct groups of students, writes Mandy Zatynski for The Quick & The Ed.

“But too often, ‘college’ is trapped in the definition of a four-year degree,” Zatynski says. “Anything less than that carries a negative stigma, as though that education is somehow less — less substantive, less important — than a bachelor’s degree.”

That was Bennett’s message Wednesday when he spoke in Greenfield. He says that education leaders have made a mistake not talking more about how to help students who aren’t headed to college to get a four-year degree. Educators need to be more attentive to the needs of students who aren’t college-bound to keep them from dropping out, he added.

“I can’t show you that’s 1-to-1 for every kid, but I can tell you that in most settings, we know that literacy at that level is a cornerstone to success later in life.”
—Tony Bennett

About 85 percent of Indiana students graduated from high school in 2011, though not all of them passed the required end-of-course assessments before getting their diplomas. Bennett reminded the task force that 84 percent of Indiana third graders passed the IREAD-3 this spring.

“I can’t show you that’s 1-to-1 for every kid, but I can tell you that in most settings, we know that literacy at that level is a cornerstone to success later in life,” he told the Indiana Economic Digest.

Bennett has said he wants at least 90 percent of Indiana students to graduate on time.


  • Karyn

    Then stop measuring high schools based on how many students take Advanced Placement exams, Dr. Bennett.

    • L755

      It is very interesting that Tony Bennett has attained this much authority over the state’s education system. Those of us who have dealt with him in Southern Indiana schools find this rather disturbing. The truth is that Tony Bennett was an ineffective teacher and an incompetent administrator. The only thing that he could do right was coach basketball. I guess in Indiana that is all that matters. That and being a long time buddy of Mitch Daniels.

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