Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indiana Vies For Title Of 'Education Idol'

IDOE; Getty Images

Who will be the next Education Idol? Indiana's top K-12 education official Tony Bennett (left) takes a stage significantly smaller than actual American Idol competitors David Archuleta (center) and Kelly Clarkson.

When it comes to school overhauls, is Tony Bennett more of a Kelly Clarkson? Or a David Archuleta?

Expect no definitive answers to that question at the Fordham Institute’s Education Reform Idol 2011 — “the biggest education policy event of the summer.”

Bennett will represent Indiana at the D.C. press event — apparently designed to make headway in a younger, hipper demographic — pitting Indiana’s plan to remake education policy in a just-for-fun contest against similar strategies from Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

At stake? The title of “Reformiest State 2011.”

With the audience at the think tank — which supports expanding charter schools and teacher merit pay — voting for the winner, Indiana is no William Hung. (Don’t know that name?… Just click here.)

After all, Indiana’s piloting a teacher evaluation and performance pay plan this year and rolling the plan out statewide in 2012-13. Lawmakers this year also passed a law creating what will likely become the nation’s most expansive private school voucher plan.

But Ohio also passed laws coming down on teacher unions and Florida’s private school voucher plan is currently bigger than either Ohio’s or Indiana’s.

No doubt, this whole exercise might be nauseating to opponents of teacher merit pay, vouchers, and limits on collective bargaining. Still, the event underlines a critical point: 2011 was a big year for supporters of these exact ideas (as we’ve noted before, as the Boston Globe notes here, and as bloggers triumphantly claim here and here).

And if you’re worried about not being able to make it to D.C., don’t worry Idol devotées — it’ll be webcasted.


  • Musicfaninmo

    What exactly is your point? Are you trying to insult David Archuleta or Kelly Clarkson? Are you trying to say he wasn’t big enough or that he has substance and Kelly doesn’t? It has nothing to do with the article. What a stupid thing to do. Yeah you better believe I a pissed off music fan.

  • bilgewater

    The judges and contestants in this have little interest in reforming public schools…all they’ve done is make teachers’ jobs much harder. Why not honor the teachers who do all the *real* work in education instead of these bureaucrats, lawmakers, and teacher-haters? Educators are already being vilified as the reason for the failures of public education these days, and now the organizers are setting up some fluffy, feel-good event with all the shallowness of an entertainment show. I can’t wait until the press gets their hands on “Education Idol” and exposes it for the farce that it really is.

    • StateImpact Indiana

      You can believe we’ll be watching the webcast. Just to play Devils’ Advocate… Do the people guide policy in the states deserve credit for the changes they’ve implemented (ie school voucher programs, merit pay, teacher evaluations, etc)? Or do you disagree with those changes?

  • bilgewater

    Thank you for writing an informative article. I hope those who disagree with my post can keep an open mind about these education reforms. While my views may seem biased or slanted, I have first-hand knowledge of some of the problems in education.

    I disagree vehemently with many of their changes (you did not mention stripping collective bargaining rights in your parenthetical list of changes). The current legislative reforms in Indiana are vague, open to interpretation, constitutionally questionable, and (in my opinion) anti-teacher. Only now (after some of these laws have been examined a bit more closely) are the citizens of Indiana becoming more aware of the sweeping impact these laws will have. Many of these laws were rushed through the Indiana statehouse with very little debate, and virtually no input from the teachers. In many cases, interests outside of Indiana funded campaigns to help enact these laws. What galls me the most is that if (somehow) the state improves its performance after these laws take effect, you can bet Dr. Bennett will take most of the credit for the changes rather than the teachers who will do his bidding. I, for one, have no interest in watching “Education Idol” and hearing these people pat themselves on the back while they brag about their reforms. These reformers like to say that their reforms “put children first,” but the teachers have *always* been putting children first. Now, however, teachers are being placed last.

    Perhaps it would be much more interesting to hold “Education Idol” after their laws take effect, and after it becomes clear what effect they will have in classrooms and school corporations.

    The dedicated professionals in the classroom are going to be tasked with fixing problems we didn’t cause. We’ve been talking about some of these problems for years, but few listened to us. Lately it’s become popular to blame classroom teachers for problems caused by poverty, breakdown of the family, low test scores, truancy and chronic absenteeism, violence in school, and disinterest (and the list goes on).

    Thank you again for informing us.

    • StateImpact Indiana

      And thank you for your comments!

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