We thought the whole stated point of the Mitch Daniels-Tony Bennett torrent of breakneck changes exacted upon Indiana’s primary and secondary schools was to improve the quality of education so our students would learn better and our teachers and administrators would work smarter.
But actions taken last Wednesday by the Bennett-dominated State Board of Education seem, instead, to lessen the quality of instruction. And, with apologies to “Sesame Street,” the timing the board’s actions was sponsored by the letter “P” — for Politics.
In a 9-2 vote Wednesday, the board approved significant changes in the licensing and credentialing of teachers and administrators, such that:
• You can get an “adjunct teaching permit” if you have a four-year college degree with at least a 3.0 grade point average and the ability to pass a test of your proficiency to teach a subject — as one newspaper reporter noted, with “no special teacher training, student teaching or experience necessary.”
• If you are a licensed teacher of, say, chemistry, you can also teach, say, French, if you pass a test — no additional classwork required.
• If you want to be a superintendent and don’t have a doctorate but have a master’s degree, go ahead.
n If you want to be a principal but have no master’s but do have two years of teaching experience, a bachelor’s degree and can complete a training program, congratulations.
The Daniels-Bennett view is that such changes add flexibility to schools’ hiring options. And if local school corporations don’t want to hire people to act as teachers but who have no training as teachers, that’s their choice. And it is.
But that cavalier view ignores people who really know more about education, with respect, than do Messrs. Daniels and Bennett. People such as deans of education from Indiana University, IUPUI and Butler — all of whom told the state board of education that enacting these lessened credentials would hurt the quality of instruction.
An IU education dean, Patricia Rogan, put it this way, as quoted by Times of Northwest Indiana writer Dan Carden: “Sending unprepared individuals into classrooms to learn to teach — on the backs of often our most needy students — is inappropriate.”
Indiana State University education dean Brad Belch sounded a similar warning in talking with Tribune-Star education reporter Sue Loughlin the day before the meeting when he said the changes “would contribute to the de-professionalization of our business” and lower the standards of the teaching profession.
At Wednesday’s meeting, more than 20 persons rose to tell the board similar things, the Times’ Carden reported. Only one person rose to support the changes.
But in a don’t-confuse-us-with-the-facts moment, Bennett and his brood persevered and voted in the changes.
They did so even though state Superintendent of Public Instruction-Elect Glenda Ritz asked the board to wait until she takes office next year, succeeding Bennett, so she can have time to study the proposals, a courtesy often afforded by an outgoing administration to an incoming one.
But as the days of Bennett’s rule counted down, the fix was in, the rush was on, and the politics won out over reason. If you were looking for an instant example of why Bennett’s style and influence have so inflamed Indiana’s teachers — and not a few administrators — here it is.