Gov. Mike Pence wants to see 100,000 more Indiana students enrolled in schools that earn grades of A or B by 2020. But guess what. Given recent trends, public schools are likely to surpass that goal way ahead of schedule
With no help from the policies the governor is promoting.
There were a little over 600,000 students in A and B public schools in 2012, the first year for the current grading system. By this year the number had jumped to over 750,000. Schools have made more progress in two years than Pence thinks they should be making in the next six.
Unveiling his 2015 legislative agenda last week, the governor lamented the fact that 100,000 of Indiana’s K-12 students attend schools with grades of D or F. That’s about 10 percent of students in public schools.
“My philosophy of executive leadership is pretty simple,” he said. “It’s to set big goals and offer solutions on how to achieve them, but also to stay open to other ideas that emerge in the legislative process or in conversations with Hoosiers.”
Let’s hope he means the part about staying open to other ideas. Because the solutions he proposes — expanding charter schools and increasing spending for Indiana’s private-school voucher program – seem irrelevant at best and counterproductive at worst.
It’s true that a majority of private schools that participate in the state’s grading system get grades of A or B. But most of those schools, even with vouchers, serve few students from low-income families and few students of color. Their grades may not say much about whether they are effective.
Some urban charter schools, on the other hand, do serve many students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. But even after a decade of promotion, the charter sector as a whole isn’t setting an example of high performance. A majority of charter schools got a D or F this year.
Of course, this business of grading schools is questionable. Even people who agree with the concept are likely to argue about the metrics. And Indiana is changing its grading system, so it’s hard to say how an A or B in 2020 will compare to an A or B in 2014.
But the number of students attending A and B schools is growing a lot faster than the governor seems to recognize, thanks primarily to the hard work of students and teachers in Indiana’s public schools. We can argue about what that means. But we shouldn’t pretend it’s not happening.