AEI: Implementing Indiana’s ed-reform agenda no sure thing

A new report from the conservative American Enterprise Institute raises questions about the education policies that Indiana has adopted under Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett – not whether they are good policies, but whether they’re likely to succeed.

Titled “Implementing Indiana’s ‘Putting Students First’ Agenda: Early Lessons and Potential Futures,” the policy brief highlights the gap between the top-down adoption of the policies by Republican state officials and their eventual implementation by local schools boards, superintendents and principals.

“Unless state and local implementers seize opportunities present in the law, efforts such as Putting Students First likely will prompt new rounds of compliance-oriented behavior, wasted money, bureaucratic busyness, frustrated teachers, and few or no substantive gains,” it concludes.

Authors are Rick Hess, AEI director of education policy studies; Paul Manna, an associate professor of government at the College of William and Mary; and Keenan Kelley, a William and Mary student. Hess is known as a strong supporter of what’s usually called education reform. In Indiana that’s the Daniels-Bennett agenda: an expansion of charter schools, state-funded vouchers for private schools, performance-based evaluation of teachers and limits on collective bargaining.

Even if you don’t agree with the authors’ perspective, however, the report is worth reading. A few highlights:

// “Indiana’s Republican leaders opted for wielding brute political force in passing the Putting Students First agenda in 2011,” the report says. Every Senate Democrat and all but one House Democrat voted against all four bills that made up the agenda. Continue reading