Indiana Panel Issues School-Reform Plan

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A report prepared for Gov. Robert Orr of Indiana by a task force studying ways to improve education in the state calls for the introduction of merit-pay programs for teachers, a new state-governance structure for education, and an immediate extension of the school year.

Under the plan prepared by the Governor's Select Advisory Commission on Primary and Secondary Education--a 15-member task force composed of six legislators and nine civic leaders appointed by the Governor--the state would establish a state board of education composed of 11 members selected by the Governor. (One member would come from each Congressional district and one would be at-large.)

The state superintendent--currently an elected post held by Harold Negley--would be appointed by the board, according to Robert Jones, a public-policy specialist at Purdue University who is staff director of the panel.

The current type of superintendency, which "requires a candidate to assume the demands of public office on a partisan basis every four years," the commission's report said, "is not an effective vehicle for long-range planning."

To improve communication between the legislature, the governor, and the department of public instruction, the task force proposed that the state establish a committee of key legislators and state education officials who would meet at the request of the governor at least once a year to review goals and plans for both short- and long-term educational programs.

Incentive-Pay Program

Under its plan for a state-funded incentive-pay program for teachers, the task force urged the state to allow local districts to develop their own initiatives. During the first year of the program, the state legislature should set aside enough money to enable local school districts to give bonuses to between 5 and 10 percent of their teachers, the panel said.

It also urged state officials to lengthen the school year immediately from 175 to 180 days, and then to add another two days per year for five years. The goal is a 190-day school year by the end of the decade, according to Mr. Jones.

The panel recommended that the legislature continue to fund "Prime Time," a pilot program that provides special training for teachers and reduces class size to 14 students in selected kindergarten through 2nd- grade classrooms. Follow-up studies should be undertaken, the panel added, to assess the achievement of students who have participated in the program, which has been in operation for two years.

The task force also recommended that kindergarten be mandated in each of the state's 304 school districts; that teacher-preparatory programs be strengthened; and that all schools make use of a computerized career-counseling service that "helps students understand the range of careers and what preparation they will need for those careers," Mr. Jones said.

The commission--headed by Robert Hanney, a former state superintendent--has been meeting since April 1982. Its charge from the Governor is to report to him and to the legislature in November and to submit a final report next year.

All of the panel's recommendations last year were adopted by the legislature, according to Mr. Jones--including a "loan-forgiveness" program for future mathematics and science teachers, "significant expansion" of the state's gifted and talented program, and a state-funded training program for teachers and students in the use of microcomputers.

The state is also studying its education-finance system as a result of another recommendation the panel made last year.--sr

Vol. 03, Issue 05

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