Letter to the Editor

Our students deserve the best

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

To the Editor:

Gov. Daniels, in a Nov. 7 opinion piece regarding education in Indiana, stated: "Only the most selfish special interests still insist on defending the status quo."

No argument there.

Our students deserve the best and we know all schools are not as good as all of our students deserve. I commend the governor for his support to require highly effective teachers for all of our children and improved accountability for all schools.

Those are big issues and worthy of our time, debate, and efforts to make significant improvements.

However, we won't get there by ignoring Indiana's educational successes.

The Governor's stated that: "Indiana has led the nation in many areas lately ... but we can make no such claim about K-12 education."

Indiana's public schools have improved in several important measures over the past two decades according to data from the Indiana Department of Education, the College Board, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and ACT, Inc. It is a risk, when speaking to facts, one is likely labeled as a defender of the status quo. Facts are tricky little devils, they are not controlled by opinion.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the "national reading and math test," Indiana has consistently outperformed the nation on all 35 NAEP assessments since 1990. Indiana's composite score on the ACT rose to 22.2 in 2008-09, the highest mark in state history. Indiana ACT scores have exceeded national averages in all 20 years of the study.

Verbal SAT scores rose from 490 in '88-'89 to an historic high of 504 in 2004-05.

Since then, a revised SAT shows Reading and Writing scores separately. Reading has fallen to 496 in 2008-09, down from 498 in 2005-06. Writing has fallen to 480 in 2008-09, down from 486 in 2005-06.

These scores came while Indiana tested 63 percent of all graduates, 17 percent more than the nation as a whole, thus giving more marginal students a chance at college.

SAT math scores on the old SAT went up from 487 in '88-'89 to 508 in 2004-05, another top performance in state history.

In the four years of the revised SAT, Indiana scored 509, 507, 508 and 507 respectively, maintaining a high performance level on a more difficult test.

The dropout rate was 8.7 percent for the Class of 2009, improving from 10.3 percent, 11.9 percent and 11.2 percent in three previous years of the new system which tracks every student.

Hoosier public schools have successfully raised daily attendance in 15 of the past 20 years to the highest level in our state's history, 96.1 percent.

The percent of graduates aspiring to go to college went up 19 of the 20 years to reach 76.9 percent in 2008-09, the highest level in state history. The need for this improvement has had consistently strong support from the Governor.

The data show improvement in Indiana's public schools. Let's build from there, knowing that continuous improvement is never concluded, but ongoing, and needs to be consistently and accurately measured and reported.

John Ellis

Executive Director

Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents