COLUMBIA CITY — At the Whitley County Republican Party’s monthly breakfast Saturday, March 10, keynote speaker and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett, outlined several issues concerning schools today. The breakfast took place at CC Deli in Columbia City.
Among the topics addressed were financial decisions, paid performance, third grade reading level and technology.
Each topic, accompanied by questions from those present at the meeting, came back to a specific point in Bennett’s speech—the need for accountability. He stressed the fact that this applied to the state as well as school administration, teachers, parents and students.
“There needs to be accountability from the top level down,” said Bennett.
Bennett said one of the biggest battles schools have ahead of them concerns fiscal responsibility, as school boards continually make financial decisions that affect their schools.
“I think we have to start a real, robust statewide discussion on what funding should look like for schools,” said Bennett. “We have to think about working on funding a formula that is focused on academic excellence.”
During his discussion on this topic, Bennett said he believed there should be some state guidelines, but the schools themselves must be the ones to make final decisions.
Bennett said the discussion of teacher performance is a national discussion a multitude of states are considering, and he believes Indiana is now a model for national education reform.
“Our teacher effectiveness law that we passed last year has been rated the best in the country,” said Bennett.
This law requires teachers to be evaluated annually instead of every three to four years, based on the evaluation on the performance of their students as well as the standards set by local schools.
Bennett believes many teachers who have poor evaluations want to be better teachers, and they should be able to look toward administration for guidance.
“This is about helping teachers who want to get better,” said Bennett.
Third grade reading
Along with his discussion on teacher performance, Bennett also discussed state legislature that requires third graders to pass I-READ3. The test, which includes comprehensive reading and listening skills, will be taken by third graders in Indiana toward the end of March.
Concern has been raised on this issue for children falling behind in school and the likelihood they would not regain self-confidence.
“It needs to be about more than just pass or not pass,” said Bennett.
To the teachers present at the meeting, Bennett described technology as a powerful tool to be embraced. He also said this can be a new achievement gap, as some teachers are not as familiar with new technology as their own students.
“Let’s allow schools to specialize,” said Bennett. “Not all of us learn the same way.”
After discussing his ideas and listening to those assembled at the meeting, Bennett said he believes education is continuing to move forward in a positive direction and everyone needs to work toward the same goals.
“We are seeing results, and that is what it’s all about,” said Bennett.
The next meeting will be held April 14.
For a more in depth look at this story, see the March. 12 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition . For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage  and find us on facebook .