[r54] "E" is for effort, not just education (1/21/2011)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Start Date: 1/21/2011 All Day
End Date: 1/21/2011
In the fifth grade, I had Mrs. Clara Mae Hedrick. She was one of my favorite teachers. Although I have been out of grade school for many years-more than I care to mention-I remember being in her classroom like it was yesterday.

She was a great teacher because she had a way to keep students interested. She was able to teach us without us knowing it because we were having too much fun. And most importantly, Mrs. Hedrick believed in me-she believed in all her students.

Mrs. Hedrick, unfortunately, passed away a few years ago. She had many, many years of teaching and influencing many of students. It pleased me to know that her daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth (Izzie) Wesley, followed in her footsteps. She recently retired from the New Castle School Corporation.

I mention Mrs. Hedrick because I know not everyone has had a teacher they can say is their favorite. I was fortunate to have many. But many things have changed since I was in Mrs. Hedrick's classroom.

Our teachers now-a-days are faced with a lot more responsibility than simply teaching their students. They have to ensure each child gets fed, disciplined and taught-they have become the parent and the teacher.

I believe in teacher accountability, but in order to hold teachers accountable, we have to hold parents accountable. Parents should be equally as involved in their child's education as the teacher, if not more. 

Teachers can have a profound effect on students. We have some of the best teachers in Indiana and we should reward them for their efforts. Likewise, I have also seen first-hand the consequences of having an ineffective teacher.

Teachers should be regularly evaluated-by someone that knows the field-and they should not be evaluated in a "one-size fits all" format. Each student is different, so why shouldn't we incorporate that when we evaluate the teacher and test the student's progress.

If a teacher is proven to be ineffective, we should provide the necessary tools to help them improve at their craft-not lay them off.

So many discussions have taken place over the past few months about education reform-something I fully support. The economy and job market are constantly changing, so why should education not be held to the same standard.

We need to ensure our students are obtaining the best education we can offer so that they can be prepared for their future and for Indiana's future. Saying that, we need to reconfigure how we approach education and how our students are educated.

I am fully aware that Dr. Tony Bennett, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, recently released his agenda for education reform. I am also aware that many teachers disagree with many aspects of his plan. 

It is Dr. Bennett's responsibility to recommend what he thinks the legislature should do concerning education reform. It is the responsibility, however, of the legislature to dive into his agenda, go through it piece by piece and configure what would be best for our Hoosier students.

As you know, I am not someone to just vote "yes" or "no" on legislation I know nothing about. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues over the next month in discussing what we like and don't like about Dr. Bennett's plan.

I encourage you to be a part of that conversation. If you have any suggestions, please call (1-800-382-9841) or email (H54@in.gov) me. In addition, if you haven't done so already, check out the Department of Education's website at www.in.gov/doe, and look over his plan.