While students across Indiana were packing their backpacks and heading to the classroom, I was packing my briefcase each day for the Statehouse. Almost daily, we were tasked with finding sensible solutions to the very issues your students were facing first-hand. Looking back on some of the many highlights from this session, I believe one thing is clear: the future of education in Indiana is bright.
Indiana has a young but very successful school choice program. This session, we wanted to build upon that success and decided to expand Choice Scholarship eligibility (HEA 1003). This provides additional avenues of educational choice, particularly to low-income parents.
It is almost intuitive that students perform better academically when they are in an environment which meets their individual needs. This legislation expands the right to decide what works best for your child, regardless of your economic status. Now, more students can receive the high-quality education that they deserve.
Ensuring that students are prepared for the next step in life is one of the greatest responsibilities of our education system. With a less than ideal job market, this task becomes even more important. To ensure that no student leaves high school unprepared, we developed the idea for a college and career readiness assessment (HEA 1005).
If a student is struggling on their end of course assessments, SAT or ACT, there is a good chance that they will be unprepared for the future. Identifying this early on will allow the school to arrange for additional instruction for that student. When students do not have to retake classes after graduation, it saves their families money and saves them time. The less time spent completing a degree, the earlier they can enter the workforce.
Last but not least, we dealt with an issue which is plaguing schools in Indiana and across the nation: bullying (HEA 1423). This was something we felt needed our immediate attention. Students simply cannot grow and thrive in an environment in which they do not feel comfortable. With the rising popularity of social media, cyber bullying has become a growing phenomenon. This has taken bullying beyond the school hallways and into the place where children are supposed to feel safest: their homes.
For many, this renders them unable to escape. As a result, we were compelled to expand the official definition of bullying to include activities occurring online. The Department of Education will also be directly involved in working with schools to help prevent bullying before it can occur, properly investigate instances when they do and discipline those involved. This collaboration shows a steadfast commitment to protecting Hoosier students and fostering a better learning environment.
In our efforts to improve education in Indiana, these are just a few of the many issues that we tackled this session. Before we know it, summer will be over and students will be heading back to the classroom. When they do, it is my sincere hope that each of them will be positively impacted by the work we have done this year.