Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Indy's Star's recipe for success

Here is Indy Star's recipe for success in today's editorial:

1. Invest in early-childhood education: A significant portion of students enter kindergarten already well behind their peers. The gap tends to widen as the children age. In next year's session, state legislators could make a significant contribution to narrowing the achievement gap by approving full-day kindergarten.

2. Share the facts: Educators tend to be overly defensive when discussing low test scores, low graduation rates and other indications that the status quo isn't working. The public needs to hear the truth, untouched by spin. One example: The state for years has claimed that the high school graduation rate is 90 percent. Preliminary data, based on a more realistic formula, indicate that the statewide graduation rate for the 2004-05 school year was 70 percent. Once lawmakers and taxpayers learn that three out of 10 students aren't completing high school on time, they likely will be far more willing to make the necessary investments and changes.

3. Embrace innovation: When Eugene White took over as superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools last year, he didn't whine about the growth of charter schools in the city. Instead, he decided to compete with and in some instances partner with them. As a result, IPS is preparing to open a middle school based on the KIPP Academy model and create high schools focusing on government and law and the life sciences. Other struggling districts could use similar creative approaches.

4. Recruit the community: Mentors can make a tremendous difference in helping students succeed. Although many efforts exist, community and business organizations need to take more of a lead in providing volunteers.

5. Reward good teachers: If an outstanding worker is compensated at the same level as a mediocre employee, where is the incentive to excel? Yet, that's precisely the model set up in public schools. Merit pay for teachers along with bonuses for educators who take on the most challenging sets of students would justly reward high achievers and those willing to take chances.

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