A Conversation with Indiana Superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett, Part 1

While kids going back to school might not notice many changes this year, next year could be a different story.

Maureen recently sat down for a conversation with Dr. Tony Bennett --the State School Superintendent, not the singer.

He's looking to change the tune of Indiana schools, making them a big hit nationwide.

"We are going to become very narrowly focused in Indiana to make sure our students are competitive," says Dr. Bennett.

Dr. Bennett likes much of what he sees in Hoosier schools, but says education experts grade the way we license teachers as subpar.

One part of his reform? Changing licensing requirements. Meaning an education degree will no longer be enough for Indiana teachers.

"They were not subject to that rigorous content knowledge in college," says Bennett. "New licensing regulations would provide schools the flexibility so that they have teachers with the content knowledge to move around, to put with the children they need to put them with in order to get their needs met."

"We're not going to abandon those very important 'how to teach' courses, but we are going to say there should be a more strenuous focus on content."

Making our teachers experts in the subject they teach.

"Our children are becoming incredibly competitive nationally and internationally, and in order to be competitive you have to have a rich content knowledge," says Bennett.

Specifically, teachers in grades 5 through 12 will need a bachelor's degree in a specific major, such as English, and a minor in education.

Teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade can have a major or minor in education but will need another major or minor, in a subject such as history.

When asked how hard it would be to have all those teachers out there with education degrees all going back to school, Bennett replied, "No, absolutely the current teaching core actually is incredibly positive from everything we've received in the department of ed about this, because this plan addresses the current teachers so that their licenses are converted."

Receiving the training and recertification they need through their own school districts through workshops and classes.

"Putting the onus on the school corporation, the building level administrators, who really are responsible for teacher quality," says Bennett. "So our intent is to every day find ways to take Indiana from where it is to the place where every business says 'we have to move to Indiana.'"

Making Indiana a model for education.

"The academic achievement, and the career preparation of all Indiana children, will be the best in the United States and on par with the most competitive countries around the world," Dr. Bennett says. "I think anything less than that and we are shortchanging our future."

Dr. Bennett says Indiana is already a model for new tech schools, but as you know the South Bend School Board voted down the proposal in a close vote Monday night.

Bennett also wants virtual charter schools available for kids so, if needed, they can learn outside the classroom.

We'll talk more about that Wednesday night on NewsCenter 16 at 6.

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