A Conversation with Indiana Superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett, Part 2

Our brains are big, wrinkly, grey sponges, and they control everything we do as children and adults.

And Indiana's School Superintendent wants the state to do everything possible to help our kids soak up the knowledge they'll need to succeed in a new, high tech world.

Maureen recently sat down for a conversation with Dr. Tony Bennett who is proposing sweeping changes that focus on better teachers and schools.

"This is about children," says Dr. Bennett. "It doesn't happen overnight, as these folks would attest. I would say it'd be over a period of years. It's project-based learning."

State Superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett is talking about the future of Indiana schools.

"There are islands of excellence everywhere in this state," Bennett says. "What we need to do is not allow Indiana to become kind of a victim of 'islands of excellence,' as much as we have Indiana be a 'state of excellence.'"

A future that includes new tech schools, like the one South Bend School Superintendent Jim Kapsa planned for Studebaker, but was voted down Monday night by the school board.

"It's an incredible tool, it offers a national network regarding how you develop lessons, how you develop these projects," says Bennett. "It's a phenomenal opportunity for schools to take rigorous content and marry it with 21st century employability skills."

"It's clearly not one size fits all."

He says the Columbus and Rochester School districts are models for new tech across the state and country.

"Matter of fact, if you go to California and speak to the New Tech Foundation, they would clearly tell you that if you want to know how to open up new tech schools you might want to come to Indiana."

When I sat down with Bennett last week he was excited about the prospect of a high tech school here.

"We believe that South Bend will be one of those examples," he said.

A plan Superintendent Kapsa isn't giving up on.

New tech schools marry technology with rigorous standards for reading, English, history, the sciences and math.

Recently, national experts came to the Hoosier State to brainstorm on improving math standards.

"How can we make math education rigorous and relevant in a 21st century so that Indiana math students leave school with the ability to compete nationally and internationally?"

He plans to do the same with every subject taught in the state. And in addition to new tech high schools, his plan includes early college programs and what are called 'virtual charter schools.'

"It's another tool in the toolbox for Indiana children," says Dr. Bennett. "An option that says there will be children who need an option that allows children to learn in a different environment, very simply maybe in their own home."

Bennett also proposes higher teacher standards through tougher licensing.

"What we all have to do is say to ourselves 'we need the best teachers in front of Indiana students and if there are teachers who do not measure up we need to be able to address those issues.'"

An aggressive plan, but one Dr. Bennett says is long overdue. When asked where he hopes to see Indiana schools in the next five years, he says, "the best."

The state board meets again Thursday to talk about reform for Indiana schools.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bennett made a statement on Wednesday in response to the decision to vote down the New Tech High School in South Bend.

Bennett says he is "disappointed the board chose not to support a new tech program."

He went on to say, "I appreciate the board's consideration of new tech and I commend the administration for working so diligently to bring new tech to South Bend. It is clear to me that significant support for new tech exists in the community and I am hopeful that at some point in the future it will become a reality."

To see "A Conversation with Indiana Superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett, Part 1," just click on the link below.

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