Indiana lawmakers are calling the budget they passed this legislative session "historic," largely because of the education funding included in it, but the General Assembly also made substantial changes to school accountability that give local leaders more control to address poor school performance.
The results of Indiana's takeover of a handful of academically failing schools are mixed, at best. The takeovers didn't get the results officials wanted, and caused a lot of frustration about local control.
Now, lawmakers are eliminating state consequences for academically failing schools, including state takeovers.
Former State Board of Education member Tony Walker said the move away from state interventions is a substantial change in direction for Indiana.
"Yeah it's a pretty big deal – this is an ideological shift for the state. When I first came on the state board ... we were in the process of ramping up the state's intervention mechanisms," he said.
Walker said he and other policymakers had good intentions as they approved new interventions, but in hindsight it was far more difficult than just changing management.
"I had concluded – at least by my second tenure on the State Board of Education – that the way we were doing takeover and turnaround in Indiana really had failed, and I think that's sort of what's borne out by this legislation," he said.
The legislation, House Enrolled Act 1514, also requires the State Board of Education to create a public data dashboard to highlight aspects of school performance – like graduation and attendance rates, test scores, and how many students earn dual credit. Schools will also have to post a similar dashboard on their websites, but can customize the data included in it.
David Marcotte, executive director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association, said the changes will provide communities a better picture of what's going on in their schools, instead of focusing primarily on test scores.
Now, he said, it's important for communities and policymakers to focus on making education more equitable for students.
"Equal means everybody receives the same – equity means people receive what they need. And that's where we need to keep our focus on education," he said.
The law will go into effect this summer, and the state has until 2024 to create the new dashboard.