Spotlight on Education
Wise steps needed for educated citizenry
Indianapolis Star, May 31, 2002
Indiana's education policy should be guided by three principles:
- Every child deserves an excellent education. Scholastic achievement
is a key determinant of a person's future success.
- Tax dollars must be spent wisely on education. Greater funding can
improve the schools, but it can also be squandered on ineffective
programs. As a doctor, I have seen many medical treatments that
were promising in theory but failed in practice. We need to choose
education reforms that research shows will work.
- Investment in education is central to the future of Indiana.
Too many of our college graduates leave Indiana for jobs in other states,
and many who stay cannot find suitable positions. We need to foster
economic growth with our education dollars, particularly in fields such
Where do these three principles take us? We should emphasize three policies:
- Smaller classes. Some children will do well whether they are in a class
of 10 or 100, but others need the personalized attention that is possible
only in smaller classes. Important research from Tennessee
has demonstrated the benefits: When children were placed in classes
of about 15 students, they achieved at much higher levels than in classes
of 25. The greatest benefits were realized by those most likely to
perform poorly. Smaller class size can also alleviate problems
with teacher retention. If teachers can accomplish more in the
classroom, they are less likely to leave for jobs in other states or to
burn out and leave teaching altogether.
- Earlier education. Research is finding more and more evidence that
brain development occurs early in a child's life. Waiting until
the child is old enough for first grade is often too late. Every
child should have the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten.
Indeed, pre-school programs are also crucial. After studying
achievement scores in schools across the United States, researchers at
RAND identified the expansion of public pre-kindergarten programs as
a key strategy for improving achievement.
- Industry-university partnerships. An important lesson from the success
of Silicon Valley and other technology centers is the need for partnerships
between industry and academia. Job growth in the 21st century will
thrive where business can draw on the expertise of university researchers.
We have outstanding universities in Indiana, whose world-class professors
conduct cutting-edge research. However, we have not kept up with
other states, including our Midwestern neighbors, in the investments we
make in our public institutions of higher learning.
Even in a time of budgetary constraints, we must not be shortsighted. As recognized
by business groups, labor and educators, we are at a critical juncture. A wise
education policy will do much to assure that the Indiana of the 21st century is the
Orentlicher is professor at the Indiana University Schools of Law and Medicine in
Indianapolis. He is the Democratic candidate for state representative,
86th District, Indianapolis.
Committee to Elect David Orentlicher
c/o David Gabovitch, Treasurer
6100 West 96th Street, Suite 250
Indianapolis, Indiana 46278