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Indiana schools chief wants district accountability

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The accountability measures that have been introduced for individual Indiana schools should be extended to entire school districts, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said Tuesday night in his State of Education speech.

Bennett called for district accountability and more flexibility in funding for education in the invitation-only address at the Indiana Historical center, The Journal Gazette and The Indianapolis Star reported.

Bennett said accountability has resulted in the percentage of students passing ISTEP rising 8 percentage points since 2009, the state's graduation rate improving four points to 85 percent and the number of kids taking Advanced Placement exams nearly doubling.

The state has taken over individual schools but doesn't have that power at the district level.

"In our efforts to turn around the state's lowest-performing schools, it has become clear that under performance is often systemic, with problems rooted in district-level leadership," Bennett said. "To make a greater impact on student performance where it is most desperately needed, Indiana should begin to explore expanding accountability to the district level."

A closer look at the financial and educational decisions districts make can show if they are aligned with what the state believes is best for children, Bennett said.

"These are important conversations we need to start having now so that — as we did with teacher evaluations — we can build a strong, student- focused accountability system for districts that is informed by input from many stakeholders," he said.

Bennett also says Indiana should look at funding of more early education programs such as preschool, but didn't call for more money for K-12 education.

"Indiana should find ways to reward successful districts with more funding flexibility and regulatory freedom," Bennett said.

Bennett, a Republican from southern Indiana, is seeking a second term. He is opposed by Democrat Glenda Ritz, an Indianapolis teacher.

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