Indiana lawmakers seek decentralized school choices

Two Republican state senators announced Wednesday they will push measures to decentralize school leadership in Indiana and pull the state out of a national education initiative.

Some high-performing schools would be allowed to choose their own curriculum under a plan from Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel. A separate proposal from Sen. Scott Schneider of Indianapolis calls for ending Indiana's participation in the national Common Core Standards, a set of uniform benchmarks for math and reading.

If successful, Schneider's measure would mark another rebuttal of the sweeping education changes pushed by departing state schools superintendent Tony Bennett and outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels — this time from the right.

Incoming School Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, capitalized during the November elections on many conservatives' angst over losing local control under the national standards. She beat Bennett, a Republican, after promising to return more power to local school administrators.

Bennett and the state's education board signed off on Common Core Standards in 2010.

"I am worried that Common Core was pushed on Indiana without proper review of what it will mean for students and teachers," Schneider said in a press statement Wednesday. His bill is scheduled for a committee hearing Jan. 16.

Delph's proposal calls for giving high-performing schools more control over their curriculum and builds on an education package he unsuccessfully pushed in the last legislative session.

Under his plan, certain school systems would be allowed to build their own curriculum, establish their own teacher evaluations, set their own class schedules and create independent plans for career and technical training.

School districts would have to meet a series of requirements before winning autonomy from the state: At least 25 percent of students would have to score above a 2 on at least one Advanced Placement Exam or graduate with a technical honors diploma. At least 90 percent of students must graduate across the district, and the average SAT scores would need to be greater than the statewide average.

"Districts with proven track records could create environments that better fit their students' academic needs and capabilities," Delph said. "This would allow these students to reach their fullest potential."

Lawmakers return for a lengthy 2013 session on Monday.

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