Gov. Daniels plans changes for Indiana's education system for 2011

Gov. Mitch Daniels

Kevin Rader/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Gov. Mitch Daniels has promised that change will continue to dominate the last two years of his administration. When the legislature goes into session in January, education will be at the top of that list.

In the first of three parts of our year-end conversation with Gov. Mitch Daniels, he talks to Eyewitness News the type of change he would like to see in Indiana schools.

WTHR: "Let's start with the obvious here. You have a Republican majority in the House and the Senate. It makes me think of the quote, 'to whom much is given, much is expected.'"

Daniels: "We expect a lot of ourselves. We asked to be entrusted with the leadership in the legislature as well as here and now we have to turn that into positive change for Hoosiers, but that is exactly what we intend to do."

WTHR: "Where do you want to take the state? I know you want to start with education so let's start there. What are your key points there?"

Daniels: "Teacher quality by runaway margin the most important predictor of how our children will do. It trumps everything - poverty, class size they are small by comparison. So teacher quality first. More flexibility. We have more accountability in the system now. Starting this year every school is graded A through F. Every parent will be able to understand it. We've got to get the local superintendents and school boards and principals enough authority and flexibility to meet the expectations. And then finally more options for our families and we will be able to choose among public schools, among charter public schools or even non-government schools. Whatever they think is best for their child. We trust them to make that decision."

WTHR: "The devil is always in the details as it is negotiated, but on teacher accountability I have talked to some instructors who have said, 'It is not always what we do. Sometimes it is the class. It can vary from year to year.' How do we address all that is out there?"

Daniels: "Right. Well let's start by saying nothing is less fair then it is today. The very very best teacher gets absolutely no credit or advantage for that compared to the very poorest teacher in a given school. They get the same raise at the end of the year. It's all seniority-based. So that can't be the best answer. It's very fair to say that we should evaluate teachers not on how children do in absolute terms because some classes will start out well behind others, but how much did they grow? How much did they learn during the year? We can measure this now and local leadership can devise their own ways of evaluating which teachers are the most often helping children wherever those kids started grow at least a year for every year in school."

WTHR: "On the issue of early graduation, there are several questions, like who will get the money and whether it will be universal."

Daniels: "Visiting Indiana high schools I kept running into seniors who had already completed their graduation requirements and they would tell you they were more or less cruising through senior year, which led me to the idea that maybe, purely on a voluntary basis, if they would rather have the money we're gonna spend on them and begin applying it to the high cost of college or some kind of post-secondary education might be a good idea."

Daniels said 77 percent of students polled said they'd love to have that choice.

Daniels: "I think the idea is to - at the student's option - let them direct if not all, at least most of the money we would otherwise spend on a wasted senior year - as long as they're gonna use it somewhere in the state to pursue their education and growth."

WTHR: "Is there some concern by schools that they might lose more money that way?"

Daniels: "Schools are always concerned about money, sometimes I think more than they seem to be about how the students are doing. But we have to focus in Indiana education on the young people, on the students, what is best for them? What will help them grow the most? Everything else is a means to that end. If a family or a student through his or her own diligence completes graduation requirements in less than 12 years, let's help them with the cost of college. Let's think about them first and this idea would accomplish that."

Tuesday night, we'll talk to the governor about the state's dire need for jobs.