Dear Editor,

In a recent article, “North School Board Talks Teacher Shortage,” it was reported that North Montgomery Superintendent Colleen Moran suggested that the shortage of teachers evident in Montgomery County was rooted in the education polices of former Governor Mitch Daniels and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. She was also quoted saying, “they painted a picture that education is broken. It’s never been broken,” and she calls on voters to keep these changes in mind when they go to the voting booth this fall because, “if policies do not change it could get even worse.” Finally, she says, “So let’s go out and talk about the rewards of education,” and it is this quote that prompted me to respond to the article.

Since the facts do not support Superintendent Moran’s statements, I felt compelled to share them. In truth, North Montgomery has benefited dramatically as a result of the hard work of great teachers and the reforms led by Governor Daniels in 2010. The academic performance of its students has been on a steady increase since the passage and implementation of the very reforms Superintendent Moran blames for the teacher shortage. Specifically, overall North Montgomery ISTEP+ passage rates have gone from 65.1 percent to 68.1 percent since the spring of 2009. The graduation rate was 96.1 percent in 2014 – an increase of 9 percentage points over the pre-reform rate of 2007, and their End of Course Assessment passage rate jumped from 66.1 percent in 2010 to 73.3 percent in 2014.

School accountability is another indicator of increased student achievement, and since the passage and implementation of the Daniels-Bennett reforms in 2010, the corporation’s performance has been on the rise going from a D for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years to a B in 2013-2014.

Now let’s look at the facts around student enrollment and the supply of teachers. North Montgomery has seen an 11.6 percent drop in its enrollment since 2006. For the 2013-2014 school year (the most recent data available by the Indiana Department of Education), the corporation employed 139 teachers for 1,952 students (a teacher-to-student ratio of 1 teacher for every 14 students). Of those 139 teachers, 30 percent have 0-5 years of experience, 27 percent have 6-10 years, 22 percent have 11-20 years and 21 percent have more than 20 years of teaching experience. This illustrates a strong balance in teaching experience and suggests that the pipeline of individuals entering the teaching profession is relatively steady. Additionally, since the implementation of school vouchers, the district has had fewer than 10 students leave its schools and utilize a voucher to attend a private school, but has received more than $16,500 in additional funding as a result of the program’s implementation. 

Superintendent Moran claims charter schools are not working, yet there is not a single charter school located near North Montgomery schools; therefore, they have no impact on the district. In fact, North Montgomery’s increased student performance since the passage of the Daniels-Bennett reforms has clearly been noticed by parents and families in the area. Last school year, 151 students chose to attend North Montgomery schools instead of the public school district in which they live.

It is unfair to suggest that reform policies have any correlation to a shortage of teachers. The teacher shortage discussion is a national one, and the issue is worse in many states, such as California, where first-year teacher licenses are down 53 percent, and no education reforms of any kind have been passed or implemented. Superintendent Moran claims, “We are being forced to do things that are wrong for kids.” If increased graduation rates, increased student achievement and improved accountability letter grades are “wrong for kids,” then I hope for the sake of all Hoosier students the voters of Indiana do take note of the facts and continue to support candidates and policies focused on improving student achievement.

Betsy Wiley

President, Institute for Quality Education