Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 28, 2013

Raising bar in education


— The Indiana General Assembly handed Gov. Mike Pence last week a personal victory of sorts: A state budget that cuts personal income taxes 5 percent over the next four years.

Pence proposed and, for much of the legislative session, demanded a 10 percent income-tax cut for Hoosiers. The plan was central to his run for governor, but perhaps not as important as his education proposals during the 2012 campaign.

The governor signed two bills April 15 that state leaders hope will improve career and technical training in high schools across Indiana. Stronger job-training programs were just one part of Pence’s plan to improve graduation rates. Another was to implement higher standards in Indiana classrooms, with a focus on college readiness.

Pence should spend this summer advocating the latter. The Education and Workforce Development Commission put forward just such a plan in cooperation with the Indiana University Public Policy Institute last year.

Under the proposal, students who had shown they were ready would basically spend their senior years taking classes they would previously have taken as freshmen in college. Others would spend that final year training for a vocation, and still others would spend it getting ready for college or career training.

Too often, students go to college only to find themselves having to take remedial classes to catch up. The commission’s plan would have kids taking those classes during their senior year in high school.

The overall goal would be to nearly double the number of Hoosiers with college degrees by 2025.

The Indiana College Readiness Report, released Thursday by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, suggests Pence’s call for stiffer high school standards could increase college graduations.

Kokomo High School graduated 385 students in 2011, and 239 of them enrolled in college that fall, according to the report. Those who earned an honors diploma averaged a 3.0 GPA their freshman year of college. Those who graduated with a Core 40 diploma averaged a 1.7 GPA.

Worse yet, 48 percent of Kokomo’s Core 40 graduates were required to take remedial classes at college. At the end of their freshman year, the Core 40 graduates averaged just 12.8 college credits — fewer than half the number needed to be considered a college sophomore.

By 2018, 55 percent of Indiana jobs will require some postsecondary education, according to a recent from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

With Pence’s leadership, the state must act to meet that demand. The next generation is counting on it.