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Indiana schools leader: Student learning to be a top priority in 2018

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — We’re looking ahead to 2018 and talking education.

What direction might your child’s school go next year? 24-Hour News 8 sat down with the state’s top educator to talk priorities.

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick outlined her strategic plan for the next year. It covers a lot of bases but focuses on three key areas: student learning, operations and school improvement.

In terms of student learning, part of that will focus on getting Indiana up to Federal Every Student Succeeds Act demands. McCormick said, “It really dives into the student population, looking at courses, opportunities and diplomas.”

Last week, Indiana’s Chamber of Commerce said it wants lawmakers to make computer science classes a graduation requirement for 2018.

“I would not support that as a graduation requirement,” she said. “I think it’s a great course for an elective.”

McCormick also said she wants to revise Indiana’s current high school diploma requirements. Right now, Indiana offers four different types of high school diplomas. They are the General, Core 40, Core 40 with Academic Honors, and the Core 40 with Technical Honors. According to an official within McCormick’s office, a federal mandate is the reason why McCormick is considering pushing for one diploma.

The idea behind the four diplomas is to help those who struggle in class, like special needs students or pupils who are learning English.

McCormick said, “I’m very concerned about that population and where things are going. Do I think the general diploma should go away? No. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a conversation continuing about rigor.”

Another priority for McCormick is school improvement.

She said she wants to allow more flexibility in teacher licensing so they can teach more subjects. McCormick said her office is also working on the state teacher shortage. She said Indiana teacher starting salaries roughly range from the high $30,000 to the mid $40,000.

McCormick said, “You won’t hear me say it needs to be an “X” starting salary. I’m more concerned about what do we do at the back end? How do we address some of those? How do we entice them to come in?”

Lastly, operational effectiveness, namely advocating for school and districts in financial trouble.

McCormick sai, “Upstairs in the General Assembly, I would also argue, as a state, there’s not much appetite to throw money at situations that aren’t good. How do we help districts get better so that we’re not in this situation?”

McCormick said her office plans on releasing a strategic plan for the state sometime in the spring.