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INDIANAPOLIS — The state's schools chief is hopeful that Hoosier lawmakers next year will hit pause on new education reform efforts and instead focus on effectively implementing the major policy shifts they approved in prior legislative sessions.

Jennifer McCormick, the Republican state superintendent of public instruction, told reporters Tuesday that much work remains to be done for lawmakers to fulfill their goals of changing high school graduation requirements, revising student testing, easing teacher licensing and acting on numerous other vital education issues.

"When you talk about diplomas and graduation pathways, those are big items that have a huge impact on millions of students for a long time," McCormick said.

She said classroom teachers regularly tell her they feel whipsawed by the constantly changing expectations, standards and requirements coming out of the Statehouse, and if lawmakers next year primarily want to focus on workforce development that's fine by them.

"I think educators have become a little bit fatigued in the area of legislative mandates," McCormick said. "I'm not a big fan of just mandating everything in education because we've been down that road and sometimes it doesn't go well."

At the same time, McCormick has a policy wish list that she'd like legislators to take up during the 10-week session that convenes Jan. 3.

It includes requiring school attendance beginning at age 5 instead of 7; developing a "rigorous, equitable, manageable and understandable" school accountability system to replace the A-F letter grades currently employed; and providing schools in financial distress more flexibility to move money between funds.

Concerning the cash-strapped Gary Community School Corp., which lawmakers in April directed the state to take over and operate using an emergency manager, McCormick said: "They need as much support as we can give them and we will continue to do so." 

McCormick also supports Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's call to align classroom education with career training, and favors integrating computer science education in all grades.

However, she does not believe passing a computer science course should be a high school graduation requirement as proposed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

"You have to remember that true computer science is academically very rigorous," McCormick said. "Is it appropriate for every student? I would argue probably not."

McCormick said no matter what lawmakers decide to do next year, she hopes their overall goal is to "create a rich, innovative and immersive educational environment that challenges our students to be successful lifelong learners."


Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.