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May 14, 2013

State faces higher education challenge

INDIANAPOLIS —

On the campaign trail last year and early into his administration, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said repeatedly that his goal as governor would be to take Indiana from “good to great.” 

He borrowed the phrase from the 2001 book by the same name, by author Jim Collins, who wrote the book to share management advice from 11 companies that performed spectacularly well in the 1990s. 

I appreciate the governor’s intent: The best-selling book is a roadmap of sorts for how to engineer long-term success and sustainability, which is why every state agency leader was given a copy at Pence’s first meeting with his cabinet back in January. 

He told reporters that day that he instructed his agency leaders to develop “good to great” plans of their own.

But that instruction assumed that Indiana had already achieved the status of “good.”

I thought about that “good to great” phrase this weekend, while reading stories about college and high school graduation ceremonies going on around the state. 

Are we even close to being “good” when it comes to education in Indiana? 

Here are some things to consider before answering that question: 

Statewide data collected by the Indiana Commission on Higher Education show that almost 30 percent of Hoosier high school graduates need to take at least one remedial course in math or English when they get to college. (It’s more than 60 percent for Indiana high school graduates headed to our two-year colleges.) Those are courses that carry no credit, but cost just the same as the ones that do. 

There are high schools in Indiana with much higher rates than that average. Of the 375 public high schools, 235 have more than 30 percent of their college-bound students that need this extra expensive help. Thirty of those high schools have more than 50 percent of their college-bound students in need of remediation. 

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