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Local control, by way of Indianapolis

The New York Times looks at the growing number of schools replacing textbooks with laptops, focusing on Munster. The northwest Indiana district "made an all-out leap in a few frenetic months – removing all math and science textbooks for its 2,600 students in grades 5 to 12."

The article notes the switch was eased by the state's decision to eliminate the textbook-approval process, recognizing that instructional materials are changing dramatically.

But it was the quote from state Superintendent Tony Bennett that caught my eye:

"We've stopped pretending that the state board of education is the biggest school district in the state," Bennett said. "I believe in local control, and we don't have the ability to be the keeper of knowledge we have been in the past. We'll be better off if we uncuff people's hands."

Really? The local school officials I talk to certainly would take issue with his description of the DOE's approach. Some would suggest the department's position is that it is the keeper of all knowledge, even though most of the experienced DOE staffers were pushed out and replaced with educators who have spent few years in the classroom or working in education policy.

And Bennett's words certainly aren't reflected in the derogatory comments Dale Chu, assistant superintendent for innovation and improvement, posted on Twitter during last week's digital education conference in San Francisco, including:

Watching Anne Bryant, (executive director of National School Boards Association), defend indefensible tickles me for some reason. Perhaps b/c we've seen this show before

Joel Klein's succinct take on school boards: "They don't work."

Klein says "The evidence is in. The evidence is clear. School brd governance model hasn't worked. We can't 'meet' our way 2 success"

Elected school boards are the very definition of local control. Mocking them as ineffective hardly seems supportive. Perhaps Dr. Bennett should share his philosophy with the top-ranking members of his staff.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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