Implementing Indiana's 'Putting Students First' agenda: Early lessons and potential futures

Article Highlights

  • What can Indiana's Putting Students First reforms teach the rest of the nation?

    Tweet This

  • With school reform, good intentions go only so far.

    Tweet This

  • Ground-level implementation is critical for successful school reform.

    Tweet This

Subscribe to AEI's education emails.

Implementing Indiana's 'Putting Students First' agenda: Early lessons and potential futures

Download PDF

In 2011, Indiana’s legislature reshaped the state’s education policy landscape with a package of laws that enabled local leaders to make swift and potentially sweeping changes to district and school operations. The Hoosier State’s reforms, dubbed by supporters as the “Putting Students First” agenda, provide a valuable case study of the crucial launch period that all reform agendas encounter.

Although it is too early to judge the ultimate effects of these policy changes, in this paper we begin considering what challenges the reform package will confront as it moves deeper into implementation. We offer neither naïve praise nor uninformed criticism of Indiana’s efforts, nor do we judge whether legislators passed the right mix of reforms. Instead, we consider carefully how implementation has begun and likely will continue to unfold so that Indiana’s officials, citizens, and observers elsewhere can begin learning lessons from the state’s work.

Indiana’s experience so far shows that state-level leadership is invaluable for articulating, supporting, and advancing an education reform agenda but that eventual results depend on several things: local leaders and teachers using reforms to carefully, creatively, and properly reshape critical tasks and school cultures to improve students’ experiences; state and local officials effectively leveraging resources from nongovernmental organizations to support that reshaping; and implementers inside and outside government having a clear understanding of the opportunities and consequences that will follow from their actions. Unless state and local implementers seize opportunities present in the law, efforts such as Putting Students First likely will prompt new rounds of compliance-oriented behavior, wasted money, bureaucratic busyness, frustrated teachers, and few or no substantive gains.

After summarizing the essential elements of Putting Students First, we will offer several lessons about implementation based on the state’s experience. We conclude with broader observations and actionable suggestions about implementing ambitious multidimensional education reforms. Our discussion relies on interviews with Indiana state officials and others conducted during the spring of 2012, official state documents and data, and other publications. A brief appendix describes our data sources and research methods.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Frederick M.
Hess
  • An educator, political scientist and author, Frederick M. Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include "Cage-Busting Leadership," "Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age," "The Same Thing Over and Over," "Education Unbound," "Common Sense School Reform," "Revolution at the Margins," and "Spinning Wheels." He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog, "Rick Hess Straight Up." Hess's work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, National Affairs, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind.  Hess serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.


    Follow AEI Education Policy on Twitter


    Follow Frederick M. Hess on Twitter.

  • Email: rhess@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Sarah DuPre
    Phone: 202-862-7160
    Email: Sarah.DuPre@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Dad and the diploma: The difference fathers make for college graduation
image A better way to finance that college degree
image Fracking for bigger budgets
image Earth Day: Hail fossil fuels, energy of the future
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.