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Learning Curve

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Gov. Pence's homework assignment

It's easy to see why Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is so eager to embrace the pro-privatization forces working to dismantle public education. They spend lots of money, after all, electing politicians to support their mission.

Pence's support for the American Federation for Children earned him the keynote address at the organization's national conference in Maryland on Monday. But the governor might want to do a little homework on both the American Federation for Children and on the data he used to claim vouchers aren't hurting school progress in Indiana.

Pence told conference-goers that standardized test score passing-rates for Indiana's public school students improved from 64 percent in 2006-07 to 71.5 percent in 2011-12.

"The progress we made doesn't appear to be slowing down at all," he said.

But the 2011-12 school year was the first year for vouchers, with only 4,000 students participating. The real effects on public schools won't be known for some time, with dollars continuing to be diverted to private and parochial schools.

Pence would be wise to consider the source of his data, also. CTB/McGraw-Hill, the textbook/testing giant responsible for Indiana's standardized assessments, hardly engendered confidence in its services with the massive malfunction in test administration this month. Fiscal conservative that he is, the governor might want to ask some questions about the company's $95 million contract.

The governor follows Tony Bennett, former Indiana state superintendent, on the American Federation for Children's conference slate. There might be a lesson in that, too.

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