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Web letter by Cindy Curtis: Education is a bipartisan issue; Ritz deserves a chance

Hurrah for Glenda Ritz! Hurrah for Indiana’s education system! Hurrah for public school teachers and their students!

Let’s set the record straight. Glenda Ritz’s win was not just a fluke. She was voted in not only by teachers but also by Indiana folks unhappy with the political agenda education has taken on and some of the recent mandates legislators have passed. According to the voting patterns, it’s obvious some die-hard Republicans broke their straight-ticket vote to choose her.

By voting her in, Indiana voters showed their support for wanting to run their own local public schools. This indicates we need to stop throwing our education funding to for-profit operators such as Timothy L. Johnson Academy, which after 11 years is running on little growth and high staff turnover.

Public education is in need of positive and meaningful reform that will affect the majority of both students and teachers. We don’t have failing schools; we have failing reform.

Harrison Hill Academy is a good example of reform gone awry. According to the state’s latest revised rating formula in grading schools, it received a F score. As a retired educator of 33 years, I have observed when volunteering there that the building’s staff is as devoted and effective as any in the field. When recently visited by a state official, Harrison Hill received a positive evaluation. The evaluation noted the staff was implementing all the right procedures.

We need reform proving children at Harrison Hill Academy are attending an environment deserving of favorable recognition. Today’s reforms penalize and degrade schools such as Harrison Hill for their considerable diversity and struggling attendance.

The present testing tool and school-grading formula have created negative ramifications by forcing special-needs and newly English-learning students to be administered a test at their grade level (at which they cannot read). The evaluation has no consideration of their ability to read English, and the results are used as part of the school’s grade.

We need a measurement of academics that can be utilized multiple times throughout the school year and would not take days to administer. This in turn would create a balance of academics in all subject areas, not driven by one standardized exam. We need an assessment that can be used by educators to remediate or move pupils forward, not one that indicates to failing third-graders at the end of summer vacation that they won’t be going to fourth grade.

We need reform that will pay all educators equally for a job well done. Let’s use some practical wisdom to trust the judgment of teachers to use their creativity to overcome the mediocrity of too many rules and procedures. They are highly trained experts in the classroom who have done their homework to prepare for each day.

Stop by Harrison Hill on late Friday afternoons to see the numerous vehicles in the school parking lot. Those teachers are planning and tweaking next week’s lessons for a first-rate education for their students. Merit pay will only encourage flight to less-challenging demographics.

We need reform that will address the need for a high school curriculum offering opportunities to prepare for blue-collar jobs that don’t require upper levels of math. Not everyone has the desire or capability to attain a bachelor’s degree. Education practices are constantly changing. Teachers learn early on to embrace them, but not when their effect is negative, such as teaching to the test.

Educators also have been accountable for a long time and are constantly being evaluated. They have always had high expectations of their students, even while working with much less support due to tremendous budget cuts. Ritz will continue to initiate reform in our Indiana public schools by once again establishing a nonthreatening environment for educators, collaborating with teachers and treating them as the professionals they are.

This would encourage an increase in the number of education majors, who have been negatively affected by Indiana’s poor climate of the teaching profession. If it’s important to promote student instruction, then we’ll need all departments on board to reach this goal. Let’s hope our new governor will enthusiastically collaborate in positive education decisions with Ritz and create a state education board willing to make it a team effort.

Voting in or re-electing other public officials didn’t indicate constituents endorsed the education agenda of the past four years. Let’s also hope our legislators will do more than just work with Ritz as best they can. They should not be threatening to create laws to restrict her authority to make important decisions concerning Indiana’s future citizens.

The election is over. Politicians should have some political etiquette by ceasing the mudslinging. They should try listening to their constituents and using some bipartisanship. Indiana Policy Review Foundation should stop the threats and speculations directed to Indiana’s newly elected superintendent of public instruction.

Let’s put aside our political party differences when it comes to educating our children by supporting our newly elected superintendent of public instruction, Glenda Ritz. It’s in the best interest of our children.

CINDY CURTIS

Fort Wayne

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