EDITORIAL: Ritz should tweak reforms, not jettison them

2012-11-08T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Ritz should tweak reforms, not jettison them nwitimes.com
November 08, 2012 12:00 am  • 

In the wake of Tuesday's election, Democrat Glenda Ritz finds herself being put in charge of education reform in Indiana.

In a state where the Republican Legislature and Republican governor must approve major changes, Ritz should focus on nuances of the reforms already in place rather than trying to undo what has been done so far.

Ritz has talked of eliminating the new state requirement that third-graders prove they're reading at grade level before being promoted to third grade. Undoing this reform would be a mistake.

Beyond third grade, learning requires the ability to read material in texts and other sources to grasp concepts. It can be socially awkward to be forced to repeat a grade, but falling further behind because of an inability to read well can be worse.

Instead of just scrapping the test, focus on ways to ensure students' reading ability is up to snuff.

Ritz, who isn't fond of the way Indiana handles standardized tests, should look at reforms like revamping testing the way Crown Point Community School Corp. has done. That district uses tests to ensure children are being prepared for the transition not just to the next grade level but also to preparation for college and career. Indiana's traditional ISTEP doesn't serve as a good measure for this purpose.

And rather than jettison school and teacher accountability, tweak them to ensure they are fair measures.

Along the way, Ritz should learn from the defeat of her opponent, incumbent Republican Tony Bennett, who was accused of being brash and rigid in aggressively and rapidly pushing his reform agenda.

Bring in members of the education and business communities and get them to work together, as is being done in Northwest Indiana — and as Governor-elect Mike Pence proposes for the rest of the state — to address these issues.

Northwest Indiana's superintendents are eager to make sure students are being trained to become productive citizens, which means making them ready for college or career.

Even though the pace and subtleties of change are subject to debate, the goal of improving education must not be neglected in the process.

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