As election day approaches, I see more and more yard signs and Facebook posts with people passionately expressing their views over a heated race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, but most express emotions with no facts. I’ve never been shy that I am a Tony Bennett fan, but I also wanted to make sure that I knew a bit about Glenda Ritz, and more importantly than either of those two, I wanted to be sure that I understood what the issues are that differentiate them.
So, I read through both of their web sites, and I also listened to the debate that took place between them in Ft. Wayne last night. I usually don’t find that debates sway me much, but this debate made me feel very confident about my continued support for Tony Bennett. I guess, like Dr. Bennett, I do look at education as a business out of which we should expect high results.
As I listened to the debate and took notes (yes I actually did take notes), here’s the list of three key issues that I see separating the two candidates…
- Merit pay for teachers, based in part on student achievement
- Teaching to the test and/or standards versus social promotion
- School vouchers for charter and private schools
Merit Pay - As I understand it, many educators are not necessarily against merit pay, but against those decisions having to be based, in part, on student achievement. Those who take issue with merit pay commonly leave out those two important words, in part. Some educators are against merit pay altogether. I simply want to know which is more personally fulfilling and important in motivating good performance…gaining one more year of seniority or knowing that your pay will be differentiated by the quality of your work? As to the objection to merit pay being linked to student achievement (where student population is unpredictable), I’ll just say that, in the business world, I’m held accountable for achieving results and improving situations – no matter how difficult they are. Although I always try to win, sometimes I lose…and my pay suffers for that year. I’m always shooting for more wins than losses.
Teaching to the Test / Social Promotion - Being a free-lancer myself, this is more difficult for me to comment on. Like I sense in many educators, I like to do things my own way. Having said that, how do you judge whether or not students are achieving the necessary milestones without achievement tests like ISTEP, and standards like IREAD-3? And how is it fair to pass children on to the next grade (social promotion) when they have not achieved what they were to achieve in their present grade? And, even though many of our children are not meeting present standards, how can we not be aspiring to Common Core standards that judge how well students might compete internationally?
School Vouchers for Charter and Private Schools - Educators in general and the Indiana State Teachers’ Association in specific, seem generally concerned about the potential erosion of public schools at the hands of vouchers for charter and private schools. I am too, but I am even more concerned for kids who are held hostage to schools that are inadequately preparing them to compete in a global economy, while their wealthier counterparts pursue other alternatives. I am not against public schools; I simply want them to have competition and be competitive. Competition drives performance while monopoly can drive complacency or slowness to respond. It’s this slowness to respond that has the United States ranked 11th in reading, 31st in math, and 18th in science – according to 2009 statistics posted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Blame this on budget cuts, but I think we’ve been proving since the 1970′s that throwing more money at education is not improving the situation.
What I see in Glenda Ritz is more status quo supported by the ISTA. What I see in Tony Bennett is a man who is trying to ensure that Indiana students are internationally competitive, and and is generating positive results.
I’m voting for Tony Bennett, and I hope you will consider doing so, too.