It's the day before Election Day.
Believe it or not, a number of my politically and religiously conservative friends in Indiana are voting for Democrat Glenda Ritz for Indiana State Superintendent of schools, rather than Republican Tony Bennett. (See here
for a story about that race.) Why? A number of these friends are
public school teachers, and my impression is that their problem with the
right-wing Bennett is that he appears to be inflexible, in areas.
On the surface, merit pay and standardized testing look like
appropriate ways to measure the success of teachers and public schools.
But that may not work so well if a teacher has a challenging group of
students and thus misses out on merit pay, or if a public school's
success (or lack thereof) is measured primarily by standardized tests
that take place over limited periods of time, or if the state punishes
"failing" schools (through mass firings, for example) rather than
working with them to see what their needs are. Moreover, there is
concern that Bennett is being influenced by people with power, money,
and influence (see here),
rather than allowing local communities to have more control over their
own school systems. Bennett is a strong proponent of charter schools,
some of which are operated by out-of-state companies. And Bennett hired
private interests, including two for-profit companies from
out-of-state, to operate low-performing schools.
Ritz's supporters note that Ritz is a strong proponent for pre-school
(including for kids in poverty), early kindergarten, and professional
development for teachers (which Bennett cut, according to one Ritz
supporter----but see here for more on that issue).
They deny that she is against accountability, or that she is against
all testing, but they question whether Bennett's reliance on high-stakes
testing to measure public schools' success is the best approach to
take, even as charter schools and homeschoolers are not subject to rigid
It's refreshing to read about
some of my right-wing friends supporting Ritz, as well as some of my
right-wing friends at least being open-minded about whom to support.
I should probably do more reflection about why public schools are in
the mess they're in. I've long blamed the teachers, but there are
probably a variety of factors: students from broken homes, parents who
don't care, short attention spans among students, etc. I
believe in accountability, but perhaps some measures are too draconian
and driven by ideology rather than pragmatism, and so alternative
measures should be taken, as schools and administrators work together to
come up with ideas about how to meet schools' needs and to make
teachers more effective.