News and Tribune

Education/Schools

May 14, 2013

Ritz on fast learning curve as state schools chief

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

Though unknown and underfunded — her campaign war chest was one-tenth the size of Bennett’s — she won the votes of 1.3 million Hoosiers, more than Republican Gov. Mike Pence garnered. 

But she walked into a Statehouse controlled by Republicans who helped Bennett and his allies on the State Board of Education engineer a controversial overhaul of education policy. 

Ritz still seems undaunted, convinced she can remove partisanship from the conversation about how to best educate Indiana’s children. 

 “I may have to deal with politics and political points of view, but in the long run, I don't let that dissuade me,” Ritz said. “I am always going to be talking with people about the best way for things to happen in the classroom. And how on an upper level, a policy level, we really do affect that.” 

Democrat Sen. Tim Skinner, a Ritz supporter from Terre Haute, said Ritz opponents have been waiting for her to stumble. “Everything she does is under a microscope,” Skinner said. “She has to feel like there is a 10,000-pound truck hanging over her head, ready to drop.” 

Ritz acknowledges the pressure, but keeps it out of her sight line. “I’m a very tenacious person,” she said. 

Ritz saw her election as a “referendum” on the course of education set by Republicans who tied high-stakes testing like ISTEP to teacher pay, school funding, and student evaluation.

But her victory appears to have only slowed down the course, not reverse it. 

The A-to-F grading system for schools, which Ritz says unfairly gives every school in the state a grade based on student test scores, is still in place. So is a make-or-break assessment test she opposes called IREAD-3, which third-graders must pass to go on to fourth grade. 

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