education

Ritz says federal policies devalue teaching



Fewer teachers are being licensed in Indiana, and State Superintendent of Schools Glenda Ritz says it’s due to federal policies affecting schools.

Ritz released the second part of her three-part State of the Classroom video ?series Friday.

In part two, she discussed federal and state regulation of teaching and what she called excessive use of standardized testing.

She traced this back to the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.

“For 13 years, we have continued to teach in a test-centered environment where educators know that learning has been reduced to how well students score on tests,” Ritz said in the State of the Classroom release. “Performance on high stakes standardized tests is the goal for student learning and the measure of teacher quality.”

The number of teachers licensed in Indiana dropped between the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years by 1,192 people, according to Ritz’s release on the Department of ?Education website.

Ritz also stated the average teacher salary dropped from $52,181 to $51,188 from 2011 to 2013 and that this could affect how many new teachers enter the profession in Indiana.

In the speech, Ritz gave suggestions for how the education climate in Indiana can be improved.

Her first request was that people urge the federal government to change NCLB to get rid of testing requirements.

NCLB requires that schools administer annual tests in reading and math for students in grades 3 through 8.

But Phil Harris, former teacher and co-author of “The Myths of Standardized Tests,” said some school districts are refusing.

Standardized tests are administered in the spring, and Harris said certain districts in Florida, Colorado and Washington have said they won’t administer tests this year.

“We’ll see whether or not the threat of losing federal money makes them change their mind,” he said.

But Harris says the sentiment behind such protests is felt by educators who would prefer teacher evaluations be decided at the local level, rather than by NCLB requirements such as improving standardized test scores.

“They want to tie the evaluation of the teacher to the job description, not to a test that has no relation to school effectiveness,” he said. “There’s no job description that says it’s your job to raise student test scores.”

Under NCLB, states and schools receive report cards that primarily judge student improvement in a school district by data on standardized test ?performance.

However, report cards also include graduation rates and college and career readiness standards.

The reports are meant to give parents a better idea of school districts they are considering for their ?children.

Ritz said in the release that Indiana must have a way to keep teachers accountable but said she feels relating teacher evaluations to testing leads to teachers focusing more on test results than students.

She said this can cause teachers to feel their profession is less valuable than it used to be.

“I envision Indiana headed on a path toward high teacher standards with new policies that respects the profession and promotes the best of what teachers offer to our students,” Ritz said. “The teaching environment is the learning environment of our children.”

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