Superintendent candidates Bennett, Ritz discuss plans for Indiana schools

Ritz says she and Bennett 'differ greatly'

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett addressed the state of Indiana's education system Tuesday in front of an invitation only audience at the Indiana Historical Society.

Gov. Mitch Daniels introduced Bennett, calling him the nation's foremost reformer when it comes to education.

"Indiana's taken some powerful steps for Indiana students these past four years... and I believe we can do even more to advance education in the years ahead," Bennett said.

In his third annual State of Education address, Bennett pointed out specific school success stories and challenged people to check out the progress for themselves.

"Today if you visit your neighborhood schools, you're likely to see some amazing things happening in the classrooms," he said.

Bennett touted an increase in graduation rates and students passing assessment tests -- expanding school choice and state intervention for failing schools.

His education overhaul policies have drawn criticism, but Bennett said the reforms are working.

"Since the state began taking steps to enforce the measures outlined in our school accountability law, the number of schools chronically underperforming has dramatically reduced," he said.

But Bennett's challenger, Democrat Glenda Ritz, takes issue with those reforms.

"He and I differ greatly," Ritz said.

Ritz said Bennett's agenda is all about privatization of schools and said she believes she has a better plan.   

"I'd like to replace the current pass-fail assessment system -- testing our students all the time in the classroom with limited time to actually do real instruction with real growth model assessment -- so we really know the level of our students in the classroom," she said.

As for the future of education in Indiana, Bennett said the state should consider expanding accountability to the district level. He believes student performance is rooted in district-level leadership.
 

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