Glenda Ritz is doing Indiana's teaching ranks no favors by trying to protect pay raises for the weakest in the field.

How can anyone take her seriously when she's willing to pay for mediocrity and failure?

Here's where Ritz, Indiana's superintendent for public instruction, and Statehouse school reformers agree: The percentage of teachers who need improvement seemed a bit light in the first round of state-mandated evaluations.

The results of district-by-district evaluations, released April 7 and part of Indiana's school reform agenda, showed a vast majority of teachers were "effective" or "highly effective" in their jobs. Fewer than 3 percent were ranked in the "needs improvement" or "ineffective" categories.

Here's where Ritz and Statehouse school reformers don't agree: Ritz says teachers in the "needs improvement" category deserve raises, too.

We don't think so.

Granted, exactly what this first round of evaluations tells parents and policy makers is up in the air. Teachers say the process proves what everyone should have already known - that the majority of teachers were doing their jobs well. Some in the Statehouse have hinted that changes might be coming, implying that administrators might have used a softer hand the first time through the process.

Ritz joined with skeptics, to a point, wondering whether administrators were reluctant to put teachers in the lowest two categories, knowing that state law blocks pay raises for those teachers. Questions about raises, Ritz figured during a state Board of Education meeting last week, "should not be a barrier to putting teachers on a 'needs improvement' rating."

Teachers have a real ally in Ritz, who won in an upset two years ago by questioning the speed and direction Indiana was taking on school reform. That campaign included questions about how new teacher evaluations would be used. Teachers were at the core of her victory over Tony Bennett, the former state superintendent.

But pay raises for teachers who fare so poorly in evaluations? That's not doing anyone, including students, any favors