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Ritz: ‘Nothing To Hide’ From State Board Of Education

The board is holding a special called meeting to discuss a letter from the U.S. Department of Education the state superintendent received two weeks ago.

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Photo: WFIU

The letter questions why Indiana is failing to meet certain criteria for its No Child Left Behind waiver - a federal law that monitors student achievement.

Glenda Ritz says she and her office have nothing to hide in responding to questions on whether Indiana is complying with a waiver from federal education rules, but the State Board of Education may believe otherwise after today.

The board is holding a special called meeting to talk about a letter from the U.S. Department of Education that the state superintendent received almost two weeks ago.

The letter gave Ritz 60 days to explain why Indiana was falling short on some of the criteria laid out two years ago, when the federal department allowed Indiana to not follow all of the rules of the federal No Child Left Behind law that monitors student achievement.

“The letter doesn’t require us to have it all solved in 60 days,” said Dan Altman, Ritz’s spokesman. “But it says we need to report to them and explain to them what we’re going to do to make sure that we’ve addressed their concerns, and that’s something we’re obviously willing to do.”

Ritz’s office was told there would be on-site monitoring of the state’s compliance with the NCLB waiver last August. State Board member Brad Oliver says the board first found out about that at the end of April, eight months later.

“We were aware that annually, our waiver was monitored, but we had not had a lot of feedback on what had happened since that visit or the extent of what concerns might have been communicated until that May 1st letter,” Oliver said.

Dan Altman says no one in Ritz’s office has kept any secrets, but he did acknowledge some of the things that could have led to complaints from the feds.

“The Superintendent started the Division of Outreach and School Improvement within the Department of Education last July. When the monitoring visit took place in August, school had not been in session yet, so our outreach coordinators hadn’t had time yet to go out and provide support for schools,” Altman said. “We have been working with stakeholder groups regularly. One of the areas in which that will be big moving forward is providing professional development for teachers with respect to the new academic standards that we just approved.”

Those standards, as Oliver mentioned, were one area of concern for the U.S. Department of Education. The State Board was directed to adopt new standards to replace Common Core by the General Assembly in 2013. To make sure they did so, Governor Pence signed a bill this year officially removing Indiana from the consortium of states which had adopted Common Core.

One reason federal officials raised questions as to whether the new standards were considered college and career ready, as federal officials believe about Common Core.

After the Education Roundtable approved the new standards last month, Ritz and Pence said they were, though neither would not acknowledge that the new standards borrowed liberally from Common Core.

“These are Indiana college and career ready standards. That’s what they are,” Ritz said after the Roundtable meeting.

Altman says Ritz will assure the State Board that this will be worked out soon.

“We will be sending a letter [to federal officials] from Ritz and Commissioner [Teresa] Lubbers from the Commission on Higher Education, certifying that these standards are college and career ready.”

But the Governor got involved last week, asking the State Board to help Ritz’s department respond to the feds.

Oliver says something obviously happened over the last year or so.

“When we had the monitoring visit in 2012, we were fully compliant. We now know from the May 1 letter that there were nine out of 18 areas that were reviewed in which we were non-compliant.”

The board meets at 12:30 p.m. this afternoon.

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