In­di­ana granted one-year waiver on ed­u­ca­tion law

Post-Tribune - - State - BY TOM LOBIANCO

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS — The U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion has granted a one-year ex­ten­sion of In­di­ana’s waiver from the fed­eral No Child Left Be­hind ed­u­ca­tion law af­ter the state re­solved con­cerns over how it mon­i­tored low­per­form­ing schools and eval­u­ated teach­ers and prin­ci­pals.

The de­ci­sion en­sures In­di­ana will re­tain sig­nif­i­cant say in how mil­lions of fed­eral Ti­tle I dol­lars are spent.

In­di­ana was granted a waiver from the law in 2012. But As­sis­tant U.S. Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Deb­o­rah Delisle told schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Glenda Ritz in April that fed­eral mon­i­tors had iden­ti­fied prob­lems in the state’s han­dling of the waiver dur­ing a re­view in Au­gust and Septem­ber of 2013.

In many cases, the fed­eral mon­i­tors said In­di­ana had failed to fol­low through on prom­ises it made in its ini­tial waiver plan.

Ritz, a Demo­crat who has clashed re­peat­edly with mem­bers of the State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion over pol­icy, said she hopes the ap­proval of the ex­ten­sion validates the work her depart­ment is do­ing.

But she left Repub­li­can Gov. Mike Pence off a list of peo­ple she thanked. Pence’s top ed­u­ca­tion aide sub­mit­ted a 28-page cri­tique of the state’s waiver in July, ques­tion­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Ritz’s staff to per­form work out­lined in the waiver. The board mem­bers, and Pence’s ed­u­ca­tion staff, have ar­gued that they were shut out of dis­cus­sions about craft­ing the waiver.

Gordon Hendry, a Demo­cratic board mem­ber ap­pointed by Pence, said stu­dents and teach­ers could “breathe a sigh of re­lief ” with Thurs­day’s news. “But let’s be clear: None of this had to hap­pen, and dodg­ing the worst-case sce­nario in this in­stance should lead to a stronger part­ner­ship with the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion as we con­tinue to im­prove In­di­ana K-12 pol­icy.”

The re­quire­ments for the waiver were crafted and ap­proved un­der for­mer schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Tony Ben­nett, but the im­ple­men­ta­tion has been left to Ritz, who de­feated Ben­nett in the 2012 elec­tion.

Delisle ini­tially granted con­di­tional ap­proval of In­di­ana’s re­quest for a waiver but or­dered the state to ad­dress the is­sues raised in the let­ter or risk los­ing its waiver.

In a let­ter an­nounc­ing the waiver ex­ten­sion Thurs­day, Delisle said the waiver had helped In­di­ana im­ple­ment “im­por­tant re­forms” to im­prove stu­dent achieve­ment and that ex­tend­ing it was in the public’s in­ter­est.

The U.S. ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment lauded In­di­ana for de­vel­op­ing tu­to­rial videos to help teach­ers learn to write and im­ple­ment ob­jec­tives to mea­sure stu­dent growth. It also cited work to en­sure that school im­prove­ment ef­forts are aligned with fed­eral school turn­around prin­ci­ples.

No Child Left Be­hind was a hall­mark of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and aimed to get all chil­dren up to par in math and read­ing by 2014. But state ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers in­creas­ingly com­plained that the goal wasn’t re­al­is­tic.

The states ex­cused from fol­low­ing the law were ex­empt from the 2014 dead­line but had to sub­mit plans show­ing how they would pre­pare chil­dren for col­lege and ca­reers, set new tar­gets for im­prov­ing achieve­ment among all stu­dents, re­ward the best-per­form­ing schools and fo­cus help on the ones do­ing the worst.

They also were given the free­dom to use sci­ence, so­cial stud­ies and other sub­jects to mea­sure stu­dent progress.

In­di­ana’s waiver will con­tinue through the 2014-2015 school year.

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