Indiana Leaders Fight to Keep ‘No Child Left Behind’ Waiver

On Monday, Governor Mike Pence, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, and the State Board of Education battled over Indiana's "No Child Left Behind" waiver, one of the first, from some of thefederal requirements in education.

Eric Weddie, writing for the Indianapolis Star, reported that federal monitors had discovered some deficiencies in the state's reforms and were still questioning some of the state's proposed solutions. Problems found were with the state's ability to help failing schools, monitor compliance, and provide technical assistance for teacher and principal evaluations, among other issues.

Ritz proposed that the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) be amended to include an assessment of students' reading skills. Then a standardized test would be developed by a to-be-selected vendor for the 2015-2016 school year. Ritz did not succeed in her attempt to amend.

The US Department of Education requires that Indiana develop new standardized testing by next spring in order to accommodate recently adopted K-12 standards replacing the federal Common Core standards. If not in place, the state would jeopardize its waiver from meeting requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

During this meeting, it was recommended that ISTEP should include not only grades 3-8, but grades 9 and 10, as well. This would assist teachers in identifying students who were "falling behind" well before their high school graduations.

"A diploma from our high schools should signal that our graduates are ready for careers or college," Pence said.

The $95 million contract between the state and CTB/McGraw-Hill expires this week, but will be extended.

"We are asking a lot of our teachers over the next two years in regards to roll out of our new standards, (updating) ISTEP," Pence said. "Therefore, I think we should make every effort to maintain as much consistency as we can in redesigning ISTEP for the 2015 and 2016 academic years."

If the state loses its waiver, it could, potentially, lose its control over part of the approximately $200 million of annual "Title I" funding (assistance to disadvantaged students) . Tensions run high between Ritz, a Democrat and Pence, a Republican and have bled over into angry flare-ups during their shared leadership of the state's education program.

Tom LoBianco, a reporter for the Associated Press, wrote that some board members were of the opinion that Ritz was not qualified for her office. Others criticized Ritz for reporting incomplete information.

In the end, Indiana students will be taking two different test within a two-year span. Ritz's suggestion of adding a reading ability gauge, says Paige Clark writing for Nuvo, was because Ritz wanted a separate reading score on the new ISTEP test, but the governor disagreed.

"We have to measure reading. It is very important to make sure that that happens," Ritz said. "Reading is the most important indicator of student success."

Currently, Ritz said that the only available reading assessment is the pass or fail score from the IREAD-3, a reading test given to third-graders apart from the ISTEP.

"Making a significant change to testing should include parent input," Pence said. But he said he and the superintendent are "completely aligned in the goal."

Compliance to the waiver conditions forms are not finished and there is no indication of what is left to be done before the June 30 due date.

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