State board sets special meeting on NCLB waiver concerns

The Indiana State Board of Education will hold a special meeting on on Tuesday for board members to ask questions of state Superintendent Glenda Ritz and her Indiana Department of Education team about how the state ended up being put on notice by the U.S. Department of Education.

Federal officials sent Ritz a letter last week giving 60 days for her to explain how Indiana will address area of concern regarding actions the state promised to take in 2012 in return for release from some rules of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

NCLB, signed in 2002, requires states to establish testing and accountability systems to raise all children to proficiency in math and English. But states complained test score growth expectations in NCLB were unrealistically tough, leading President Obama’s administration to permit “waivers” from some of those rules.

Indiana was approved to use its own A to F school grading system for accountability under the waiver and pledged to adopt Common Core to meet a requirement to follow standards that would produce graduates who are “college and career ready.”

Among the concerns federal officials want Indiana to address is how its new standards will ensure college and career readiness now that the state legislature has voided its adoption of Common Core.

But the letter also raised questions about whether Indiana was adequately overseeing and supporting schools that are identified as poor performers, and Ritz’s critics were quick to demand answers about state education department oversight.

Immediately after word of the letter spread last week, Gov. Mike Pence called for the state board to have a role in guiding the response and board member Brad Oliver proposed a special meeting, suggesting state education officials had fallen short in their efforts to monitor and assist troubled schools.

After relative peace among Pence, Ritz and the board in 2014, the meeting could spark new conflicts if all the parties are not able to agree on a plan to respond to the letter. Last fall, disagreements between Ritz and the board escalated into a lawsuit by Ritz against other board members that was dismissed and an abrupt walkout from a board meeting in November by Ritz.

The meeting will be at 12:30 p.m. at the Government Center South in conference room B. The board’s regular monthly meeting is still scheduled to be held the following day on May 14 at 9 a.m.