Who Is In Charge

Ritz might permit schools to make up snow days in hours or online

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz is looking for ways to help schools make up snow days before ISTEP testing, and she’s getting creative.

Schools might not have to make up all the days they’ve missed, Ritz said, if they can present a workable plan to make the lost time up by adding to the school day or even by having students make up work online.

Early in today’s Indiana State Board of Education meeting Ritz got the board to unanimously agree to her plan to nearly double the ISTEP testing window, during which schools must administer the state exam for grades 3 to 8.

This year’s dates were March 3 to 12 for schools to administer ISTEP. Testing usually takes three to four days and can be given any time in that period. The board approved Ritz’s proposal to extend that to March 3 to 21.

That would allow schools a few extra days to cover material that could be tested on ISTEP, Ritz said, and to get their students more prepared to take the exam.

“It’s going to give schools more time to make sure they have their standards taught before they take the assessments,” she said.

But toward the end of the meeting, Ritz raised an even more intriguing idea. She said if there was no state board objection, she was inclined to allow school districts to apply for waivers that would let them make up instructional days lost to bad weather in hours rather than in full days.

“We’re getting into a situation here in Indiana where we have many schools that have missed many days of instruction and they just want to be sure they’ve gotten things taught before they are assessed,” she said. “We want to give as many options as we can.”

In an example of how that might work, Ritz said a school that missed a six-hour school day due to weather could make it up by adding an extra hour to the school day on six other days.

“We think it’s an option locals haven’t had before,” she said. “We’re excited by that.”

Under certain circumstances, Ritz said, schools could even make up lost class time by giving students online work to do at home, as long as they could demonstrate a high level of learning.

Ritz said she had several requests from schools for this sort of flexibility.

“It’s making up time, but not necessarily making up an extra day,” she said. “They have to talk about all those options. There are a lot of factors to consider. But we want them to have as many options as possible for making up of time.”

The state is still working on that guidance and how decisions about granting waivers will be made, Ritz said.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.