State Superintendent Glenda Ritz at last month's A to F Accountability Panel meeting. Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz rejected the policy of her predecessor, Tony Bennett, when it comes to persistently low scoring schools. She doesn't want to close them or have the state take them over. Instead, her plan is to create a statewide system of coordinators aimed at providing supports and rallying local communities that she believes will be more effective than intervening to make dramatic change in the schools. Ritz, who is sometimes criticized by her political opponents for lacking vision for how to improve schools in Indiana, laid out her views in a 90-minute interview with Chalkbeat on Oct. 29 at the central library in a program sponsored by WFYI. The entire interview has now been posted online. On politics, Ritz said she won't back down in her fight against the Indiana State Board of Education and other foes. On policy, she explained how she sees education in Indiana. In the following excerpts, Ritz discusses her goals — emphasizing reading, changing state testing and redefining the Indiana Department of Education's role to build a statewide support system for troubled schools:
At Friday's Indiana State Board of Education meeting, sparring with state Superintendent Glenda Ritz continued: In a bizarre scene, separate lawyers for the state board and superintendent stood side by side and offered competing advice. (Chalkbeat) The state board and Ritz bickered over A to F, procedures and more. (The Statehouse File, StateImpact, AP, Journal Gazette, NWI, Indy Star) Lesley Weidenbener: Ritz shares blame for her problems with the state board. (The Statehouse File) As the state board meeting was still going on, we learned Ritz's lawsuit against the board had been thrown out:
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, left, at Friday's Indiana State Board of Education meeting. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg dismissed state Superintendent Glenda Ritz's lawsuit against the Indiana State Board of Education today, saying she could not initiate a lawsuit without consulting with Attorney General Greg Zoeller. Ritz last month sued the other 10 members of the Indiana State Board of Education objecting to their effort to enlist legislative leaders to help calculate A to F grades for public and most private schools. Board members had complained Ritz was not working fast enough to issue the grades for schools; she said she had to wait for more data. After Friday's state board meeting, Ritz said she had not determined her next move. "This case was filed because I believed the board took illegal action outside of the public arena and that needed to be stopped," she said. "I am disappointed in today's ruling and concerned for all Hoosiers that have their lives affected by unelected boards, particularly those that act, perhaps, in secret." The suit was the apex of a long-running series of disputes between Ritz, the only Democrat in statewide office, and the rest of the board, all of whom are appointed by Republican governors. The suit argued that the board's letter to legislative leaders violated the state’s transparency laws. By jointly signing it, Ritz argued, the board effectively made a decision outside of a public meeting, which her suit contended a violation of state law. But Zoeller quickly moved to have the suit dismissed by arguing Ritz could not use Indiana Department of Education lawyers to file the suit. Zoeller argued that Ritz could only initiate a lawsuit with assistance from his office. Rosenberg agreed. In his decision, he said Ritz's arguments were "not consistent with the underlying purpose" of state law and that Zoeller's arguments were "more plausible."
Attorney Kristie Anderson, left, representing State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education, debated with Michelle McKeown, right, an attorney for Gov. Mike Pence's new Center for Education and Career Innovation, before the Indiana State Board of Education Friday. The struggle between State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence for control of Indiana's education policy reached a fever pitch Friday with dueling lawyers arguing over interpretations of Indiana's A to F rules before a sometimes befuddled Indiana State Board Education. Kristie Anderson, representing Ritz and the the Indiana Department of Education, stood side-by-side with Michelle McKeown, an attorney for Pence's new Center for Education and Career Innovation, offering competing interpretations of state law. Board members, meanwhile, sparred over which advice to follow. “It seems as if our debate is about the board’s role and when it should start,” Ritz said The first meeting since tension boiled over last month into a lawsuit by state Superintendent Glenda Ritz against the other 10 members of the board lived up to its billing as another battle royale.
Indiana was one of the one of the national headlines for its gains on the NAEP test, which is sometimes called "the nation's report card:" Big NAEP test score gains prompted a hot debate Thursday about who gets credit. (Chalkbeat) StateImpact has a nice chart on Indiana's NAEP scores over the past decade. (StateImpact) Bennett says he doesn't take credit, but that reforms led to test score gains. (WIBC) Indiana, U.S. students improved on national tests. (The Statehouse File, AP, Indy Star) Across the Chalkbeat network NAEP scores made big jumps in Tennessee; less so in Colorado and NYC:
The Indiana Association of Public Charter Schools recently praised a $2 million donation to Herron, an Indianapolis charter high school. In a move that has stunned charter school advocates, the Indiana Association of Public Charter Schools will shut down at the end of the year unless emergency funds can be found to save it, one of it's board members confirmed today. The organization, the state chapter of a national group, advocates for charter schools in the legislature and provides other services to member schools. If the organization shuts down it could leave charter schools without a direct lobbying voice or a resource for schools who need start up assistance or other basic services. Six of the organization's nine board members have resigned and the staff has been reduced from four to one. One of the remaining board members, Carey Dahncke, said he is hopeful the group can be reborn. "The association has failed to hit some of its targets," said Dahncke, who is executive director of Christel House Academy charter schools. "There is great concern about the ability to meet its debts." The news came as a shock to Derek Redelman, vice president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and a longtime charter school supporter. "It's disappointing," he said. "I would certainly encourage the schools to get together, at least on an informal basis, to see how they can remain in touch with each other and represent their interests."
Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test, which released scores today. Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test of reading and math known as the "nation's report card," according to data released today. Indiana's 2013 gains were top five among the 50 states on both fourth grade reading and math. Eighth graders posted smaller gains in both reading and math. Hoosier test takers scored above the national average on all four exams administered. "“I am encouraged by the gains that Hoosier students showed on these tests, particularly their gains in the fourth grade," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said in a statement. "This is yet another sign of the hard work and dedication exhibited by our educators, administrators, parents, and most importantly, students every day in our schools.” The state's success instantly renewed debate about reforms pushed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and ex-state Superintendent Tony Bennett over four years beginning in 2008. Bennett was defeated in the 2012 election in a stunning upset by current state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, said Bennett's fight for reform may have cost him his job but it appears to have yielded improvements. "I think we're starting to see results," said Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. "These battles are hard-fought, and if we didn't see any results, then we might wonder if it's worth it." Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, attributed the gains to standards reform in the early 2000s, specifically rejecting Bennett and Daniels' policies as a reason for the improvement.
IPS school board's resources committee met Wednesday. A company could bring a "significant" number of new jobs to the city if the Indianapolis Public School Board agrees to sell a historic property it owns on Southeastern Avenue. That's what Deputy Mayor Deron Kintner told the board's resources committee Wednesday. He said he could not name the company but described it having a "presence" in Indianapolis currently. "This will lead to a lot of jobs and property taxes," he said. "I wish I could tell you more but that's all I can discuss now." The site is near the historic "Mallory Complex" area on the East side. The company would like the city to acquire a district-owned building at 1316 Southeastern Ave., which currently warehouses furniture and supplies for schools. It would then buy the building from the city. Board members were generally supportive of working toward a sale.
The first hearing was held Tuesday on state Superintendent Glenda Ritz's lawsuit against the Indiana State Board of Education: Judge's questions whether Ritz has the right to sue. (Chalkbeat) Ritz lawyer says Zoeller shouldn't have "exclusive power." (StateImpact) Zoeller's lawyers say only the attorney general can initiate a lawsuit (NWI) Ritz's lawyers: Don't give Zoeller czar-like authority. (WISH-TV) A decision about Ritz's right to sue should come soon. (The Statehouse File, Journal Gazette, Indy Star) Tuesday was also Election Day, and not a particularly good one for schools:
Ritz did not attend today's hearing, at which her lawyers argued her suit against the State Board of Education should be allowed to proceed. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg had a tough question for state Superintendent Glenda Ritz today: Why should he let her lawsuit against the Indiana State Board of Education go forward? That was just one of the queries Rosenberg put before the department's staff lawyers that Ritz used to represent her over Attorney General Greg Zoeller's objections. If Ritz's legal team can't convince Rosenberg that they have a right to stick with the case, the suit that riled both sides of the aisle in the statehouse could be over by next week. Ritz last month sued the other 10 members of the Indiana State Board of Education in a protest of their push to move forward with calculating A to F grades for schools faster than Ritz had advocated. The lawsuit blew the lid off simmering tensions among Ritz and state board members, who disagree on a swath of education issues, from accountability to how to promote students between grades. Ritz's lawsuit targeted their latest disagreement. State board members have been frustrated that A to F grades for schools have not yet been released. But Ritz argues that problems with online testing last spring are the cause of the delay. Still, board members wrote a joint letter to legislative leaders asking them to have the Legislative Service Agency calculate the grades while Ritz was out of the country. In her lawsuit, Ritz argued that the move violated the state's transparency laws. By jointly signing a letter to lawmakers, she argued, the board effectively made a decision outside of a public meeting, which her suit contends is a violation of state law. In court today, discussion focused on whether Ritz has the right to file a lawsuit at all. The case was originally made by Zoeller, who asked the court to remove Ritz's attorneys from from the case, a step that would effectively end the suit altogether. Zoeller argued that Ritz could only initiate a lawsuit with assistance from his office.
Butler junior Briana Ulba works with students at the Lab School as part of a college class that meets at IPS School 60. Aspiring teacher Bridget Spitale was watching a lesson about adjectives when she realized taking college classes in an elementary school worked. She was assisting in teacher Mary Ellen Estridge's classroom while she was talking with her kindergarten and first grade students about adjectives. Estridge moved to telling a story and the way the lesson unfolded was a breakthrough for Spitale's understanding of effective teaching. "It was an eye-opening moment," said Spitale, a Butler junior from Hammond. The lab school, also known as Indianapolis Public School 60, is a collaboration between the university and the school district and follows a unique curriculum inspired by an Italian educational strategy known as Reggio Emilia. Children are placed among a variety of physical materials that are used to help them experience and understand the concepts they learn.
Among the statewide issues Indiana media wrote about this weekend included, what else, Glenda Ritz, but also teacher transfers, A to F grading and school safety: A survey says 83 percent of current or former IPS teachers changed schools involuntarily in their first four years. (Chalkbeat) Dave Bangert: West Lafayette lawmakers wonder whether the state superintendent should be appointed. (Journal Courier) Ritz, Zoeller and the state board are still arguing over who can sue whom. (Indy Star) For the third straight year, Indiana struggles to devise a school grading system. (NWI) Lesley Wiedenbener: School resources officers can solve lots of problems for schools. (The Statehouse File) Editorial: Indiana has a critical need to improve early education, which should bring feuding factions together. (Indy Star)
Here are some end of the week education stories from around the state and nation. First, the local headlines: Sharing enrollment data with charters would help stabilize teacher moves, a new report says. (Chalkbeat) A to F panel member says Indiana can't meet deadline for new grading scheme without data. (StateImpact) Avon is one of 200 schools that receive a share of $9 million in school security grants through a new state program. About half will hire school resource officers. (WIBC, NWI) Molly Chamberlain, former Indiana Department of Education data whiz, joins Gov. Mike Pence's Center for Education and Career Innovation. (Inside Indiana Business) Russ Pulliam: Here are some alternatives to Glenda Ritz the Democrats could run for governor. (Indy Star) One late week story from elsewhere in Indiana packed in a lot of Hoosier history: