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July 29, 2013

Rift widens between education officials, superintendent

GOP-controlled state Board of Education gives Ritz cold shoulder

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

At that same July meeting in which the board decided to hire its own staff, the board made it clear they were unhappy with Ritz. They scolded her for making major changes on her own to the new teacher evaluation model approved by the state board, which relies heavily on student progress on the ISTEP standardized tests. And they stopped her in her tracks when she proposed revising another one of their rules, the one that says third-grade students who flunk the IREAD-3 reading test can’t move on to the fourth-grade without remediation.

The state board did go along with her suggestion to stall implementation of a new education law, House Enrolled Act 1005. It requires high schools to start testing students in the 11th grade to gauge their readiness for taking college-level math and English, and to provide remediation for those who aren’t. 

Ritz said the DOE needs until April to come up with a plan to implement the law and the state board went along. But the issue is likely to come up again much sooner that, with the state board devising its own plan for how to implement the law. 

Add into this divide Pence’s new appointment, Claire Fiddian-Green, as his “special assistant for education innovation and reform.” As the former director of the Indiana Charter School Board, she’s an advocate of school choice, as Pence and the State Board of Education are — and as Ritz is not.

Who knows what this all means for Hoosier school children? One thing seems sure: The politics of education rolls on. 

— Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse Bureau for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com 

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