Waiver provides rare moment of cooperation in Indiana education

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By Jill Glavan

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 28, 2014) -- As word came down Thursday that federal officials had granted a vital extension to Indiana's No Child Left Behind waiver, it marked a rare day as of late for the state's education leaders.

The waiver, extended for a year by the U.S. Department of Education, grants Indiana schools flexibility in spending millions in federal money.

Federal officials placed Indiana's waiver on "conditional" status in May, citing the need for stronger accountability and standards, among other issues.

"(It's) strong validation for what we do here at the Department. I really do hope that trust is developed," State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said.

Governor Mike Pence praised the news, saying in a statement, "I would like to congratulate Superintendent Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education."

What it means for your kids is that the money going to their classrooms will stay there, particularly for kids in the greatest need.

"We’re talking remediation. We’re talking intervention. We’re talking instructional coaches. We’re talking personnel that actually assist children on a one-to-one basis," Ritz said.

The waiver had set off even more disagreement between Ritz and the State Board of Education in recent months. Speaking on the waiver Thursday, Ritz said she'd gotten calls of congratulations from several board members.

Still, board member Gordon Hendry was congratulatory but cautious in his response after the announcement.

"We should not be having a parade down Meridian Street quite yet. There are still many challenging issues that face K-12 education," Hendry said.

Indiana will have to make changes to teacher evaluations or face a potential waiver change again in 2015-16. Ritz said she expected to start the process for that year in the next six months.

In the meantime, her team spent Thursday enjoying the good news for Indiana education.

"We’re going about our business at the Department of Education. It’s what we do and we have put together a really strong program to move forward," Ritz said.

To read more on Indiana's waiver extension and status, go to the U.S. Department of Education website here.