Dear Superintendent Ritz and Members of the State Board of Education:
I have received a copy of the U.S. Department of Education's Part B Monitoring Report of Indiana's Waiver for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility, which makes Indiana's waiver conditional for 60 days, pending a comprehensive remediation plan to correct the nine issues of non-compliance cited in the report.
I am disappointed and concerned by the findings in this report, and the potential consequence that Indiana might lose its waiver effective June 30, 2014, because education is critical to the future success of our children and our state.
As you know, the ESEA waiver provides three primary benefits: (1) Indiana can utilize its own state accountability system -- our A-F system -- for purposes of both federal and state accountability, instead of using the federal AYP system in addition to the A-F system; (2) Indiana has flexibility at the state level to allocate federal funds to support our under-performing schools; and (3) Indiana schools have flexibility at the local level to utilize federal funds to improve academic performance.
Because several of the key findings in the monitoring report involve state decisions where the State Board of Education and the Department of Education both hold statutory roles and responsibilities, including standards, assessment, teacher evaluation and interventions in underperforming schools, I am writing to urge the State Board of Education to assist the Indiana Department of Education in developing a comprehensive remediation plan that addresses the concerns laid out in the monitoring report. It is vital that the Indiana Department of Education secure the renewal of the state's waiver to protect the flexibility that the waiver provides to the state and to our schools, and I urge you to make this your highest priority over the next 60 days.
As you tackle this challenge, I ask that you keep my office informed of progress on a regular basis. In addition, I encourage you to ensure that the public is appropriately informed of progress on the comprehensive remediation plan throughout this 60-day period through regular updates at the public State Board of Education meetings to ensure that the plan reflects the input and counsel of our schools, teachers, and community leaders.