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Ritz: New ISTEP test coming sooner at federal request

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Indiana must establish a new ISTEP test a year earlier than planned if state officials want to maintain their waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, told members of the State Board of Education on Wednesday that federal officials made the request in a call with state officials. The new test is required because of the state's formal exit from national Common Core standards.

The announcement that the state would have to expedite the creation of a new test caught many board members by surprise.

"Is everyone in agreement the waiver is worth it?" asked Andrea Neal, a Republican board member.

Ritz said the waiver is worth the effort because of the federal money that is at stake. If the state loses its waiver, it would lose control over millions in "Title I" federal education dollars.

The U.S. Department of Education alerted state officials last month that their waiver was at risk because of problems monitoring low-performing schools. They also announced concerns with how the state was evaluating performance by teachers and principals.

The alert that the state was being placed on watch by the U.S. Department of Education came shortly after Indiana became the first state to withdraw from national Common Core education standards. The national test the state had been set to use was aligned with the Common Core, but federal officials said the state must have a new test ready by next year.

Ritz looked to assuage board concerns that the state may lose its waiver during a presentation at Wednesday's meeting. Her staff said state officials had been exchanging drafts of proposed changes to the waiver with federal officials. The state must submit a final proposal by June 30.

But Brad Oliver, a Republican member of the board and frequent critic of Ritz's, said her office should be doing more to ensure the state maintains its waiver.

"It seems like we're being passive with an issue that needs to be urgent," said Oliver, who also complained that he and other board members were being left out of discussions over how to secure the waiver.

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