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U.S. education chief wants Indiana waiver updates

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U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked Indiana officials this week to provide his staff regular updates on how the state plans to address concerns with its No Child Left Behind waiver ahead of a June 30 deadline.

Duncan made the request in phone calls this week with Gov. Mike Pence and state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who detailed her call in an email obtained Friday by The Associated Press. Ritz wrote the email to members of the State Board of Education and staff for the new education agency Pence created last year.

Indiana was one of 10 states to receive a waiver from the landmark education law in 2012. But the U.S. Education Department alerted the state last week that its waiver was at risk following an August 2013 monitoring session that revealed concerns with how the state was working with low-performing schools.

Federal officials also expressed concerns about the state's teacher evaluation system and its decision to withdraw from the Common Core national education standards.

Losing the waiver could cost Indiana control of more than $200 million in Title I education funds. Both Ritz and Pence have said they are committed to keeping the waiver.

Ritz's email said she spoke with Duncan on Tuesday about the monitoring report and was heartened to learn that the education secretary "wants to continue to work closely" with Indiana to get the waiver extended for a year. She said Duncan conveyed that Pence shared the commitment to extend the waiver and recommended regular conference calls between his staff and the monitoring team before the June 30 deadline to address the findings.

Ritz spokesman Daniel Altman confirmed Friday that the superintendent sent the email, saying: "I think it's a case of an issue that we want to work with them and we want to make sure it's work that they're going to be appreciative of."

Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault said the governor described his talk with Duncan as "substantive and productive" and offered his administration's support in ensuring the state maintains its waiver.

Duncan did not respond to request for comment Friday.

States that were granted waivers from No Child Left Behind were required to submit plans showing how they would prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best-performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst. Indiana's guidelines were written by former schools Superintendent Tony Bennett but were left to Ritz to implement after she defeated him in the 2012 election.

Ritz's spokesman, David Galvin, said the superintendent called Duncan on Tuesday, a day after Pence called Duncan to discuss the waiver. The federal report covers February 2012, when Bennett submitted the waiver, to August 2013, when federal monitors came out to Indiana, he said.

Galvin said state education officials have been asking Duncan's staff for the report since last November, but they did not receive it until last week, a few days after the state adopted new standards replacing Common Core. Duncan is a staunch defender of the national Common Core standards and was also close with Bennett, an early Common Core supporter.

The State Board of Education is set to consider changes to the waiver at a special meeting Tuesday, the board will meet again the following day on other issues in rare back-to-back meetings.

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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