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Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz

Indiana gets extension on its federal education waiver

INDIANAPOLIS - The U.S. Department of Education granted Indiana an extension on its federal education waiver Thursday - ending months of fears that the state would lose flexibility in funding and accountability.

All conditions and restrictions were removed from the waiver.

"On behalf of Indiana’s schools, I am incredibly pleased to learn that our waiver request has been granted," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. "This news means that local schools throughout our state will receive much needed flexibility in how they utilize their federal dollars. This waiver extension also will allow Indiana to have continued flexibility in how we measure student performance and growth."

Indiana education officials have scrambled in recent months to correct deficiencies found in the state's handling of the accountability waiver.

Losing the waiver would have required the state go back to following a federal accountability law instead of using its own A-F grading system. And the state and local districts could have lost flexibility on how to spend more than $200 million in federal Title I education funds.

Indiana was one of 10 states to receive a waiver from the requirements of the landmark No Child Left Behind education law in 2012. The law's goal was to get all children up to par in math and reading by 2014, but state education leaders increasingly complained that the goal wasn't realistic.

The states excused from following the law were exempt from the 2014 deadline but had 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.

Washington became the first state to lose its waiver after it refused to implement teacher evaluations.

A letter in May informed Ritz that federal monitors visiting in the fall of 2013 had identified problems in the state's handling of the waiver.

The requirements for the waiver were crafted and approved under former Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett, a Republican, but the implementation has been left to Ritz, who defeated Bennett in the 2012 election.

The issues include handling of teacher and principal evaluations, monitoring of college- and career-ready standards, and technical assistance for troubled local school districts.

The federal monitors said that in many cases, Indiana has failed to follow through on promises it made in its initial waiver plan.

The extension lasts for one year and is "subject to Indiana's commitment to continue working with ED on Indiana's requested amendments to its teacher and principal evaluation and support systems."