Ritz Welcomed To Central Elem.; Speaks With Educators
By Mike Perleberg
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – She got the rock star treatment at Central Elementary School in Lawrenceburg Wednesday.
Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz spent her day visiting Jac-Cen-Del, South Dearborn, and Lawrenceburg schools.
At Central Elementary in Lawrenceburg she was greeted with a balloon release by the student body. Ritz was then given a student-guided tour, meeting with teachers and well-prepared students who told her about various programs at the school.
SEE PHOTOS FROM GLENDA RITZ’S VISIT TO CENTRAL ELEMENTARY BELOW.
Then it was time to sit down for a roundtable discussion with the school corporation’s superintendent Karl Galey, principals, and assistant principals. The local administrators seemed to be most concerned with changes to school and teacher assessments and the bureaucracies surrounding those processes.
“I’m hoping we’re going to go from a pass-fail test on the ISTEP+ to what I call growth measures. It’s about knowing where are students really do perform, because the pass/fail approach doesn’t give educators information that they need from grade to grade or year to year,” Ritz said, adding that her focus is on creating charts or databases tracking each individual child’s growth.
One Lawrenceburg administrator expressed concern that excessive testing was turning students into so called “test zombies,” and not necessarily improving students’ skills.
The principals expressed frustration that so many online systems requiring numerous passwords are in place for entering school and teacher data. Galey told Ritz the time it takes educators to enter the data eats up a lot of valuable learning time.
“We’re talking a mess. It is truly a hodge-podge of when somebody wanted something new, they got something new instead of looking at the system as a whole,” she told the teachers as heads nodded.
Ritz said there is an effort in the Indiana Department of Education to consolidate databases and educators may start seeing improvements in the next year or so.
Galey informed Ritz that the district has four snow days left to make up this year. Indiana schools are required by law to have 180 days of student instruction.
“We’re okay right now. We’re not looking to apply (for another waiver) at this time, assuming we make it through the next month,” he said.
Lawrenceburg Schools, like many other districts across the state, have already received one waiver for January 6 and 7 during the extreme cold brought by the polar vortex.
Lawrenceburg High School Principal Bill Snyder asked about the future of education with virtual learning, and the possibility of using such tools to ensure students continue to learn on snow days. Ritz referred to two Indiana school districts that are participating in an Indiana Department of Education pilot program.
“What is nice about it is that kids don’t necessarily have to have internet connections. Prior to the virtual learning day, the students download at school what they need,” Ritz said, urging Lawrenceburg to apply for the pilot program next year.
Lawrenceburg Primary School Principal Tammy Gregory said that she sees a need locally for stronger pre-kindergarten education, particularly in the area of early literacy.
Governor Mike Pence has been pushing for a bill that would create a pre-kindergarten voucher program for children from underprivileged families. While the bill has passed the Indiana House, Ritz expressed skepticism that the legislation will get past the Senate.
“The Senate doesn’t want anything to do with kindergarten, preschool, anything. It never has. That’s really the reason we don’t have anything happening in Indiana is because there’s strong resistance in the Senate to do such things,” she said.
The state Senate is unlikely to pass any bill that creates funding for a pre-K program during the current legislative session, because it is not a biennial budget session. Pence attempted to sway a Senate committee to pass the bill Wednesday by personally testifying before those lawmakers.
Ritz added that she believes legislation to create infrastructure for such a pre-K voucher program stands a better chance this year.