Ritz to speak Monday in Bloomington

The first eight months in office have been eventful for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. There should be a lot to talk about when she visits Indiana University Bloomington Monday for a policy chat.

The session, sponsored by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, starts at 2 p.m. in the Georgian Room of the Indiana Memorial Union. Jeremy Anderson, president of the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, will moderate.

Ritz, of course, pulled off a shocker by upsetting incumbent Tony Bennett in the November 2012 election. Republican Bennett had a 5-to-1 spending advantage and support from the likes of Jeb Bush and Michael Bloomberg. Ritz had a grassroots movement of teachers and parents on her side.

But it hasn’t been smooth sailing since she took office in January.

// State ISTEP-Plus exams were plagued by computer interruptions in the spring, delaying results and throwing a wrench into school and teacher evaluations.

// The legislature mandated a “pause” in implementing the Common Core State Standards, putting Ritz in the middle of a nasty fight between supporters and opponents of the standards.

// Controversy erupted over the state’s A-to-F school grading system when the Associated Press revealed that Bennett and his staff manipulated the system to boost a charter school’s grade.

// Gov. Mike Pence created a Center for Education and Career Innovation, a new agency that appears to take responsibility for education policy away from Ritz. Ritz said she wasn’t told in advance about the move.

// State Board of Education members, appointed by Pence and his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, regularly balk at Ritz’s recommendations and seem to be taking over some of the superintendent’s budgetary and policy responsibilities.

All this puts Ritz in a tight spot. She has tried to nudge the state away from the hard-nosed approach to education reform that Bennett favored. But to a certain extent, she has to get along with the Republicans who run state government. It should make for an interesting policy chat on Monday.

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