EAST CHICAGO | Indiana education leader Glenda Ritz received plenty of support and enthusiasm Wednesday when she spent the day in the School City of East Chicago and spoke to the public that night.
She was the guest speaker at the ECHO Community PTA meeting at Central High School. ECHO is a grassroots collaboration, organized by the Rev. Cheryl Rivera and funded by the Foundations of East Chicago.
Ritz reiterated her vision for Indiana which includes implementing an assessment test that measures growth, rather than the pass/fail ISTEP-Plus test. She talked about making sure there is a support system in place to help schools improve.
Ritz also said she has been working with the Gary Community School Corp. for many months and the "high risk" designation allows the state to assist Gary in improving all of its schools.
Noting that 23 percent of the state's children live in poverty, Ritz acknowledged that some districts face challenges in that children are mobile, moving from several schools over an academic year.
Ritz said she's excited about the college and career ready standards approved by the State Board of Education. She said she expects teachers will move toward more "in-depth teaching."
"I've said before I don't like the A-F system," she said. "It unfairly labels schools and children. It's legislation and it will take legislation to change it."
She also talked about the Department of Outreach that she developed to help school districts to improve as opposed to "taking over a school."
When asked by a Central High School student the differences between Ritz and her predecessor Tony Bennett, Ritz said it was time to have a conversation about education. However, "we have totally different approaches to the issues."
Rivera, who pledged the organization's support for Ritz, said studies show that when parents and residents are involved in educational efforts, children are more successful.
"With this kind of engagement, students produce higher grade point averages, higher scores on standardized tests, have better school attendance and exhibit improved behavior at home and at school," Rivera said.