Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has hired outreach coordinators to help struggling school districts instead of taking over failing schools. That outreach must be forceful, however, to make sure improvements do happen.
Ritz's approach differs from that of her predecessor, Tony Bennett. Bennett made headlines more than three years ago when the state took over Roosevelt High School in Gary and several schools in Indianapolis.
Those takeovers came in the form of private turnaround operators hired to run the schools at the state's behest after those schools reached the last stage under Indiana's school accountability law.
Those agreements remain in place, but Ritz's plan going forward is to use regional coordinators who will partner with support staff at the Indiana Department of Education. These teams report to state Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction Teresa Brown.
Local outreach coordinators Linda Randolph and Daniel Bundridge are focusing on about 50 schools in Lake, Porter, Jasper and Newton counties with D or F grades in 2012 under the state's A-F rating system.
Bennett's approach was controversial enough that Ritz — a teacher — was elected by a landslide to replace him.
As brash as Bennett was while in office in Indiana, he made it clear his emphasis was on ensuring the children of Indiana would not continue to be afflicted with the poor quality of education in the worst schools.
Ritz's approach might work for schools that are headed down the path to failure but aren't there yet. However, Indiana must reserve the right to shake things up — in a radical way, if necessary — to ensure students are learning what they should.
The concern should be more for the students in those troubled schools than for the school administrators and faculty who might be displaced according to turnaround plans that could be in place under Indiana's school accountability law.