Dems' Superintendent Nominee Wants More Remediation Funding
Ritz: State must boost reading skills to raise 86% graduation rate
Glenda Ritz (WIBC.com file photo: Ray Steele)
Democrats' nominee for state school superintendent is calling for mandatory kindergarten and stronger remedial programs to cut into Indiana's dropout rate.
Indiana's Department of Education says graduation rates have improved five straight years -- the current rate of 86-percent is the best since the state changed the way it calculates the rate in 2005.
Democrat Glenda Ritz says it's still not high enough. She says the state should focus on boosting reading skills so students don't get frustrated and drop out. Ritz says requiring five-year-olds to attend school would keep them from falling behind, and says she'd ask for federal and private money as well as more state funding for remediation.
The state now funds full-day kindergarten statewide, but school attendance remains optional until children turn seven.
Ritz suggests at least some additional money could come from reducing what the state spends on the ISTEP exam.
Ritz says she'd also seek partnerships with small businesses and the Chamber of Commerce to arrange internships so students remain interested in learning.
Ross McMullin, a campaign spokesman for incumbent Republican superintendent Tony Bennett, says the dropout rate has been cut in half during Bennett's term, but says the superintendent agrees an intense focus on reading is critical. He points to the state's policy of requiring reading proficiency before students advance to fourth grade.
The Department of Education says just under half the non-graduates are dropouts. Most of the rest remain in school but don't get their diploma within four years, with about two-percent of students receiving G-E-D or special education certificates, or a "course completion" certificate after falling short of graduation requirements.
Ritz argues the true graduation rate is 79-percent -- another seven-percent receive waivers from the requirement that they pass the state's 10th-grade math and English exam. Ritz says she'd leave it to the legislature to decide whether those waiver rules should be changed.
Republican incumbent Tony Bennett has set a goal of a 90-percent graduation rate. Ritz won't set a numerical goal, but says there should be steady improvement.