Obama eases ‘no child left behind’ regs, but will governor let state seek waiver?
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
AUSTIN, WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama administration, through the Department of Education, has offered all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico waivers to key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. The act was passed in 2001 after former president George W. Bush proposed the measure.
To date, 26 states, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have requested the waivers; Texas is among those that have not sought the exemptions.
The states seeking waivers must propose plans to raise education standards and improve accountability and support reforms to improve teacher and principal effectiveness.
If approved, the states will set performance targets that are based on whether students graduate from high school ready for higher education or career ready instead of having to meet No Child Left Behind’s 2014 deadline, “based on arbitrary targets for proficiency,” according to the Department of Education. State education agencies will also help in implementing locally tailored interventions to help students rather than use “a one-size-fits-all” remedy ordered by the federal government.
States will also be allowed to spur student growth and academic progress using measures other than just test scores, as well as having more discretion in they use federal funds for students.
More importantly, for school districts similar to Marfa ISD whose states do seek the waiver, school districts could be allowed greater flexibility regarding the timeline for determining a district’s adequate yearly progress (AYP). Marfa ISD failed to meet AYP
last year and is holding out for this year’s rating. Failing to meet AYP for two consecutive years will result in a monitoring program for a school district.
The purpose, President Obama says is, “To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level.”
Marfa junior and high school Principal Cynthia Wimberly weighed in on the issue this week.
“It seems like local control is a good thing and a lot of people support it.” She thought out loud that perhaps the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is holding out on applying for the waiver to see how school districts do on new state-wide standardized tests, the results of which are trickling in.
“You can test kids and it tells you something, but it doesn’t tell you everything,” Wimberly said.
A TEA spokesperson said this week that, “We have not filed for a waiver at this time. One of the things that the folks at the agency are reviewing are the requirements for the waiver.”
One possible requirement that TEA is looking into is whether or not the waiver requires states to have already adopted the Common Core State Standards, a national curriculum for core subjects. Texas is one of five states that has not adopted the national curriculum.
“Our State Board of Education approves the curriculum. They indicated that they did not want to adopt the (national) curriculum,” the TEA spokesperson said. “The deputy commissioner (of TEA) and others are looking at the stipulation tied to submitting the waiver. They are evaluating whether it’s something we would like to consider.”
Wimberly encourages TEA to consider the waiver. “If TEA were to request the waiver I think that would be cool. I believe in local control and local democracies and that local communities know what they’re kids need,” she said. “It would be detrimental in the long run at least not to let us try to do what is best.”
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