New Texas education commissioner applies for NCLB waiver
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
AUSTIN – New Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams has, as one of his first official acts of duty, sought to waive the state’s public schools from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The provisions relate to the federal government’s accountability ratings.
Williams, who was recently appointed by Governor Rick Perry as the education commissioner, is seeking to join the nearly 30 other states that have already applied for or been granted the waiver.
In his notice of the waiver request to the federal Department of Education, Williams said, “The state recognizes that the lack of NCLB’s reauthorization in a timely manner has created an obsolete system that does not adequately reflect the accomplishments of the state’s schools. This, combined with (local schools) being required to meet and function within two different assessment and accountability systems, takes valuable resources and time away from the intent and focus of improving student achievement and school accountability.”
The waiver being sought by Texas varies from a specific waiver that other states have applied for that had more federal strings attached.
If the federal government grants Texas the waiver, schools wouldn’t feel the impact this academic year. Nevertheless, Marfa ISD Superintendent Andrew Peters hailed Williams’ request as a positive step forward for Marfa ISD and the rest of the state.
“I think it’s a good move for Texas,” Peters said this week. “The system is out of whack. Without the waiver, you’re comparing apples to oranges,” Peters said of the federal accountability rating system. Admitting that the waiver would only be a temporary fix, Peters said that it would be the starting point for aligning state and federal accountability systems.
“Will it cut testing, I hope so,” said Peters of the waiver. “Over 700 school districts, including Marfa, have passed resolutions saying we test too much. I am for accountability, but we can’t test (students) to death. We’re testing more than teaching sometimes.”
Time is of the essence for public schools in Texas. Under NCLB, 100 percent of students will have to pass state standardized tests by 2014 in order to meet the federal accountability standards. Marfa Elementary School meet the federal accountability requirements this year while the junior and high school did not.
“It’s totally impossible. Children are real life human beings. It’s an unrealistic goal,” Peters said of the 2014 federal goal. Instead, Peters said we should be focusing on getting students college ready. “We should be measuring (students’) progress.”
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