Monday, July 18, 2011

Waiver conditions unfolding . . .

In yet another follow-up to the NCLB story Education Week has an update on what the waivers might be. Once again nothing is set in stone, but based on the article this may be doable. Below are the three waivers the article suggests that a state would have to sign up for to qualify.

There would be three kinds of waivers under No Child Left Behind, and states would have to sign up for all of them—it wouldn't be an either/or thing. This is something Duncan made clear in the initial waiver announcement.

• To waive the 2014 deadline for all students to be proficient in math and language arts, states would have to adopt college- and career-readiness standards and assessments. It's not clear yet what that would mean. But, presumably, Common Core would be involved. Student growth could be used to measure achievement. Our state has already gone on record as supporting, but not yet adopted, the Common Core math and English Language Arts standards. One purpose of these standards is to ensure that students are prepared for college and the work force.

To essentially freeze in place the law's system of sanctions, states would have to propose their own differentiated accountability systems that would incorporate growth and establish new performance targets. States also would have to establish differentiated school improvement systems that more accurately meet the needs of schools with different challenges. The accountability systems would not have to include choice or free tutoring. Districts also no longer would have to set aside Title I money for such programs. This could become an issue as each state would have to decide what to do with schools and districts that would be labeled under the current system as not meeting AYP and thus failing. If the four options for failing schools I shared in my July 14th post are a requirement for the waiver it could be an issue.

• To waive the law's highly qualified teacher requirement and get funding flexibility, states would have to adopt evaluation systems for teachers and principals that are based on growth and make sure districts actually do what they say they're going to do. Again, not knowing exactly what this means makes it difficult to assess the potential for the waiver to support our journey. Does it mean that the state and district must use student achievement data as one component of rating teachers and principals? Will growth over time be allowed or will it be based on one high risk test?

Though the possibility for relief from current requirements may be around the corner, there are still too many unknowns to feel comfortable that something will emerge in the short term. But, I am beginning to think that it may be possible if the education department allows flexibility for states and districts to devise frameworks that support change and that are not perceived as punitive. I will continue to monitor and share what I learn.

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