The Obama administration approved eight additional states for flexibility from key provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) yesterday, bringing the total number of states with waivers to 19. Eighteen other states and Washington, D.C. also applied for waivers and their applications are still under review.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced waivers for Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island, which were granted in exchange for state-developed plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership.
One of the provisions that No Child Left Behind requires is that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Reading and math proficiency is a goal all educators are determined to help students reach, but the current form of the law doesn’t allow them to get there. The waivers allow states to scrap the 2014 proficiency requirement if they can provide a viable alternative plan.
“These eight additional states are getting more flexibility with federal funds and relief from NCLB’s one-size-fits-all federal mandates in order to develop locally-tailored solutions to meet their unique educational challenges,” Duncan said.
Duncan pointed out that many of the new state-created accountability systems capture more students at risk, including low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners, adding, “States must show they are protecting children in order to get flexibility. These states met that bar.”
Connecticut’s plan, for example, raises the number of schools accountable for the performance of students with disabilities from 276 to 683; free and reduced-price lunch students from 757 to 928; African American students from 280 to 414; Hispanic students from 356 to 548; and English learners from 97 to 209. States previously granted waivers include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Though the waivers are encouraging to the states who received them, they are only stopgap measures, and not a permanent solution to the problems with the law.
“Of course ESEA needs flexibility, so we’re happy that Delaware’s application was accepted,” says Delaware State Education Association Director of Communications Pam Nichols. “But with high-stakes testing in play, states still need a system that effectively measures student growth.
To develop that system, the new version of ESEA legislation must include provisions that ensure educators have a seat at the table for all key decisions, including the implementation of school improvement plans and student growth measurements.
“The face of public education is changing all over the country,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel last February, when the first ten states were granted waivers. “We’re seeing great success and long-lasting progress when educators, school administration, parents, and communities come together for the students.”
The states that won waivers earlier this year are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
NEA will continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive bill that works for students and reflects the important federal role of ensuring equity while working with states and local school districts to support the public education system.