US moves to head off states' revolt over No Child Left Behind
With some states in open revolt against education reforms in the No Child Left Behind law, the Obama administration prepares to issue waivers from certain requirements. But states must agree to a different set of reforms to qualify.
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Idaho, too, is freezing its proficiency targets – at 85 percent for reading and 83 percent for math – rather than proceed with a scheduled raise to 90.4 percent for reading and 88.7 percent for math.Skip to next paragraph
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The state is already heading toward a growth model. "The problem with doing both [the growth model and the raising of the AYP bar] at the same time is that we have very limited resources," Idaho Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath says.
Idaho has frozen its targets for only two years in a row, so technically it's not out of compliance.
With the administration’s waiver announcement Monday, all these states may get relief from the NCLB requirements – provided that they can show they are maintaining the spirit of accountability in the law and that they accept a reform package put forward by the administration.
Duncan says he won’t give details until September, but all signs point to the reforms being the same ones the administration has consistently emphasized: higher academic standards, teacher evaluation systems, better use of data, and plans for dealing with the worst-performing schools.
In announcing his plan, Duncan pointed to the sort of “perverse incentives” in the current law, in which a state like Tennessee is punished for raising its standards. When the state had extremely low standards, 91 percent of students tested as proficient in math, Duncan said, but when the state raised its standards to more accurately reflect where students should be, that dropped to 34 percent.
“The current law provides lots of penalties for that kind of courage,” Duncan said in a press briefing. “We want to remove those and reward those states that are telling the truth.”
However, states unwilling to adopt the reforms decreed by the administration will be left to comply with NCLB, he said – a stance that some take issue with.
Representative Kline has warned that Duncan may be going beyond his legal authority, and said in a statement that he “will be monitoring the secretary's actions closely to ensure they are consistent with the law and Congressional intent."
The National School Boards Association urged Duncan in July to offer waivers as a short-term solution, without imposing "a lengthy, time-consuming and complicated state application process that would mandate new reforms on local school districts," citing the financial challenges districts face.
If waivers require any kind of state legislative action, Montana couldn't qualify, Juneau says, because its Legislature doesn't meet again until 2013.
South Dakota, in addition to freezing its proficiency levels, is concerned about another NCLB requirement: reporting a uniform four-year high school graduation rate. This requirement is just now kicking in, and for many states, rates will be lower than those previously reported using other counting methods.
South Dakota Education Secretary Melody Schopp is in discussions with federal education officials about lowering its target graduation rate from 85 percent to 80 percent because of the new reporting formula. They have not approved that idea, US Education officials say, and have instead made suggestions for how the state could make the transition without lowering its goal.
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