The state Board of Regents this morning voted for the Education Department to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Education requesting a waiver from some of the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. States that get waivers no longer have to meet NCLB’s 2014 targets of 100 percent efficiency in English/language arts and math. The waiver request is due by Feb. 28.
President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have emphasized that the waivers don’t mean the federal government will be letting states off easy, and this isn’t a “pass” on accountability. NCLB was supposed to be updated and rewritten five years ago.
Duncan said in a statement last week that current law drives down standards, weakens accountability, causes narrowing of the curriculum and labels too many schools as failing. “Rather than dictating educational decisions from Washington, we want state and local educators to decide how to best meet the individual needs of students,” he said.
In exchange for getting flexibility on NCLB, states have to submit plans to improve the quality of teaching, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve educational outcomes for all students. States must have “comprehensive systems of teacher and principal development, evaluation and support that include factors beyond test scores, such as principal observation, peer review, student work, or parent and student feedback,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
New York is struggling with the new teacher-evaluation system that was put in place through legislation two years ago. Implementation of the new system has been slow, in part because a number of aspects are subject to local collective bargaining. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has threatened to propose his own system Thursday if the state Education Department and New York State United Teachers union don’t resolve their differences by then. NYSUT sued the state over parts of the new system. The union largely won the case in state Supreme Court. The state appealed the decision. Arguments on the appeal were held last week.
In October 2011, the Board of Regents asked state Education Commissioner John King to submit what’s called an ESEA Flexibility Request to the U.S. Department of Education during the second round of submissions. The Regents received more than 450 public comments on the regulations.
Timothy Kremer, executive director of the state School Boards Association, said the group supports the waiver request. “By gaining more flexibility from Washington, New York will be able to focus its attention and resources on its lowest performing schools while also rewarding its highest performing schools. Furthermore, by streamlining the use of federal funds, the state will be able to better assist those students most in need of help,” he said in a statement.
New York will need to prove that it has a plan for helping students gain proficiency. “That’s why it is absolutely imperative the ongoing dispute over teacher and principal evaluations be resolved,” he said. “New York’s new teacher and principal evaluation system, if implemented correctly, will help identify outstanding teachers whose students show growth from year to year, and their teaching methods can be shared with others.
The U.S. Education Department last week announced that it had approved waivers for 10 states: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. More than two dozen other states, along with Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have indicated they plan to apply for waivers, the U.S. Education Department said in news release.
Some of the state’s initiatives included in the waiver application are:
— Revising the Annual Measurable Objective goals that outline the timeframe for schools and districts to ensure all students are proficient in English/language arts and math, and making the goals more realistic and attainable.
— Developing standards that are better aligned to college- and career-readiness, and using them to hold schools and districts accountable for high school performance in English and math.
— Creating one diagnostic tool for use by schools and districts to drive supports and interventions. The state Education Department will place more emphasis on conducting district-level diagnostic reviews.