As part of continuing efforts to urge Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to grant regulatory relief from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to school districts, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recently surveyed school district leaders to determine the specific waivers that would be most useful.
NSBA was heartened by Duncan’s recent announcement that he intends to offer waivers from certain Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) regulations in exchange for reforms.
The survey identified 17 areas where immediate relief is most needed. These include:
- Eliminate the 20 percent set-aside for supplemental services or school choice; these have not produced significant results in student achievement and districts need the flexibility to use the money in more effective ways.
- Relieve entire school districts from being identified as needing improvement when the focus should be on specific schools or groups.
- Enable states to use multiple measures for measuring adequate yearly progress (AYP) instead of one test.
- Allow a three-year transition, instead of one-year transition, for English language learners to be counted toward AYP benchmarks.
More than 100 school districts, representing a cross-section of urban, suburban, and rural schools and demographics across the country, responded to the survey.
And more than 1,000 signatures have been collected for a petition sponsored by NSBA and the American Association of School Administrators calling for relief from NCLB’s flawed, costly, and ineffective regulations before the start of the new academic year, as it is clear Congress will not be able to enact a new law by that time.
NSBA continues to support efforts by the Department of Education and Congress to build a better and more appropriate accountability system under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. However, given the short time before the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, NSBA leaders have urged Duncan to immediately remove sanctions and requirements proven to be flawed, costly and ineffective.
“This is a real concern, particularly in light of financial challenges facing local school districts, the administrative actions related to the opening of the new school year, and the expected changes in direction from the new ESEA law,” said NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “ESEA reauthorization continues to remain a top priority. Therefore, we consider this relief to be a short-term patch to provide a bridge over the expanding dysfunctional impact that No Child Left Behind is having on schools and districts.”
NSBA also is concerned that a proposal by the Education Department to grant relief to states would not recognize the different needs of local school districts, which were evident in the survey. Further, the Education Department should not tie relief in exchange for specific other reforms, considering costs, varying local needs and capacities, timing for the school year, and that Congress is already working on a reauthorization of ESEA.
“The best approach for offering relief would be to address the on-the-ground needs of local school districts and address those needs in a practical manner,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Advocacy and Public Policy.
NSBA has recommended that the short-term approach should focus on providing local relief and not initiating broad-based reforms, in part given the uncertainty of the direction that the ESEA reauthorization will take in Congress.
However, NSBA leaders emphasized that they support the intentions of NCLB to hold school leaders accountable for their students’ performance.
“In approaching regulatory relief, we in no way intend to undermine accountability systems that appropriately identify low-performing or high-achieving students, schools, or districts,” said Bryant. “We are simply calling for regulatory relief in areas where the current program is flawed or in need of immediate change.”