Last year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan predicted that as many as 82 percent of schools could be labeled failing under the flawed accountability measures of the No Child Left Behind Act.
The number didn’t materialize—it turned out to be just over 50 percent—but that threat and the realization that Congress could not complete a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) t in time for the 2011-12 school year provoked the U.S. Department of Education to offer regulatory relief for states for portions of NCLB.
Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, led attendees at Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Monday through some of the details of the regulatory relief. States are required to apply and must implement four reform principles to be eligible for the waivers. (Not all states have chosen to apply.)
Districts can receive up to 10 waivers from some of the most burdensome provisions of NCLB, including the mandate that all students and subgroups must be 100 percent proficient by the 2013-14 school year and would replace the demand for adequate yearly progress (AYP) with an annual measurable objective (AMO) system that allows schools to show a measure of progress toward specific goals. For qualifying states and school districts the Education Department would also waive identifications and interventions in Title I schools that don’t make AYP for two years; waive the requirement for highly qualified teachers and related restrictions on local uses of federal funding in professional development; and allow states and districts to transfer money from teacher and technology programs into Title I, among other waivers.
The four principles include: Implementing college and career-ready standards, either the Common Core Standards or standards certified by state network of public higher education institutions in language arts/math; developing differentiated recognition, accountability and support, which means that a state would set new AMOs; supporting effective leadership and instruction; and removing burdensome and duplicative reporting requirements that have little or no impact on student success.
While the law needs a comprehensive overhaul, some details of the relief have been incorporated into the Senate legislation and could be considered a good start to the process, Resnick added. “To use a Washington phrase, it does kick the can down the road.”
Resnick gave the participants a list of issues to consider if their states have applied for relief:
# How will the Education Department’s final approval of your state’s accountability plan impact your school district’s budget and program plans for next year?
# What requirements in your state plan will you have to implement next year or plan for?
# What budgetary and staffing changes and concerns will be involved?
# How will the state plan impact your school board’s oversight/governance function?
# How will the reauthorization of ESEA impact your state plan?
FRN participants are pushing for a quick reauthorization of the bill this year, and in response to a question, Resnick said that bills in the House and Senate would need to be passed and moved to a conference committee quickly this spring to have a chance at passage this year.