Arne Duncan moves to give states NCLB waivers
Congress couldn't really have thought that 100 percent of students would be reading and doing math on grade level in 2014, but that is what No Child Left Behind expects from all schools by then.
The goal seemed fine in 2002 when it was more than a decade away, but now it is 2011 and in Maryland alone 44 percent of elementary and middle schools didn't live up to NCLB standards last year. That is a lower percentage than some states with higher standards than Maryland. In Tennessee, for instance, only about two thirds of students are failing state tests.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan thinks it is time to act so that tougher and tougher sanctions aren't applied to schools that don't need to be reinvented. So yesterday, he signaled for the second time this summer that he is going to take action. In mid-September he said he will give states the details on how to apply for a waiver. Maryland, appears to be poised to satisfy all of the criteria for getting a waiver because it has adopted the common core standards, is revamping its teacher evaluation system, among other actions.
Ed Week is reporting that states that get the waivers will be able to reset the pass rates that are needed to make AYP. Whether we will go back several years or just stay where we are in terms of how many students need to pass the state tests for a school to meet AYP is not clear. The following year (2012-2013), USDE may take away requirements that students in failing schools get free tutoring or are allowed to transfer to another school in the district that isn't considered a failing school.
While some members of Congress had questioned whether Duncan's has the authority to unilaterially put aside portions of the law, few voices registered much complaint yesterday. The Duncan announcement came after Congress had nearly failed to deal with the debt ceiling and no one was under any illusion that it could reauthorize NCLB in the next year.
I would be interested to hear from principals, teachers and parents about how they feel about the waivers. I suspect principals and teachers are about to give a collective sigh of relief. One of the questions I would liked to have asked is what happens when Congress finally gets around to reauthorizing NCLB in two or so years? What if the new law has vastly different priorities than the Duncan era direction? Won't that produce a lot of whip lash?