Ohio is playing let’s make a deal with the U.S. Department of Education. Ohio wants freedom from some of the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. In return, the feds want Ohio to promise to make changes in the state’s education policy.
Ohio and 25 other states and the District of Columbia applied for No Child Left Behind waivers earlier this year. The feds have already approved waivers for 11 other states. Ohio’s proposal would eliminate the expectation that 100 percent of students pass reading and math tests by 2014, and make a number of other changes affecting public schools.
The part of Ohio’s waiver application facing the most opposition here in Ohio is a new proposed school grading system. The new system would award schools letter grades rather than terms like “continuous improvement,” and it would make it much harder for schools to get As.
But the feds aren’t so worried about that particular change.
In an April 17 letter to the Ohio Department of Education, federal officials say Ohio’s application was “particularly strong in providing empirical evidence for its proposed accountability system.” Ohio also gets kudos for how it would identify low-performing schools and for its “strong foundation in developing and implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems.”
What the feds are worried about in Ohio’s application is:
- How Ohio schools will teach English language learners and students with disabilities using new, tougher Common Core standards;
- How the state will help low-performing schools improve; and
- How efforts to help low-performing schools and school districts “fit together into a coherent plan.”
Several other states are facing similar questions, Education Week says.
The U.S. Department of Education told Ohio officials last month they need to address those questions before Secretary of Education Arne Duncan can approve Ohio’s waiver application.
Ohio Department of Education spokesperson Patrick Gallaway says Ohio will tweak its waiver application in response to the feds’ feedback. The Ohio Department of Education “appreciates the feedback and is taking the suggestions made into consideration as we provide clarification back to [the U.S. Department of Education," he says.
And Gallaway notes that it's up to state lawmakers -- not federal officials -- to approve the new school grading system:
"It is not a change that has ever been contingent on the approval of our waiver request."