Ohio is one of eight states that no longer have to meet all the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but Ohio’s waiver comes with a caveat.
More than a decade ago the No Child Left Behind Act ushered in a new era of education reform, including the requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Many states have fought for repeal, calling the law unrealistic. It remains in place, but the Obama administration has given states a way around some of the requirements, allowing states to apply for waivers.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says the waivers give states more control over their schools.
“Our goal with this waiver process have been frankly to get out of the way of states and districts and let them figure out what’s the best way to meet their educational needs,“ Duncan says.
Duncan announced today approval for No Child Left Behind waivers for Ohio and seven other states. Another 11 states received approval earlier. And another 18 states have applied for waivers, but are still waiting on the federal Department of Education’s verdict.
The waiver Ohio just got means it no longer has to meet that 100-percent proficiency goal. Instead, it can set what it sees as more realistic proficiency goals, target funds towards low performing schools, and create new assessment methods for teachers, principals, and schools.
That means that instead of aiming for every student to pass state reading and math tests by 2014, Ohio will now set specific goals for more students to pass the tests in each of the next six years. So by 2016–17, Ohio would expect around 90 percent of all students to pass state reading and math tests.
State education officials are calling the waiver approval a “step forward,” but Washington is keeping Ohio on a short leash. Ohio’s waiver application was approved on a conditional basis.
The condition has to do with plans to create a new, tougher way of grading schools. As originally proposed by the Ohio Department of Education and Gov. John Kasich, the new system would drop three-quarters of Ohio school districts down a grade. Charter schools would be hit particularly hard.
It’s up to state lawmakers to approve the new grading system. And school districts and charter schools have successfully lobbied for at least a one-year delay in implementing it.
State lawmakers have until September 15th to hammer out the details of that new grading system. If the federal Department of Education doesn’t approve, Ohio’s waiver expires after one year, and the state will once again be subject to the demands of No Child Left Behind.