Putting Education Reform To The Test

What New ‘No Child Left Behind’ Rules Mean For You

U.S. Department of Education

The federal education agency is offering to exempt states from education rules if they adopt other measures.

Waiving No Child Left Behind rules will put less emphasis on testing, according to a release from the federal education department.

The agency breaks down the impact on the three major parties in the education system.

For teachers:

ESEA flexibility will move accountability systems toward decisions that are based on student growth and progress. They will consider more than a single test score measured against an arbitrary proficiency level.

For parents:

ESEA Flexibility will let States create honest accountability and support systems that require real change in the worst performing schools, allow for locally tailored solutions based on individual school needs, and recognize schools for success. When schools fall short, parents will know that school leaders will adopt targeted and focused strategies for the students most at risk.

And finally for students:

States will begin to move beyond the bubble tests and dumbed-down standards that are based on arbitrary standards of proficiency. By measuring student growth and critical thinking, new assessments will inspire better teaching and greater student engagement across a well-rounded curriculum.

Conservative D.C.-based think tank The Heritage Foundation counters that the new rules will actually give the federal government more control over education decisions, including coercing states to adopt national standards.

While the Senators’ proposal may cut down the page-count of the current NCLB, it does so by replacing detailed legislative specifics with an increase in the Secretary of Education’s direct authority over state education accountability systems. States will submit to the Secretary their plan to overhaul their accountability systems in the absence of AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). It must then be approved by a peer review board chosen by the Secretary of Education…

Moreover, the proposals do not set the stage for a fundamental overhaul of Washington’s role in education. And after a half-century of failed federal intervention in local schools, this is the time for that overhaul.

The federal agency has set three requirements for obtaining a NCLB waiver: Adopting standards that will prepare students for college or careers; a focus on improving the state’s worst-performing schools; and developing a teacher evaluation system.

Florida has adopted the national Common Core standards, and state law requires districts develop teacher evaluations and focuses additional scrutiny — and assistance — on the lowest performing schools. The state plans to apply for a waiver.

Update: Chiefs for Change, the group of state education superintendents affiliated with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, cheered President Barack Obama’s decision.

“We applaud both the flexibility waivers will grant states and districts and the reforms the Administration’s waiver policy will reward. We appreciate the Administration’s flexibility for data collection, rewarding progress, and supporting teacher effectiveness polices. Waivers like the ones the Administration laid out today – which do not weaken the rigor or accountability in No Child Left Behind – will help states improve student achievement.”

“Dropout Nation” author RiShawn Biddle argued the change would “gut” accountability.

Like the plan offered up last week by Senate Republicans, the waivers don’t address the need to overhaul ed schools, who train most of the nation’s new teachers, or push for the development of alternative teacher training programs outside of university confines. The waiver plan doesn’t address the crisis of low educational achievement among young men of all backgrounds, one of the leading symptoms of the education crisis. As Richard Whitmire and I proposed in June, simply requiring gender to be measured as part of subgroup accountability would do plenty to force states and districts into dealing seriously with this problem.



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