Tag Archives: NCLB

Are waivers to ‘No Child Left Behind’ providing accountability

28 Jul

All Politics is Local.

Thomas P. O’Neill

Moi would like to modify that quote a bit to all education is local and occurs at the neighborhood school. We really should not be imposing a straight jacket on education by using a one-size-fits-all approach. Every school, in fact, every classroom is its own little microclimate. We should be looking at strategies which work with a given population of children.

A Healthy Child In A Healthy Family Who Attends A Healthy School In A Healthy Neighborhood. ©

Motoko Rich writes in the New York Times article, States With Education Waivers Offer Varied Goals:

A report being issued on Friday by the liberal Center for American Progress shows that while some states have proposed reforms aimed at spurring schools and teachers to improve student performance, others may be introducing weaker measures of accountability.

The increased flexibility of the waivers means that some states will experiment and move ahead,” said Jeremy Ayers, associate director of federal education programs at the organization, “while others may backtrack.”

The No Child Left Behind law has been up for reauthorization since 2007, but so far Congress has failed to pass a new version. The Obama administration has granted waivers to 32 states and the District of Columbia, freeing them from some of the most burdensome provisions of the law, including the requirement that all students must be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

The waivers allow states to select from a menu of new goals. According to the center’s report, eight states have chosen to cut in half the percentage of students not testing at grade level in reading or math within six years, while one state, Arizona, said it would make all its students proficient by 2020. The majority of states chose to set their own goals.

In reviewing those states’ waiver applications, the report’s authors wrote that it was difficult to discern if those states “meet the high bar” of setting rigorous targets.

The report also found that many states had not outlined how they would hold schools responsible for actually meeting their goals…. 

In reviewing the state waiver applications, the center found that 14 states plan to use growth in student test scores for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

Teachers unions and state education officials have fought over how much weight to accord to student test scores. In New York, the two sides battled for more than two years before settling on a system earlier this year that would base 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student achievement measures.

Given the controversy, education advocates fear that the new teacher evaluation systems could be pushed too quickly.

If there is too much sloppy implementation,” said Amy Wilkins, vice president of the Education Trust, a research and advocacy group that supports using test scores as part of a teacher’s rating, “it will lose credibility and it will be very hard to get back that credibility.”

The Center for American Progress also reviewed how often states would identify their lowest performing schools. Very few states committed to reviewing the lowest 5 percent of schools every year, and the vast majority of the states did not specify how frequently they would do so….http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/education/varied-plans-for-states-with-waivers-no-child-law.html?_r=1&src=rechp

See, States Granted NCLB Waivers Offer Varying Goals For Helping Education Reform, According To Report http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/27/report-examines-goals-of-_n_1711111.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

The Center for American Progress analyzed “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) waivers in the report, No Child Left Behind Waivers: Promising Ideas from Second Round Applications:

Ours is not an exhaustive or comprehensive analysis. The Department of Education has already reviewed applications in detail and made judgments on the merits of each. We took a qualitative look across all applications to see what states are doing and to bring attention to interesting or innovative ideas. A few findings
emerged from this review:
• Most states have changed and would change their policies and practices significantly from those under No Child Left Behind. Change has come as a result of various motivations and has led to some improvements and deliberate shifts in policy, several of which are captured by the waiver applications.
• The waiver process itself did not appear to stimulate new innovations aside from accountability, but was an opportunity to articulate a new vision for reform. A number of changes in each state are already underway and in various stages of implementation, but the application process prodded states to articulate a comprehensive plan for improving education.
• States have proposed interesting and promising ideas in each principle area. Some states are pushing new ideas, many of which are promising or innovative, by ensuring all students graduate college and career ready, developing differentiated accountability systems, and improving teacher and leader effectiveness.
• Very few states proposed detailed plans for reducing duplication and unnecessary administrative burden on districts and schools. The goal of the federal flexibility package is to offer needed relief to states; states could benefit from doing the same for their districts and schools.
• Very few states detailed how they would use their 21st Century Community Learning Center funding to increase learning time. About half the states rejected the opportunity for additional federal funding to lengthen the school day, week, or year and those that indicated that they would accept the funding offered little detail on how they would utilize the extra dollars.
• States are using various sources of funding to implement their plans. States do not receive new money under the waivers. As a result states demonstrated a willingness to pursue new reform without additional funding.
In the pages that follow, we outline themes across state applications in the major priorities laid out by the Department of Education—college- and career-ready standards, differentiated accountability systems, and supporting effective instruction and leadership. The fourth principle, reducing duplication and burden,
received scant attention in state applications, and as such is not covered in detail in this report. Our report concludes with recommendations for states and the Department of Education, summarized below.
1. States should be treated as laboratories of reform that set the stage for eventual reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Both successes and failures of waiver reforms can and should inform how the act is reauthorized.
2. The Department of Education should ask for, and states should offer, more detail on aspects of state plans. We call on states to provide better, clearer information on how they will ensure students have equitable access to effective teachers; how their school rating system is linked to their annual goals; how they will ensure districts and schools engage in comprehensive approaches to school turnaround; how they will increase learning time; and how they will reduce duplication and administrative burden on districts and schools.
3. The Department of Education should establish a clearinghouse to document and share tools, strategies, and lessons of implementation. In this way states and districts can learn from the successes and challenges faced and overcome by other states and districts.
4. States should learn from other states, either by joining consortia or replicating successful practices. States should consider forming partnerships or consortia with other states to build infrastructure as a group, as opposed to taking on an entire reform alone.
5. The Department of Education should increase its staffing and capacity to oversee and enforce implementation of waiver plans. The sheer variety and complexity of state plans, compared to No Child Left Behind, means the department will need to build capacity to ensure states turn their plans into reality.
6. States should implement their plans as part of a coherent strategy—with clear goals, mid-course corrections, and consequences for failure to make progress. Any of the innovations discussed in this report will fade quickly if they are not implemented with fidelity and persistence as part of a coherent approach to improving the K-12 education system.

No Child Left Behind Waivers: Promising Ideas from Second Round Applications
Jeremy Ayers and Isabel Owen July 2012
with Glenda Partee and Theodora Chanhttp://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/07/pdf/nochildwaivers.pdf

NCLB was an attempt to introduce accountability in education using a top down approach of federal mandate on what has traditionally been a local subject, management of schools.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line
Russian mystic & novelist (1828 – 1910)

So it is with schools. There are certain elements that successful schools share. The Wisconsin Department of Education has a good guide about successful schools.  Chapter One, Characteristics of Successful Schools , lists key elements:

Chapter 1 describes the seven characteristics that comprise a successful school. Briefly, they are:

Vision: having a common understanding of goals, principles and expectations for everyone in the learning-community

Leadership: having a group of individuals dedicated to helping the learning-community reach its vision

High Academic Standards: describing what students need to know and be able to do

Standards of the Heart: helping all within the learning community become caring, contributing, productive, and responsible citizens

Family School and Community Partnerships: “making room at the table” for a child’s first and most influential teachers

Professional Development: providing consistent, meaningful opportunities for adults in the school setting to engage in continuous learning

Evidence of Success: collecting and analyzing data about students, programs, and staff

Like, unhappy families, failing schools are probably failing in their own way. Waivers are really just returning local control back to schools. It seems everything old becomes new once again, although a relentless focus on the basics never went out of style. As the Center for American Progress argues in the conclusion to No Child Left Behind Waivers: Promising Ideas from Second Round Applications, it is incumbent to make sure that states granted waivers are monitored to ensure there is accountability to make sure children in failing schools do not fall through the cracks.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©