Christmas came early for the state of California — and unfortunately, the state found out that it’s at the top of the Department of Education’s ‘naughty’ list.
33 states and the District of Columbia have been granted waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act’s requirements, the most important of which is the demand that 100% of a state’s students be proficient in English and math by 2014. States applied for waivers by laying out reform plans judged by the Department of Education to be sufficiently productive as a workaround to NCLB.
A waiver also allows states more freedom to spend Title I money provided by the Federal government, whereas that money was earmarked for funding elements of NCLB.
Successful waiver applications included broad, comprehensive reforms to teacher evaluation systems based in part on student standardized test data. John Fensterwald of EdSource relayed that California’s denial wasn’t much of a surprise:
The rejection of California’s application was not unexpected. Gov. Jerry Brown, [State Superintendent Tom] Torlakson and the State Board of Education had chafed at some of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s requirements, and had filed a waiver request that ignored them.
Fensterwald reports that a major sticking point for California was the resistance to using standardized testing data in evaluations.
California will now be forced to comply with NCLB’s requirements that have seen 7 out of 10 California schools already designated as in “Program Improvement,” which means that their Adequate Yearly Progress [AYP] measures have fallen short, leaving them out of compliance with NCLB. That amounts to ~4,400 schools. The Program Improvement designation means that Title I funds continue to be restricted in use and that parents must be notified by PI districts that they have the right to transfer their children to better-performing schools — and that the PI school foots the bill for transportation.
California maintains that NCLB requirements are “deeply flawed,” and will continue to implement reforms in ways it deems most effective.
Superintendent Torlakson said of the failed waiver application:
“Based on a thorough examination of federal and state law, California made a good-faith effort to seek relief from requirements that even federal officials have acknowledged time and again are deeply flawed.”
Individual districts, though, may have hope — Secretary Duncan has noted that the Department could consider waiver applications from districts whose state-level applications have been turned down. For reform-minded districts in California such as Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento City and Fresno — all of whom are members of the California Office to Reform Education, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education.
10 additional states have outstanding waiver applications.