At Last Minute, Indiana Schools Submit for No Child Left Behind Waiver

After an uncertain lead-up to the deadline, Indiana Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz submitted the state’s request for a new waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements.  The US Department of Education (DOE) had requested a new waiver be submitted that added more detail as to how the state planned to administer new exams, and how new English and math standards would be added to these exams for 10th graders.

According to Anne Hyslop, an education analyst for New American Foundation, a nonprofit public policy institute:

“Some of the issues have been addressed because many, many problems were flagged in the monitoring report,” she said. “It looks like they want the plans fleshed out to get a sense of when things will happen. Progress has been made since May 1 when the monitoring report was issued.”

NCLB is an act signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2001.  According to the act, the better schools do on annual performance goals (known as Adequate Yearly Progress, and based on standardized tests), the more federal education funding they will receive.   However, the performance goals were quickly found to be too blunt, causing many schools to fail.  President Barack Obama ended NCLB through an executive order in 2011, writes Joy Resmovits for The Huffington Post.

Since then, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been granting waivers to states for particular pieces of the law, such as the Adequate Yearly Progress Reports (AYPs).  In exchange, the states agree to adopt some new education reforms.  In order to be granted a waiver, states need to show a plan for measuring student performance, as well as developing a system of evaluation for teachers and principals that includes student accomplishment.  Forty-two states currently hold such a waiver.

Indiana had needed to correct its inadequacies pertaining to the requirements, or face losing the ability to decide how to spend the $230 million per year they receive in federal funding for low-income students.  The state would also need to ensure that 100% of its students are proficient in math and science, reports Eric Weddle for The Indy Star.

According to federal officials, Ritz, a Republican, had not been implementing certain reforms her Democratic predecessor had placed in a previous waiver, nor was the state supervising low-performing schools well enough, causing the waiver to be placed on a conditional status.

In a statement to the Indy Star, teacher Talia Reed, who publicly supports the Indiana Department of Education’s commonsense reform efforts, wrote:

It is time for Superintendent Ritz to put politics aside and uphold the duties of her office. Our teachers, students, parents and community members deserve transparency and a clear vision for the future of education in our state.

The decision had come in April, after Indiana became the first state to withdraw from national Common Core education standards, according to The Associated Press.

According to Hyslop, it is unlikely the state will lose its funding.  However, it may be given the status of “high risk”.

“There is a possibility the waiver could be put on high risk,” she said. “Especially if there is still some concerns and just given the nature of what has happened in Indiana.”

A decision is expected by the end of July.

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