Iowa has been denied a No Child Left Behind waiver because its educator evaluation system did not meet federal requirements due to the absence of student achievement being built into the evaluation process. Governor Terry Branstad has been privately and publicly warning of this scenario for months with only apathetic response from the State Legislature.
"Responsibility for the denial of this request lies squarely at the feet of the Iowa Legislature, which did too little to improve our schools despite repeated warnings," the governor said in a statement. "The education reform plan Lt. Gov. (Kim) Reynolds and I proposed would have ensured a waiver from the onerous federal No Child Left Behind law."
Director of the state Department of Education Jason Glass had asked lawmakers this winter for the power to make the necessary changes but instead they went in the opposite directions and passed a new measure requiring all changes to the state's teacher performance review system to have legislative approval.
"This was a missed opportunity for Iowa's schools to find relief from a law that holds them to unrealistic measures and then blames them for failure," Glass said.
The denial means that Iowa is still required to have all children be at grade level in math and reading by 2014. Failure to meet this 100% measure will see schools facing possible mandates to replace staff or being taken over by a contracted private education firm. US Secretary of Education has estimated that 82% of the nation's schools will be considered a failing under this measure in 2014.
Of the 25 other states who applied for waivers in February alongside Iowa, eight had the waiver granted in May. Eleven other states had already received waivers from an earlier round. Iowa is the first state to have their request denied.
"According to the information in your request, the Iowa Department of Education does not currently have authority to ensure implementation of teacher and principal evaluation and support systems â¦," Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education's office of Elementary and Secondary Education, wrote in the letter. "Because of these constraints, the department is not able to approve Iowa's request for flexibility at this time."
Senate Education Committee Chairman Herman Quirmbach, having called Glass an âunelected power-hungry bureaucrat' is unlikely to be behind a move to extend to the Iowa Department of Education's power enough to be able to satisfy the national requirements.
What will happen next in Iowa remains to be seen, but it should be remembered that the denial of the waiver application is not an outright rejection, and that the US Department of Education have expressed interest in continuing to work with Iowa on their request.