Oklahoma Public Schools Regain No Child Left Behind Waiver


The federal government has granted Oklahoma a waiver extension after the state’s schools have been in limbo for months.

The waiver will allow the state an exemption from following some aspects of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. According to the US Education Department, Oklahoma met the conditions after sending documents showing approval by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education of the state’s math and English standards, the Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS, writes Caroline Porter of The Wall Street Journal.

At first, when Oklahoma requested a waiver extension for one year in August, the state’s standards did not match the “college and career-ready” federal standards. In June, Oklahoma had decided to repeal the Common Core State Standards and revert to previous goals until new standards were ready.

Now, Oklahoma public schools have until the end of the current school year of 2014-2015 to submit a new application to ensure its waiver status. There are 42 states, at this time, which have received waivers from the federal government, while 34 states have waivers that expired this summer. Oklahoma is one of the latter.

Only one state, Louisiana, is still under review. Before Oklahoma, Indiana replaced Common Core with new standards considered to be “college and career ready.” Earlier in this month, the federal government announced some new guidelines for states when applying for waivers, such as changes to performance measures, updated records on poorly performing schools, schools with large gaps in student achievement, and graduation rates.

This decision by the Obama administration means that Oklahoma public schools are free from most of the NCLB demands, according to Lyndsey Layton, reporting for The Washington Post.

“The ramifications of losing the waiver would have been significant and with potentially disastrous consequences,” Janet Barresi, the state’s superintendent of public instruction in a statement. “Instead, Oklahoma now has an opportunity to build upon the innovations and successful reforms of recent years.”

About 40% of Oklahoma’s high school graduates find it necessary to enroll in remedial courses as freshmen, which is part of the reason supporters of the Common Core say PASS standards are not up to par. Oklahoma was behind the Common Core when it was adopted in 2010, so much so that it redesigned curriculum, purchased materials, and trained teachers in implementing the new standards. But the nationwide unrest concerning the Common Core seemed to spark dissent and intensify in Oklahoma.

The Common Core was designed by a bipartisan group of governors and state education chiefs in 2010. The decision to create these math and reading standards was to make nationwide academic standards more consistent. States decide how to teach the standards and which materials they will use to do so. The Common Core Standards are not an initiative of the Obama administration, but the administration is supporting it, by issuing temporary waivers.

If a state loses its waiver, the schools in the state could lose control on how to spend up to $30 million in federal aid, reports Tim Willert of The Oklahoman. If the state had not received the extension of waiver, approximately 1,600 Oklahoma schools, or 90% of public schools, would have been required to use some part of the federal funding to pay for supplemental educational services, like tutoring and school-choice options including transportation to higher-performing schools.

The request made to the federal government underscored that Oklahoma’s school improvement program had led to important progress for schools statewide. Out of 175 priority schools (schools needing intensive help) in the state, 51 had improved their letter grade this school year. Also, more than 100 schools which had been targeted for intervention had raised their grade, according to Tim Talley, writing for the Associated Press.

11 26, 2014
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