Friday, August 12, 2011

Movement on NCLB Waiver Requests

This week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the timeline for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver requests. Sec. Duncan indicated that the preference was reauthorization of NCLB by Congress, which is four years past due. However, given the dysfunctional nature of Congress, it is very unlikely that relief will come through reauthorization.

While some states are looking for relief, Kentucky is actually looking to implement a more reasonable and balanced system of accountability. The Kentucky General Assembly required this system through legislation in 2009 (Senate Bill 1). The Kentucky Board of Education approved the final regulation to implement the accountability system at its August 2011 meeting.

For the latest description of the accountability model, click here. For a side-by-side comparison of the NCLB and Kentucky accountability models, click here.

Sec. Duncan announced this week that the U.S. Department of Education (USED) would provide a framework for accountability waivers in mid-September, and states may submit responses to the framework after that date. In Kentucky, we are preparing background information for our response, and I anticipate we will once again be the first state in the nation to submit the paperwork in response to the USED framework.

The USED framework will be very similar to the Race to the Top criteria, and given that Kentucky was a finalist and had unanimous support from school districts and teacher organizations in the Race to the Top application, I feel certain we will be in excellent shape for a waiver. Also, I do not believe there will be any conditions that our superintendents, school boards and teacher organizations would not be able to support.

The key waiver components of college/career-ready standards, use of data, student growth and teacher/principal effectiveness are components of our Unbridled Learning strategic plan. I project the teacher/principal effectiveness component will require states to develop models of teacher/principal effectiveness over a 2-3 year period of time, and we are right on target with that time frame.

In September, we will release the results of spring 2011 testing and the subsequent NCLB ratings and consequences. Last spring, we predicted that more than 85 percent of our districts would not meet the NCLB adequate yearly progress targets and more than 65 percent of our schools would not meet the targets. NCLB loses credibility when we start to see these types of numbers, and our focus in Kentucky has changed from minimum competency on math and reading to a focus on college and career readiness for ALL Kentucky children.

Stay tuned for further developments on the accountability waiver process.

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