6 States and DC Get “No Child Left Behind” Waivers, while California Sits and Waits

Friday, July 20, 2012

The approval by the federal government of seven more waivers from the Bush era “No Child Left Behind” education standards pushed the national total to 33 but still doesn’t include California.

It has been apparent for years that states could not legitimately comply with the lofty standards established by Congress, which refused to rework the 2002 law, so the Obama administration has allowed them exemptions from key provisions if they could come up with a plan of their own that passes muster.

California submitted a waiver request in May but hasn’t heard anything from the U.S. Department of Education yet. The state Department of Education has estimated that it would cost $3 billion to meet federal requirements for a waiver, but the cost may be moot. The California waiver request—which asks for greater flexibility in how to spend federal funds, wants to use state measures of academic improvement instead of federal and wants to stop labeling its schools as failed—is generally thought to fall short of what the Obama administration is asking.

In a May press release announcing its waiver application, the state education department made it clear: “State officials thoroughly considered the federal waiver proposal, but opted to craft a state-defined waiver request.” Basically, California wants to use its own accountability system.   

Nearly half of the nation’s public schools failed to meet No Child standards in 2011. In California, that number was 66%. The District of Columbia failure rate was almost 90%.

States have to agree to parts of the Obama education agenda, including “college- and career-ready,” standards to receive the waivers. The also must grade teachers, in part, based on student standardized test scores. And if a state fails to meet the standards overall, only 15% of each state's lowest-performing schools are punished instead of all schools.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

7 More Requests OKd for Waivers from No Child Left Behind Law (by Jamie Goldberg, Los Angeles Times)

No Child Left Behind Waivers Granted to More Than Half of U.S. States (by Joy Resmovits, Huffington Post)

Are No Child Left Behind Waivers Really Giving States Flexibility? (by Clare McCann, New America Foundation)

California Seeks State-Defined Waiver to Provide Relief from Unworkable Mandates of “No Child Left Behind” (California Department of Education)

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