From Ed Week and the NY Times comes word that Washington State, along with Wisconsin, have been granted waivers from some of the most "onerous conditions" of NCLB.
That brings the total number of states with waivers up to 26. That's more than half the states and Andy Porter, the dean of U of Penn Graduate School of Education asks, "The more waivers there are, the less there really is a law, right?"
From the Times:
In exchange for the education waivers, schools and districts must
promise to set new targets aimed at preparing students for colleges and
careers. They must also tether evaluations of teachers and schools in
part to student achievement on standardized tests.
The administration said all schools would be required to show yearly
Instead of labeling all struggling schools as failing, the waivers
direct states to focus most attention on the bottom 5 percent of
low-performing schools. “With the waiver we can focus on those schools
that really need a lot of help,” said June Atkinson, North Carolina’s
state superintendent of public schools.
One of the most practical effects is that waivers will remove many
schools from being branded with the tag that they had failed to make
what the law deemed “adequate yearly progress” in getting more students
to pass standardized tests.
Is it worth it?
Critics question whether the waivers have done much to genuinely shift
the focus of federal education reform, given their continued reliance on
standardized tests. The waivers “should probably make the meh list,”
said Joshua Starr, superintendent of the Montgomery County schools in
Maryland, which was granted a waiver in May.
“It is another example to me of how we’re not focused on the right
things in the American education conversation today,” Mr. Starr said. “I
have a lot of respect for Arne Duncan,”
he added, referring to the secretary of education, “but it’s just sort
of moving around the chairs on the Titanic.”
From Ed Week:
Washington state's waiver is conditionally approved, just for the
2012-13 school year. Washington has proposed an accountability system
that meets all of the Education Department's requirements, but the state
is hoping to move to a more sophisticated system that includes measures
of student achievement, student progress, and graduation rates, in the
2013-14 school year. The state is still working on the details. Once
Washington gets its new system in place, it will need to be approved by
Washington's approval also hinges on its teacher- and
principal-evaluation system. The state is piloting some new methods of
measuring a teachers' impact on student growth, but hasn't yet
completely finalized the system. The Evergreen State will have to submit
its final guidelines to the department next year in order to keep its
waiver after the coming school year, a department official said.
To get the waiver, the Washington also provided a lot more detail on
interventions for priority schools (the bottom 5 percent of performers
in the state). Washington also has an interesting new twist on school
support. It's going to set up "innovation zones" where schools can get
freedom certain state requirements. (Washington has no charter law.)
Well, look at that? We have Innovation Schools laws, Lighthouse School law for STEM and now "innovation zones" for schools. Who needs charters? Frankly, we are in a good position to lead the nation in how you bring innovation and change WITHOUT charters and their problems.