The two items I've been tracking are the denial of renewal of the NCLB waiver for Washington State and the SPS math adoption.
Today Secretary Duncan appeared before the U.S. Senate budget committee. He did get asked about waivers but not by Senator Murray. From Ed Week:
Unlike late last month, when Duncan faced hostile declarations about his NCLB waiver moves
from lawmakers in both the House and the Senate, the only significant
exchange Duncan had with the Senate budget committee about waivers was
with Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa whose state does not
have a waiver from the NCLB law. (Duncan's department rejected Iowa's waiver proposal back in 2012, the first state to be turned down for a waiver.)
If you find that last sentence confusing, Iowa was the first state to get a waiver turned down and Washington was the first state to have a waiver not renewed.
Grassley told Duncan he thought the DOE was being vague on how Iowa should proceed without the waiver. (Good question for WA state as well.) Apparently Duncan said that Grassley should ask his state ed department.
When it was her turn, all Murray said was this:
"I'm very disappointed by the loss of this waiver."
But, she never asked him one question. Interesting.
I'm still thinking this waiver loss will end up being a lot of noise that mostly means little.
Here's a very good summary of the issue from a comment at the Seattle Times:
What seems to be
lost in this conversation is that the loss of flexibility of the $40
million is only temporary. Districts have to notify parents two times,
over two distinct weeks, that they can access the funds for outside
tutoring. Most districts do this early in the school year and in
December. Then, districts can either send a budget revision to OSPI for
approval in January to use the funds for something else, or they can
hold onto the money till the next school year, without needing any
permission to spend the funds differently. So all this fuss is about a
temporary hold on funds.
One school board member in Lake Stevens didn't mince words in a recent letter he sent to Secretary Duncan. This would be Microsoft employee/Lake Stevens director David Iseminger (partial):
Since you’re so distant from us – nearly 3,000 miles by one measure –
let me tell you about this other Washington: We have strong leadership
in our board rooms, schools, and classrooms; we have professional and
effective educators; and our students are capable, confident, and work
extremely hard. But don’t take my word for it – our SAT scores, among
other measures, speak for us.
With input and work from many education advocates, Congress was provided
an extensive list of fixes that would make NCLB workable and
forward-thinking, and keep us all accountable. I was there too – as a
member of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Federal
Relations Network (FRN), I made the trek to Washington D.C. multiple
times to ask our members to reauthorize, year after year. While there,
many of us from Washington also met with people from your Department of
Education, in your building, trying to create relationships and press
for a change in policy and tone: stop telling our students and educators
they’re failing, I said.
It’s not that I don’t understand your NCLB numbers or metrics. I work
in the Business Intelligence group at Microsoft, part of the Cloud +
Enterprise Division, so data and analytics is what I do.
And I’ve done the analysis. I’ve weighed the cost of your revoked
waiver and considered its benefits, and the conclusion is clear: it’s
not worth it.
And then, to my great admiration, Director Iseminger then says:
You can keep the waiver. And regarding your failure letter – I have
little interest in using our Lake Stevens letterhead to tell our
students and educators they’re failures, because they are not. That
letter is the topic of much discussion in our state – including whether
we send it at all.
I'll have to ask SPS if there is consideration of not sending letters to SPS parents as well. I mean, if NCLB hanging in the wind, we've already lost flexibility of the money, what exactly will Duncan do if the districts don't send the "your child's school is failing" letters?
The irony is not lost on me: you revoked our waiver because we didn’t
pass a law that you wanted. If you’re not sure what to do with our
education-related failure letter, I know 536 folks in Washington, D.C.
who seem pretty deserving right now.
Writer Rick Hess said it well in his column, Duncan's Trip Down the Waiver Rabbit Hole where he points out that rather than Duncan truly working with Congress to get NCLB overhauled, Duncan went on his merry way with RttT and SIG using them as weapons.
Instead, Duncan opted to gut NCLB by waiving key parts of the law for
states that promised to do stuff he likes; his problem is that he has no
authority to enforce the whims that he's substituted for statute. If
you read Duncan's letter yanking Washington's waiver, the casus belli
was the failure of the state's legislature to pass a law Duncan had
demanded. However, Duncan has no legal basis to give orders to
Washington's legislature (nowhere does NCLB empower Duncan to tell
states how to design teacher evaluation).
Laws that have been passed by Congress have muscle, funding, and legitimacy. Duncan's freelancing does not.
Also to the point:
Of course, it's a safe bet that every state is currently violating some part of its waiver.
On the math adoption, I'm
going to need to start a list of all the questions now popping up.
Hoping Rick, who served on the math adoption committee, can weigh in but
here's a few items.
1) Apparently at Director
McLaren's community meeting last night, there were parents from Schmitz
Park and K-5 STEM who were concerned over math issues. It turns out
that SP has been raising $40K a year for the last five years to support
their Singapore math curriculum. (I believe the district kicked in last
Again, we see the funding-raising disparities in PTAs continue and now it's quite clear academics are being directly affected.
So now that a new math curriculum is likely to be adopted, will the
district continue to grant math waivers to schools? I believe a school
has to apply each year but it would seem if a different math curriculum
is firmly in place at a school, it would be hard to dislodge it (unless
it could not be used to meet Common Core math standards).
But I'm also hearing that Director McLaren, in a briefing by Teaching
& Learning, was told the scores from schools with math waivers are
not really as good as has been stated. I'll have to ask about that soon
and again, will that impact schools who currently have waivers?