The waivers allow states to escape some of the central provisions and sanctions associated with the NCLB law, policies that critics have branded onerous and unrealistic—in particular, the requirement that all students be deemed “proficient” in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year. In addition, states will no longer be bound by the law’s system of sanctions for schools that are deemed to be failing or not making adequate progress.
All Children Proficient In Math And Reading By 2014?
Education experts have long criticized the 2014 deadline for math and reading proficiency, saying that it was an impossibly high bar. The idea that all children of all abilities can be completely proficient in math and reading has no sound educational basis. Worse, schools that do not achieve this NCLB goal will be labeled “failures.”
NCLB was passed with broad bipartisan support in 2002 and has been up for renewal since 2007. Frustrated with the inability of Congress to move forward to renewal, Mr. Obama announced this waiver program last September.
The states — New Jersey, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma — are the first group to receive waivers from the Bush-era law, in exchange for embracing the Obama administration’s educational agenda and its focus on accountability and teacher effectiveness.
Another Twenty-Eight States To Seek Waivers
Twenty-eight other states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they plan to seek waivers. If they all succeed, this could be the end of NCLB, which many would consider a step forward. On the other hand, the Obama administration’s educational agenda hasn’t won the hearts of every educator, so we should wait and see how this plays out.
From Education Week:
President Barack Obama, in announcing approval of the first waiver plans, said the process would reward states for coming up with innovative improvements to the law, which he said is too inflexible and punitive for schools.
“We’ve said, if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we’re going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards,” President Obama said.
“We want high standards, and we’ll give you flexibility in return. We combine greater freedom with greater accountability. Because what might work in Minnesota may not work in Kentucky, but every student should have the same opportunity to reach their potential.”
Mr. Obama, surrounded by educators and lawmakers at the White House, said Thursday that while the goals of the No Child law were the right ones, “we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t force teachers to teach to the test, or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failures.”
Supporters of NCLB say it establishes a set of clear and demanding expectations for schools and requires them to account for students whose performance has often been overlooked. But the law has drawn scorn from many educators, who say it has fostered a test-obsessed school culture and narrowed the curriculum by forcing schools to focus on reading and math at the expense of such subjects as science, history, art, and electives.
Will These Waivers Make A Difference?
And it remains to be seen whether these waivers will change any of that. Plenty of teachers feel we should just get rid of No Child Left Behind and start over. Maybe we could look to Finland for some guidance.
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