The Department of Education contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to examine access to effective teaching in grades 4 through 8 in 29 diverse school districts over the 2008-2009 and 2010-2011 school years. In a November 2013 report, “Access to Effective Teaching for Disadvantaged Students,” researchers concluded that on average, disadvantaged students did not have equal access to effective teaching.
Despite these findings, the Department is changing requirements for states interested in renewing their No Child Left Behind Act waivers that directly pertains to access to effective teachers. Previously, states would have been required to include plans for spending federal professional development funds and for improving the distribution of effective teachers to ensure that children who are poor or minorities are not taught by ineffective teachers at a higher rate than their peers. The Department is backing away from those requirements and, instead, plans to address them for all states, not just the waiver states, “outside the [No Child Left Behind waiver] flexibility process.” The Department’s expectation is that states will “continue to move forward with efforts to support high-quality professional development and increase equitable access to effective teachers for all students.”
The Department of Education released State Guidance on renewal of waivers under The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act. The forty-one states, the District of Columbia, and eight districts in California that currently have waivers may request up to two-year extensions. The Guidance clarifies what states must do to obtain renewal waivers: reaffirm their commitment to college and career ready standards and tests; implement differentiated accountability systems that focus on closing achievement gaps; implement new teacher evaluation systems by the 2014-15 school year, and by October 2015, use teacher evaluation data to ensure that poor and minority students are not taught by ineffective teachers at a higher rate than their peers.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, by a partisan vote of 221-207, with 12 Republicans and every Democrat voting against it. The bill reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It includes an amendment sponsored by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) which would allow parents of eligible students to take Title I money to any school, including charters. Currently, Title I funds go to schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students. The bill dramatically reduces the federal government’s ability to set standards for students and teachers and gives that power to the states. It removes the focus on disadvantaged students and those with special needs currently in ESEA. The bill block grants certain funds designed for English language learners, migrants, and others and gives control of these funds to the states. In order to obtain support from some conservative members, Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) had to give up on requiring schools to use student outcomes to measure teacher success. The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions already passed a very different ESEA reauthorization bill, S.1094, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). The House voted down an amendment sponsored by Representative George Miller (D-CA) which would have replaced H.R. 5 with the Senate’s version. Even if the full Senate were to pass Senator Harkin’s ESEA reauthorization bill, it is unlikely that the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill could be reconciled.
The Department of Education (ED) released several documents concerning high school graduation rates. The first document contains state-by-state graduation data for the 2010-2011 school year broken down by subgroups, including students with disabilities. This is the first time that data have been available to allow comparisons across states and across subgroup populations. The graduation rates for students with disabilities range from a low of 23% in Mississippi and Nevada to a high of 84% in South Dakota. The department also released a letter from Secretary Arne Duncan to State School Officers that reiterates ED’s policy on the inclusion of graduation rates within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility waivers. ED also released a best practices document about incorporating graduation rates into state accountability systems.
The Department of Education granted flexibility from some of the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act to six more states (Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, and South Carolina) and the District of Columbia. Secretary Duncan is considering allowing individual school districts in states that choose not to apply for waivers to submit applications. Details about the 33 waivers that have been approved are available on the Department’s website.
The Department of Education gave several states the opportunity to freeze their goals for student proficiency under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), for one year if their waiver did not come in time for the start of the school year or while they continue working on their waiver applications. The states given permission to freeze their goals for one year are Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, and West Virginia. The Department also approved waivers for two additional states – Washington and Wisconsin. That brings the total of states that have approved waivers to 26, meaning that over half of the states are not subject to the accountability system of NCLB. These states have had to adopt education reforms to improve student learning in order to obtain waivers. A complete list of where states stand in the waiver process is available on the Department’s website.
The Department of Education granted No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers to Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia. The waivers grant relief from some of the provisions of NCLB. Each of the five states provided additional information to the department about how it would address students in special education who failed to meet achievement targets. These states have decided to group subpopulations, including students in special education and English-language learners, into a super subgroup. The states also had to revise their waivers to better describe how students in special education would transition to college- and career-ready standards. More information about all 24 state waivers is available at http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility. Waivers for 13 states are still under review.
The Department of Education granted waivers from key provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to 8 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island, bringing the total number of states to receive waivers to 19, with an additional 18 applications still under review. Information about the waivers is available on the Department website.
States that receive flexibility under NCLB agree to develop state-level plans to prepare all students for college and careers, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership. All of these goals include students with disabilities.
Twenty-seven additional states submitted requests to the Department of Education for waivers from provisions of No Child Left Behind. The states are: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and D.C. The applications and the names of the peer reviewers who will meet next month to review them will be posted on the Department’s website soon. The remaining states will have a third opportunity to requests waivers. The deadline for round three is September 6. To assist the 27 states in designing their waiver requests, the Department developed a summary of issues and recommendations noted by peer reviewers during the first round of applications. To read the document, go to http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/support-for-states and click on Considerations to Strengthen State Requests.
The House Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN) held a hearing concerning two bills that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989), and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R.3990).
Under the current law, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take an alternate assessment on alternate achievement standards. The law allows this alternate assessment for up to 1% of all students (10% of students with disabilities). Under H.R. 3989, the cap would be lifted. Without the cap, schools could decide to use alternate standards and alternate assessments for larger numbers of students. The bills would reduce the current law’s focus on the participation and progress of students with disabilities and other subgroups.
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) introduced a bill to reauthorize ESEA earlier this year which was reported out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee favorably. There are differences between the House and Senate versions of the ESEA reauthorization bills. There is little optimism that ESEA will be reauthorized this year.