Department of Education Releases State Reports on No Child Left Behind

The US Department of Education released reports for six of 35 states it has monitored concerning their No Child Left Behind waivers.  The reports for Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, and New York represent the department’s second, more intense round (Part B) of monitoring.  The reports of the first round (Part A), conducted in 2012, can be found on the department’s website.  The reports indicated that states are having problems intervening in schools with the biggest achievement gaps.  The department found that Mississippi needed to revise its plans for supporting students with disabilities transitioning to college and career ready standards.

Requirements Changing for States Interested in Renewing Their No Child Left Behind Waivers

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 No Child Left Behind Act

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 Passes Bill to Reauthorize No Child Left Behind

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.

House Committee Passes Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) along party lines by a vote of 23 – 16. The Arc opposes this bill because it would exclude many students with disabilities from state accountability systems. The bill is quite different from S. 1094, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, the ESEA reauthorization bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Reconciling the differences seems unlikely.

The Senate HELP Committee Voted to Approve the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013

The Health, Education Labor and Pensions committee voted along party lines to approve the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, S.1094, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). S.1094 is in line with the CCD Principles on reauthorization.

The bill has the support of all 11 Democratic Members of the HELP Committee, although no Republican supporters. The bill would strengthen accountability for subgroups of students, including those with disabilities, in the areas of academic growth and achievement and graduation from high school ready for college or a career. It would allow the 37 states that have waivers to continue using them. States could count 1% of students with significant cognitive disabilities to be tested on alternate standards. If schools miss their goals for subgroups, there would have to be some type of intervention from the state.

Ranking Member of the HELP committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has also introduced a bill called Every Child Ready for College or Career Act, S.1101. It tracks closely with a draft bill by Congressman John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which would eliminate federal accountability systems in favor of state standards. Both plans would also block grant most federal education spending in order to increase state and local flexibility and allow much broader use of alternate and modified achievement standards for students with disabilities. The House plans to consider its version of ESEA reauthorization this summer.

Department of Education releases data on high school graduation rates

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.

No Child Left Behind waivers granted to six more states

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.

Several states given the opportunity to freeze their goals for student proficiency under No Child Left Behind

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.

No Child Left Behind waivers granted to Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia

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.