No Child Left Behind Waivers

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.

No Child Left Behind

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.

Hearings on two bills that would reauthorize ESEA

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.

New Mexico’s NCLB Waiver application approved

The Department of Education approved New Mexico’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver application, making it the eleventh state to receive a waiver. Several additional states intend to apply for NCLB Waivers by the February 28 deadline. Other states have expressed interest in applying but say they need more time. In response, the Department has set a third-round deadline of September 6, 2012. The Department also has created an application process for these states to request a one-year freeze in their annual achievement targets to keep the list of schools failing to make adequate yearly progress from growing. In order to obtain a one-year freeze, states have to meet several requirements, including publicly reporting on achievement gaps and graduation gaps for subgroups of students (e.g. students with disabilities).

The Department created a “cheat sheet” for states that intend to apply for NCLB waivers. Based on feedback to the original 11 states from peer reviewers, the Department suggests that states pay attention to:

  • “Meaningful” consultation with stakeholders, especially those representing students with disabilities.
  • Plans for helping students with disabilities, including professional development for all teachers not just special education teachers.

Identification of low performing subgroups and targeted interventions even in schools that are not among the lowest performing 5%.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers

The Department of Education granted approval to 10 states to waive some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind – NCLB (the current name of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – ESEA) in exchange for demonstrating how they will prepare students for college and careers and focus help on the worst performing schools. The first states to receive waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. New Mexico did not receive approval but is continuing to work with the Department.
The Peer Panel Notes for each state pointed out strengths and weaknesses of the requests that state’s had to address prior to receiving final approval.  The peer review panels found weaknesses (and made suggestions for technical assistance) in areas of the plans that failed to adequately address the needs of students with disabilities.  How states plan to address those weaknesses is detailed in the final approved waivers.

Elementary and Secondary Education reauthorization

Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, introduced two draft bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bills would dismantle the current school accountability system and mandate teacher evaluations based in part on student outcomes. His bills, the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, also would:

  • significantly reduce federal intervention in low-performing schools,
  • eliminate the federal School Improvement Grants to help poor schools improve, and
  • leave intervention strategies up to the states.

Chairman Kline appears to be taking a more comprehensive look at ESEA rather than the piecemeal process the House had been taking.

On the Senate side, the HELP committee approved a bi-partisan 800+-page overhaul of the ESEA. The Senate bill would also scrap the current accountability system but does not mandate teacher evaluations (a compromise necessary to move the bill). It does keep in place some federal intervention in the worst performing schools.

Both the Senate and House bills would eliminate adequate yearly progress (AYP), which is the current accountability system that requires all students to be on grade level in reading and math by 2014. The Senate bill would require schools to adopt standards that prepare students to be college or career ready; the House bill supports the goal of preparing students for college and careers but would bar the Secretary of Education from encouraging states to develop more uniform, rigorous standards. Differences include:

  • requiring teachers to be highly qualified – the Senate would retain that requirement while the House would abolish it;
  • the Senate bill would require interventions in the bottom 5% of schools while the House bill does not specify a percentage nor would it require specific interventions;
  • the House bill would provide schools with funding flexibility and eliminate the maintenance of effort requirement, which requires states and school districts to keep up their funding at certain levels in order to get federal funding.

The current ESEA/NCLB holds schools accountable for the performance of students with disabilities. The Arc will monitor both the Senate and House bills to ensure that the protections for students with disabilities are not lost.

It is doubtful that ESEA will be reauthorized in 2012 and until that happens, the Dept of Education will continue offering states a process for obtaining waivers from the accountability measures. 39 states have expressed interest in applying for a waiver. (Information about ESEA waivers is on www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility)

No Child Left Behind Waivers in Minnesota and Florida

Peer reviewers for the Department of Education who are reviewing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver applications from 11 states sent responses to Florida and Minnesota. Reviewers pointed out weaknesses and asked for more information. The reviewers’ concerns in Florida included questions about how the state was planning to address the needs of subgroups, particularly English Learners and students with disabilities and how the achievement of students with disabilities would be fully included in how schools are rated.  The reviewers asked Minnesota to provide more information on professional development related to the needs of students with disabilities and English Learners and to address concerns regarding targeting supports and interventions to students with disabilities and English Learners and the lack of focus on improving content instruction for them. The letters to the states have not been posted to the Department’s web site. They were accessed on the Education Week News blog.

Negotiators unable to move forward on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reform

Bipartisan talks regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (sometimes referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB)) have come to a halt. Senior members of the House leadership have not confirmed that the discussions have ended, but press reports indicate that negotiators have been unable to move forward.

Several bills have been introduced in the Senate that would amend ESEA.  Proposals include requiring interventions in only the lowest performing 5% of schools and allowing any student with a disability to be assessed with alternate assessments rather than the regular assessments given to other students (S. 1571) and removing the Secretary of Education’s ability to put conditions on waiver requests (S. 1567, S 1568, and S. 1569).  The Arc is monitoring these developments closely since the NCLB law is considered to have been the source of some improvements in the education of students with disabilities.

No Child Left Behind Act reauthorization

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced that the bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind will not reach the Senate floor until next year.  Meanwhile, eleven states (Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee) have submitted requests to the Department of Education for waivers from provisions of No Child Left Behind.  Reviewers chosen by the Department will begin to review the requests after Thanksgiving and states will be notified by mid-January.  The states must set college and career ready performance targets and design interventions for low performing schools.  Reviewers include professionals with special education expertise.