California Districts Get Extended NCLB Waiver, But With ‘High-Risk’ Status

By Lesli A. Maxwell — September 15, 2014 2 min read
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Crossposted from Alyson Klein at PoliticsK-12.

The U.S. Department of Education extended the CORE No Child Left Behind waiver—the nation’s only district level waiver from the mandates of the NCLB law—for the 2014-15 school year. But the waiver, which covers seven California districts, has also been placed on high-risk status, according to a letter sent to the districts by Deb Delisle, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education Friday.

That means the districts—including Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Sanger, and Santa Ana Unified School Districts—have some work to do if they want to keep their waiver in the 2015-16 school year and beyond. Specifically, the CORE districts have gotten behind the eight-ball when it comes to implementation of the School Quality Improvement Index, their new system for gauging school performance. The districts also need to set final guidelines for their principal and teacher evaluation and support systems.

California applied for a state level waiver, but was rejected because the Golden State refused to go along with the U.S. Department of Education’s requirements for teacher evaluation.

So last year, the U.S. Department of Education granted a group of districts their own special waiver—over the strenuous objections of advocates for state education officials, who said the plan undermined their authority.

This isn’t the first sign of trouble for the CORE waiver. Earlier this year, Sacramento, one of the districts that originally granted the flexibility, opted out of the waiver. (Sacramento does remain part of the CORE consortia, which includes ten districts total. The districts collaborate on school improvement, including work that does not involve the NCLB waiver.)

Overall, the CORE districts don’t expect the “high-risk” designation to be a major impediment to their work.

“We remain fully dedicated to implementing the most effective improvement and accountability system possible to best serve our students,” said John Deasy, Superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District and member of the CORE Board of Directors in a statement. “A much higher risk to our students’ and our communities’ future would be to revert to the NCLB status quo.”

The CORE district waiver isn’t only one on high-risk. Arizona and Oregon have also been told they are in danger of losing their waivers, both for issues related to teacher evaluation. Kansas, meanwhile, recently became the first state to get off high-risk status.

Hat-tip to Ed Source, which was first to report the CORE district’s extension and high-risk designation.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.