California’s Hopes Dashed for NCLB Waiver

By Michele McNeil & Alyson Klein — January 08, 2013 1 min read
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California’s request for a waiver from mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act will be denied, according to state and federal officials.

The state learned of the pending denial in a phone call from U.S. Department of Education officials on Dec. 21, but the official letter still hadn’t gone out as of late last week.

This means the most populous state in the country will be stuck with a much-maligned NCLB law as it is for the foreseeable future. And fast approaching is the 2013-14 school year, when the law requires all students to be proficient in math and reading on state tests. As a result, thousands of California schools will likely fail to make adequate yearly progress, the official yardstick under the NCLB law.

California Department of Education spokesman Paul Hefner said there’s been no discussion at this point of amending its waiver request.

In a Dec. 21 letter to local superintendents, state schools chief Tom Torlakson and board of education Chairman Michael W. Kirst indicated that California would use its own performance index as “the key indicator” in determining whether schools and districts are making adequate progress.

So far, 34 states and the District of Columbia have waivers from core components of the NCLB law. The Education Department created the waiver process with the rewrite of the overarching law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, still stalled in Congress.

California’s request was a long shot in the first place. The state tried to go its own way, essentially agreeing, at least in part, to two of the department’s three principles—common standards and a differentiated accountability system—while ignoring the third, a teacher evaluation system that takes student outcomes into account.

The federal Education Department, which would not comment on the California decision, has maintained that states could follow all of the rules to get a waiver, or follow NCLB as written.

However, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has not closed the door on a third option: creating waivers for individual districts in states that do not have a general state-level waiver. He has said that is an option he’s considering.

A version of this article appeared in the January 09, 2013 edition of Education Week as Calif. Hopes Dashed For NCLB Waiver


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