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Do You Struggle to Keep Track of the NCLB Waiver Landscape? We Do Too.

By Michele McNeil — February 25, 2014 2 min read
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On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley put out a press release announcing the state is seeking a waiver extension for teacher and principal evaluations.

But the state has already requested a waiver for that under the No Child Left Behind Act. So what’s the news?

Turns out, as best as we can understand it, Maryland plans to request an amendment to its teacher-evaluation “waiver-waiver” extension request, which hasn’t been granted yet (that we know of).

Does that make sense? Don’t worry if it doesn’t. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Keeping track of the incredibly complex accountability landscape across the country is incredibly difficult. Some states have general NCLB waivers, some don’t. For those without full waivers, some states have narrow waivers that allow them to freeze their annual measurable objectives (or AMOs), and some don’t. Some waiver states are delaying teacher evaluations for one year, some for two years—for some that’s via a waiver-waiver, and for some like Missouri that’s via a “technical amendment.” Various states have double-testing waivers for some kids, for all kids, for nearly all kids, or for no kids. Some states are on high-risk status. Some states have their teacher-evaluation systems approved, most don’t.

You get the picture. (And in fact, if you don’t, we’ve started building a map to help you, and us, keep track of all the waivers. It’s a work in progress, and pasted below. Please let us know if we’ve missed anything.)

O’Malley’s press release Tuesday is just the latest example of how Byzantine the whole waiver process has gotten, and how difficult it is to keep track on a national scale of what’s going on in the states at this crucial time in education policy. Part of the pushback on the NCLB law was its seeming one-size-fits all approach. But there was at least some commonality to approaches and policy then. With waivers came a lot of flexibility for states, but also an increasingly diffuse accountability landscape that’s getting harder and harder to monitor.

Back to Maryland. The state really wants to delay its teacher-evaluation system by two years from its original plan, as put forth in its winning Race to the Top application and original NCLB waiver application, per this federal Education Department timeline. It will, in all likelihood, be approved because the state’s new request is still within the time frame that the feds want to see. But this amounts to a significant delay over what was promised in a Race to the Top application that won the state $250 million in 2010. North Carolina, also a winning Race to the Top state, had a similar delay just approved, but Maryland’s situation will still be worth watching, and noting.

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