The No Child Left Behind Act waivers granted by the U.S. Department of Education were intended in part to give states flexibility from some of the policies that were viewed as problematic in the federal law.
But afinds that, when it comes to the accountability systems states use to identify low-performing schools, many states with waivers are continuing some of the same policies. According to the report, these problems include an over-reliance on one-time snapshots of student performance in reading and mathematics and a reluctance to consider non-test-based indicators such as attendance rates or longer-term postsecondary outcomes.
The study, in the January/February issue of the peer-reviewed journal Educational Researcher, evaluates the validity, reliability, fairness, and transparency of the waivers, which have been granted to 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. (Puerto Rico is not included in the analysis, though.) More than half of the waiver states—24—allow for the continuation of the NCLB practice of using proficiency rates as one way to identify low-performing schools.
Even in the 20 states that use student-growth measures, change over time is just one piece of a composite measure used to identify low-performing schools, according to the study, which was led by Morgan S. Polikoff, an assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California. And five states—Arkansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and West Virginia—rely entirely on proficiency rates to identify low-performing schools.
The authors conclude, however, that waivers are still an improvement over the original law, pointing to accountability system innovations created under the waivers in Massachusetts and Michigan.
A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 2014 edition of Education Week as NCLB Policies Live On Despite Waivers