Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

NCLB Waiver Implications From Indiana Grade-Changing Controversy

By Michele McNeil — July 31, 2013 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Regardless of what you think about Florida state chief Tony Bennett’s decision to change the grading scale for schools when he held the same post in Indiana, there are some important questions from a federal policy perspective:

• Since his grading scale was part of Indiana’s No Child Left Behind Act waiver plan, did he seek approval from the U.S. Department of Education to change how schools are graded?
• If he didn’t, should he have sought permission?
• And finally, is this something the federal Education Department should look into further?

The first question is an easy one to answer. According to federal officials, Indiana did not consult federal officials before making those grading changes in 2012.

Answering the second question is far more complicated, and raises a whole ‘nother set of issues. According to the department, “major changes” to a state’s grading system—if those changes involve anything in a state’s NCLB waiver plan—do require an amendment, and federal approval. Changes that are more technical in nature do not require approval.

So, were the changes Bennett made to his grading system major, or technical? Education Department spokesman Daren Briscoe said “it depends on what the actual changes were. If it involved changing the point values assigned to different levels of performance, yes—but it might have just been a technical amendment. Generally we want states to come to us when they’re considering/making changes so we can help them decide if it requires an amendment.”

But it seems very unclear exactly what was changed, so it may be impossible to tell at this point whether the changes were major or technical.

As my colleague Andrew Ujifusa described over at State EdWatch: As [the Associated Press story] points out, it’s not entirely clear how the charter school’s grade ultimately leaped from a C to an A, or how many schools were affected in the end by ex post facto changes initiated by the department.”

These grading systems are a central part of the Education Department’s NCLB law waiver plan, serving as a new, more-flexible way to hold schools and districts accountable—since AYP has been rendered virtually broken beyond repair. So whether the Education Department should look into this matter further could be up for debate. The charter school at the center of the Indiana controversy earned an A grade even though state data shows only 34 percent of students passed the Algebra I end-of-course test. (Is this the kind of grading system U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to see?) What’s more, those poor Algebra test results don’t appear to show up on the school’s official accountability report card, even though the feds require all student-achievement data to be posted. (Is the federal department scrutinizing these new report cards?)

Certainly, states are experiencing growing pains as they seek to implement their waiver plans and new grading systems. More states than just Indiana are likely fine-tuning their formulas for judging schools. But an open question is just how aggressive federal officials will be in monitoring how these grading systems work.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
The move on behalf of students with disabilities deepens the fight over masks between the Biden administration and GOP governors.
4 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 13, 2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles in April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP