Despite its fierce independent streak, Texas went with its cowboy hat in hand to the U.S. Department of Education and asked for a No Child Left Behind Act waiver.
Today, just before a possible government shutdown, it got one.
The Lone Star State had to make big changes to get this federal flexibility—from completely ditching its own state accountability system in favor of one that aligns with federal requirements to setting achievement goals that call for 100 percent student proficiency by 2019-2020. (I think the only other state to aspire to perfection—which didn’t seem to work well with NCLB, was Arizona. The 2019-20 goal was one of three options the U.S. Department of Education offered states for setting new student achievement goals. It proved the least popular option.)
Texas was granted only a one-year waiver by Education Secretary Arne Duncan because it hasn’t finalized guidelines around its teacher-evaluation system. The state can get another year of flexibility if it finishes its system and if federal officials approve it.
Previously, Texas had shunned anything with even a whiff of federal involvement in the K-12 arena, from Race to the Top to adopting the common core.
With the addition of Texas, now 42 states plus the District of Columbia and eight districts in California have a waiver.
And unless something dramatically changes, this should be the last of the waivers for awhile. The Education Department still lists as “pending” the waiver applications of Illinois, Iowa, and Wyoming—except Illinois’ application has essentially been rejected because of problems with its timeline and teacher evaluations. Iowa’s has also been rejected because of teacher-evaluation problems, and Wyoming withdrew its request for now.