UPDATED: NCLB Waiver Requires States to Report College-Going Rates

By Catherine Gewertz — September 23, 2011 2 min read
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The biggest education story making the rounds this morning is, of course, the official announcement detailing what states will have to do in order to get waivers from key requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Our gals over at the Politics K-12 blog lay it out for you. But for our purposes here at Curriculum Matters, we’re thinking about standards and tests.

And the news we have for you here is that in order to get the NCLB flexibility, states will have to report every year, to the public, their college-going and college credit-accumulation rates. They’ll have to do this for all students and student subgroups in each district and high school. [UPDATE, 12:47 p.m.: The document describing all this is on the Ed Department’s website. It’s called “ESEA Flexibility.”]

As previously announced, states will have to adopt “college and career ready” academic standards in math and English/language arts. They’ll have to administer annual assessments, in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, that measure student growth. What the administration wants from these tests pretty much dead-on matches the requirements it put forth when it offered $350 million-plus in Race to the Top money for state consortia to design assessments for the common standards.

We are learning, also, that states will have to adopt English language proficiency standards to support English learners in reaching the standards, and design tests to assess those students’ acquisition of English.

Nowhere in yesterday’s announcement did anyone say that states have to adopt the common standardsdeveloped in an initiative led by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. The Ed. Department has been careful to avoid tying states to a specific set of standards. But to get waivers, states must use standards that are common to a significant number of states, or certify that theirs are up to college-and-career-ready snuff.

The stuff about using standards common to a significant number of states is new. The administration had already made it clear that states don’t have to adopt the common standards to qualify for waivers. All they have to do, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, is “verify” that they have standards that prepare students for the demands of college and career. Virginia, one of five states that have not adopted the standards, intends to apply, and, according to the department, is eligible to do so. That could have something to do with the fact that Virginia has alreadygone through a process of aligning its own standards to the common ones.

Who, you might ask, will “verify” that a state’s standards are “college and career ready”? As it turns out, that job will have to fall to a group of universities in the state wishing to have its standards blessed as meeting that definition. That university group has to be big enough to enroll at least half of the state’s students attending public universities.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.