On Tuesday, the U.S. Education Department granted New York State a waiver from the original No Child Left Behind requirements that set national standards for student performance in reading and math as well as increased teacher and administrator accountability.
New York’s waiver brings the total to 19 states that have been granted greater flexibility from the accountability law that was put in place under President George W. Bush in 2001 and has been continued with President Barack Obama.
From the onset, NCLB’s target for all 50 states in every school district was to bring public school children to grade level in reading and math, setting yearly targets and raising them over time, so that by 2014, all schools would be compliant. And if not, the State would be transferred responsibility for school oversight.
However, only two years away from the target date and school districts across the country are finding the goals to be far out of reach. In New York City, the efforts to meet NCLB goals have meant hundreds of schools shuttered, thousands of teacher job losses and the opening of new charter schools that struggle to approach the national standards, still.
In fact State Education Commissioner John King called the NCLB requirements “unproductive or unrealistic.” Even U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, admitted the "one-size-fits-all" mandates proved unworkable.
In the waiver application, States were able to set new benchmarks and create new guidelines that showed how – even though they were not meeting their proscribed goals – their schools were making progress. The waiver also allowed schools to provide evidence of progress in subjects beyond just English and Math.
If the application for a waiver is accepted, it means that the state can still receive federal money, despite falling short of hitting their target goal. So far, no state that has applied for a waiver has been denied.
Are these waivers an acknowledgement by the U.S. Education Department that the NCLB requirements are a failure, or are they simply a recognition of the enormous work that lies ahead?
How do you feel about the No Child Left Behind requirements?
Do you think national academic measures such as NCLB are a necessary step toward meaningful school reform, or are they unrealistic and out of step with the challenges and needs of individual school districts?