CALIFORNIA FAILS TO WIN WAIVERS FROM RESTRICTIVE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND EDUCATION LAW
By Sharon Noguchi, San Jose Mercury News | http://bit.ly/V01VAg
12/24/2012 05:46:01 PM PST :: Signaling that California again is marching to its own drum -- perhaps trailing the parade -- the federal government has denied the state's request for a waiver from a key U.S. education law, thus assuring that schools will have to keep striving to meet what's generally accepted as unachievable goals, then be punished for missing them.
Like other states, California had been hoping to win a reprieve from the restrictive provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. Among other terms, the law punishes schools and districts if not enough of their students reach proficiency in English and math.
With 33 states and the District of Columbia winning waivers from the law, and 10 more with waiver applications pending, that leaves California in the select company of states that must strive to meet escalating federal goals.
The sticking point for the Golden State was whether it was willing to evaluate teachers based in part on how well their students do on standardized tests.
California, pressed by politically strong teachers unions, has resisted.
"We felt our application was approvable," said state Board of Education President Mike Kirst, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University.
He said he had anticipated the rejection, which came via telephone Friday. Instead, he blamed Congress for failing to rewrite No Child Left Behind, a 10-year-old George W. Bush-era law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the primary federal legislation governing the education of poor children.
Efforts to revise the law have been mired in political bickering.
The law has required that a certain percentage of students test proficient in English and math. That percentage has increased annually; by 2014, every student -- including the learning-disabled, poor and English learners -- must reach proficiency.
If not, then schools must offer parents the option for their children to transfer to other schools within their district, and they also must set aside money for tutoring, transportation and teacher training.
Education officials don't dispute the goals of educating all students, nor even some of the ways to do that. But they do object to the law's punitive and prescriptive means, denoting schools known as "Program Improvement" and potentially mandating that a school's entire leadership and staff be fired.
No Child Left Behind requires test scores that show yearly improvement. "When you have everybody not meeting annual progress, it gets to be ludicrous and it gets to have no impact," Kirst said.
When asked whether the state should tie teacher evaluations to student test scores, he said, "I don't have a personal position on this."
On Friday, Kirst and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wrote a joint letter to county and district school superintendents and charter school administrators. The letter in part railed against the "unrealistic goals, labeling and programmatic burdens put on districts and schools" by the federal law, and it also said that California will continue using its own system to measure academic success.
U.S. rejects California's request for a penalty exemption
The state sought a waiver from a mandate requiring nearly all students to be academically proficient by 2014 as part of the federal No Child Left Behind program.
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/V9qgTB
December 24, 2012, 4:26 p.m. :: Federal officials have rejected California's request for exemption from rules that penalize low-performing schools and school districts, state officials recently announced.
The state's failure to win a "waiver" from the No Child Left Behind law was not entirely a surprise, but was still unwelcome news to officials.
"It is disappointing that our state's request — which enjoyed such strong support from parents, teachers, administrators and education advocates across California — has apparently been rejected," state Supt. of Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement Friday. "California made a good-faith effort to seek relief from requirements that even federal officials have acknowledged time and again are deeply flawed."
Under federal rules, more than 6,000 California schools have been labeled as failing. In many cases, these schools are improving, sometimes rapidly. Besides enduring a stigma of failure, they must also set aside as much as 20% of their federal funds to set up tutoring services with outside vendors and to transport students to "non-failing" schools if the families so choose. The outside tutoring has been inconsistent and frequently ineffective, according to some experts.
"At a time when resources for schools are so scarce, schools and districts should be able to focus their resources on delivering services they believe will actually improve student performance — a waiver would have provided that flexibility," said Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the California Department of Education.
The U.S. Department of Education said it would not comment until California has been officially notified of its waiver status, but a department spokesman did not contest the state's announcement.
The state has engaged in a series of high-profile tiffs with federal officials over school reform — and the waiver application was one of them.
Waivers were offered to spare states from a mandate requiring nearly all students to be academically proficient by 2014. But in exchange, states were expected to develop teacher and principal evaluations that rely substantially on student data, such as standardized test scores, among other requirements.
Teachers unions and other critics, including California Gov. Jerry Brown, have faulted the U.S. Department of Education for taking this position on evaluations.
While most states sought waivers, California may have been the only one to do so while choosing which federal directives to follow in its application, state officials said. To do otherwise, they said, would have cost California an estimated $2 billion in new expenses for unproven reforms.
The federal decision was defended by StudentsFirst, a Sacramento-based advocacy group.
"By submitting an inadequate application, California has precluded the ability of school districts and schools to be flexible and innovative with millions in federal funds," said spokeswoman Erin Shaw. "It's time to change the system that rejects accountability and continually risks classroom resources that rightfully belong to students."
Requirement Updates for Local Educational Agencies - Letters (CA Dept of Education) http://bit.ly/W0fEG9
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
CALIFORNIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
1430 N Street Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
December 21, 2012
Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:
UPDATE ON REQUIREMENTS FOR LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCIES UNDER THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT
The purpose of this letter is to provide an update on our progress to reduce the burdens of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on California school districts.
The California Department of Education (CDE) and the California State Board of Education (SBE) have become increasingly concerned about the unrealistic goals, labeling, and programmatic burdens put on districts and schools by the current authorization of the ESEA. The escalating proficiency targets and associated sanctions have become less and less useful for identifying which schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) need improvement or for intervening appropriately in these schools and LEAs.
The appropriate solution is for Congress to reauthorize the ESEA, replace its inflexible requirements with provisions that accommodate the differences in state policy approaches, and give districts adequate flexibility to improve student achievement. However, until that occurs, California is obligated to follow current laws and regulations to ensure continued access to Title I funding.
California Filed for an ESEA Waiver in June 2012
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offered a waiver option in September 2011 that required states to meet additional obligations beyond the scope of ESEA. (See the ED ESEA Flexibility Web page at http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility.) Following an extensive analysis of the current law and potential costs, benefits, and consequences of seeking such a waiver, we determined that California could not meet the waiver conditions within the required timeline or in the current California fiscal and policy environment.
Despite these concerns, SBE President Mike Kirst and I urged our staffs to continue to pursue options to provide California LEAs with relief from the unrealistic expectations of NCLB. In May 2012, the SBE authorized submission of a request to waive specific accountability provisions of the ESEA, pursuant to Section 9401(b)(1)(C). This waiver request, submitted to ED on June 15, 2012, seeks ESEA relief for LEAs under a timeline that we can commit to meeting, while still pursuing the principles upon which the ESEA waiver package is conditioned. (See the waiver request on the CDE Request for Waiver of Provisions Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/el/le/yr12ltr0615.asp.) At this time, there has been no formal response to California's ESEA waiver request. However, recent conversations with ED staff indicate ED is prepared to deny our request.
Creating a Meaningful System of School Accountability
California began implementing the Academic Performance Index (API) in 1999. It is a strong accountability model, and since its initial implementation, has remained a meaningful indicator of school improvement and accountability at both the school and community level. For these reasons, the API was used as the primary basis for assignment of technical assistance to LEAs entering Program Improvement Corrective Action in 2011 and 2012. Senate Bill 1458 (Steinberg), which takes effect in January 2013, requires the SBE to consider revisions to the API by the 2015–16 school year. The revised API will include indicators in addition to assessments results. As part of this work, the CDE and the SBE will be reexamining California's system of public school accountability, the goals for its public schools, and the most appropriate methods to measure progress towards those goals.
As you know, California adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and is on course to implement them on a timeline consistent with state law and the state budget. We are also a governing state in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and anticipate a transition to the Smarter Balanced online assessments in spring of 2015. We are beginning to implement teacher and administrator initiatives, described in Greatness by Design, Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State. These recommendations are grounded in research about effective practices for teacher and administrator preparation, induction, professional development, supervision, and evaluation. This document is on the CDE Educator Excellence Task Force Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/ee.asp.
Finally, California has begun the process of updating the tools used to guide schools in assessing their effectiveness. The Essential Program Components (EPCs) that were the basis for current accountability tools will be represented, but the elements will be expanded into a Quality Schooling Framework that describes a richer array of factors that both practitioners and the research community acknowledge contribute to school success. The Framework will provide a foundation for an expanded set of school improvement tools that will better accommodate local differences as California again affirms its commitment to high-quality schooling for each child.
Taken together, these initiatives will provide California the opportunity to redesign the system of school accountability to ensure that it is more meaningful and more inclusive than the current federal accountability system. While we await direction from ED on new requirements for federal accountability, California will continue to use the API as the key indicator in determining whether a school or LEA has made adequate academic progress.
|TOM TORLAKSON |
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
California Department of Education
MICHAEL W. KIRST