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By Tom Chorneau
Friday, May 04, 2012
The Brown administration in concert with state schools chief Tom Torlakson have crafted what they hope is a stronger, more directed federal waiver request aimed at giving California schools relief from key requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.
The revised application, set to come before the California State Board of Education next week, proposes to transition California schools to a single accountability system with the state’s existing Academic Performance Index as the centerpiece.
There’s a commitment to revisit in January 2013 the relevance of the statewide performance target of 800 points and also to consider revisions to the method for calculating the annual schoolwide and student group goals.
The state board would also, by March 2013, develop a plan for identifying schools that fail to meet their API targets – a process they believe will better target struggling schools that actually need help, as opposed to the far more sweeping federal Program Improvement system currently in use.
Further, the new waiver proposal sets a July 2013 deadline for the state board to identify sanctions that would be imposed on districts and schools that fail to reach performance goals. The intent is to “bring more qualitative judgment to the process” of applying intervention and sanctions than is now available under federal law, according to a draft application letter.
In exchange, California schools would be excused from meeting the looming 2013-14 requirement that all students must be proficient in reading and math or be designated as failing.
“There is a feeling that this represents the best offer we can make,” said Paul Hefner, spokesman for State Superintendent Torlakson. “This is a chance for districts to get the relief they deserve while also strengthening our accountability system. We also believe that this is something we can commit to and achieve. We think this is a very strong proposal.”
Sue Burr, executive director of the state board and a key adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, said in a statement that California has always had a system for “holding schools accountable for improving outcomes” for all students.
“That won’t change,” she said of the proposed waiver. “Our goal with this proposal is simply to have a single, transparent system that works.”
Frustrated with the inability of Congress to seriously take up reauthorization of NCLB, the Obama administration last fall offered states the option of getting a waiver from meeting the proficiency requirement and associated intervention mandates.
In exchange, states would be required to adopt career- and college-ready curriculum standards and employ new methods for evaluating teachers and principals that include student test scores as one data point.
California officials, led by Torlakson, have been concerned about the cost of implementing the Obama waiver – which the California Department of Education estimated last year at $3 billion.
Instead, the CDE has suggested California shape a separate request that utilizes a little-know section of federal law that gives the U.S. Education Secretary authority to waive any part of federal education code.
Although state officials have been talking about using Section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as the basis for the California waiver for months – it is unclear how the novel proposal will be received in Washington D.C.
As many as 40 states already have petitioned the U.S. Department of Education under the waiver option provided by the administration, and while there was some talk other states might join California in advancing the so-called ‘state-defined waiver,’ none have taken that formal step.
The latest version of California’s ‘state-defined waiver’ is set to come before the state board next week. Although the plan was developed by high-ranking members of Brown’s staff with top officials at the CDE, it is up the state board to decide whether to move ahead.
The hope is to have the waiver agreement with the federal government in place ahead of the August release of new test scores and the assignment next year of the next cohort of ‘failing’ schools under NCLB.
To read more click here: http://1.usa.gov/Iq32mZ
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