By Lisa Kellman
Education officials from across the country met in DC Monday to preview state efforts to seek waivers from the national No Child Left Behind law.
President Obama announced in September that states that put high educational standards in place would qualify to opt-out of soon-to-take-effect NCLB requirements that put federal funding at risk for several states.
School officials from Florida, Georgia, Colorado and Massachusetts spoke during a briefing with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), a nonprofit organization comprised of various heads of state and local educational systems.
“Because No Child Left Behind has not been reauthorized, states are left with no choice but to move forward and to seek relief through an alternative route,” said CCSSO Executive Director Gene Wilhoit.
While each state representative acknowledged NCLB’s contribution in holding states accountable, they also felt that states should be more active in implementing education goals.
One common complaint of NCLB was the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) metric which has been used to evaluate schools and teachers. Opponents have argued that it has encouraged teachers to “teach to the test” rather focus on the needs of their students.
“We have a generation of students that we taught how to pass a test but were they ready for college and careers?” asked John Barge with the Georgia Department of Education.
Congress hasn’t reauthorized NCLB since 2007, nor has it passed a reform plan. Obama challenged lawmakers back in September to get to work, and decided at that point to move forward with waivers.
“Our kids only get one shot at a decent education,” he said during a speech at the White House. “They cannot afford to wait any longer. So, given that Congress cannot act, I am acting,”
According to the White House, the waivers represent an effort to enhance accountability and transparency and create programs that strengthen career and college preparedness for students. States will be allowed to implement such standards with their own individual building blocks.
For example, among other initiatives, Massachusetts would cut in half the number of students who are not college ready, Colorado would require all school districts to engage in improvement plants, Georgia would give equal weight to all school subjects, not just those tested in NCLB, and Florida would provide full access to college level courses.
Eleven states are expected to apply for waivers today, with more to follow.