California has now joined the list of states requesting a waiver from the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as “No Child Left Behind.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst submitted California’s request for a waiver to the federal government earlier this month. The waiver requests that the state be allowed to use its own accountability system to ensure that all schools improve, rather than the federal system that has labeled many schools as failing.
California’s request differs from those filed by other states, which agree to several additional federally required policies in exchange for an ESEA waiver.
"It's time to leave behind No Child Left Behind," said Torlakson in a written statement. "This request capitalizes on our strengths – our well established accountability system. It also provides school districts an opportunity to get the relief they deserve now, and the flexibility they need to direct limited funds where they will do the most good."
ESEA was signed into law in 2001 to shine light on achievement gaps and increase accountability at the school level of high-need students. As written, however, No Child Left Behind has led to school districts teaching to the test rather than to meet the needs of the students and to lower standards to make them easier for students to meet.
President Barack Obama offered states relief from the much-maligned testing requirements, through waivers. Waivers will give states the flexibility needed to raise student achievement standards, improve school accountability, and increase teacher effectiveness.
In order for California to qualify for a waiver, the state not only needs to set new performance targets for student achievement, but also must have already adopted college and career-ready standards in reading and math that raise the achievement of all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities. In addition, states must establish an accountability system that recognizes and rewards high-performing schools and develop targeted strategies to turn around the lowest performing schools. Lastly, states must set guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, developed with input from educators and principals.
But the application approved by the state Board of Education is missing key reforms outlined by President Obama when he offered states the option of a waiver.
Delete - Merge California’s waiver is currently under review along with 18 other applications still pending.