Texas plans to apply for NCLB waiver; New Hampshire files its NCLB waiver application

According to an Associated Press (AP) report in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, the state of Texas plans to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to avoid some federal accountability standards imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), even though state officials previously expressed concern about the possible strings attached to such a reprieve. With the NCLB requirement that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014 approaching, ED officials suggested that waivers would give states more leeway to improve how they prepare and evaluate students.

“We strongly believe in accountability, we were one of the states on the leading edge of that movement,” said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokesman for the Texas Education Agency. “But we like our system better.” Ratcliffe had said in previous months that Texas was not ruling out a waiver and would like greater flexibility from federal rules – but also preferred state control because of concerns the federal government might impose a national curriculum and national accountability standards.

A centerpiece of Texas’ educational accountability system is a new standardized testing system known as STAAR which was unveiled last year. Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams said that system, combined with No Child Left Behind, means school districts would have been “required to meet and function within two different assessment and accountability systems.” His letter directs school districts to comment on the state’s intent to seek the wavier over the next three weeks, and says the agency will use that input while finalizing its waiver request.

Source:  Tyler Morning Telegraph, 9/6/12, By Will Weissert (AP)

Meanwhile, the Foster’s Daily Democrat reports that Governor John Lynch has announced that New Hampshire has applied for a federal waiver which would free the state from certain provisions of NCLB. NCLB’s proficiency requirements have led to virtually every school district in the state being labeled as failing, hindering efforts to support schools, especially those with the greatest needs.

If a waiver is granted, New Hampshire would have the flexibility to implement its own innovative accountability system. This would better support students, parents and schools over the next decade, and allow a strong emphasis to be placed on those schools that need help the most.

“We know we have excellent schools in New Hampshire, but under the restrictive provisions of No Child Left Behind, most of our school districts are labeled as ‘failing.’ Not only is this not accurate, this outdated accountability model is hurting our ability to support schools, especially those with the greatest needs,” Gov. Lynch said.

Lynch sent a letter in support of the waiver to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The N.H. School Administrators Association, N.H. Association of School Principals, State Board of Education, Manchester School District, N.H. Special Education Administrators, NEA-NH, University System of New Hampshire,  and the Community College System of New Hampshire also issued letters in support of the waiver.

Source:  Foster’s Daily Democrat, 9/7/12, By Staff

[Editor's Note: To some, the cure of the NCLB waiver is worse than complying with the law's accountability standards. In July 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in The Tampa Bay Times, which reported that members of the Hillsborough County School Board used strong language to voice their opposition to the new state requirement that the district grade the academic performance of its schools for disabled students. That requirement stemmed from an agreement between the state and federal departments of education. In exchange for a waiver that helped Florida streamline its testing, the state agreed to change the way it counts the scores of students with disabilities and new English speakers.]

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