Q. What is No Child Left Behind?
A. The law, adopted in 2001, requires annual state tests in reading and mathematics for every child in grades three through eight. Public schools whose scores fail to meet targets two years in a row face consequences that get more severe each year a school falls short. The law requires that schools raise the percentage of students proficient in reading and math to 100 percent within 12 years — which is this year. It hasn’t happened.
Q. What are current sanctions for missing the law’s targets?
A. High-poverty schools that receive Title I federal assistance and continue to miss targets face increasingly severe sanctions:
» After two years: Schools must allow students to attend a different school with free transportation.
» After three years: Schools must also offer free tutoring.
» After four years, the district must also implement one or more corrective actions: new curriculum; extended school day or year; replace staff; assume more management control over the school; restructure the school; or bring in an expert adviser to help address problems.
» After five years: Schools must draw up a restructuring plan. The school must either reopen as a charter school, replace the staff and principal, bring in private management or make fundamental changes in the governance, resources and staffing.
Q. What’s a waiver?
A. It’s not really a waiver but a substitution of new requirements for old ones. President Barack Federal and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced in 2011 they would provide flexibility from some requirements of No Child Left Behind.In February 2012 the administration approved waivers for 11 states. Now, 43 states have waivers.
Q. What would a waiver do?
» Eliminate the 100-percent proficiency target that took effect this school year.
Instead, the state would set new “ambitious but achievable” annual targets and timelines for reaching them.
» End sanctions for failing to make adequate yearly progress.
Those consequences however, would be replaced by new ones. Federal waiver guidance proposes a variety of consequences. They include replacing the principal or staff, preventing ineffective teachers from transferring to the schools, adding time to the school day or year, strengthening the instructional program, using data to improve instruction, taking steps to improve school safety and discipline and addressing students’ health and emotional needs, and providing mechanisms for family and community engagement. Districts could also restart, close or make substantial changes to the school.
» Schools would regain some flexibility to use Title I funds.
Schools would no longer have to set aside 20 percent of Title I money for Supplemental Educational Services such as tutoring and school-choice transportation. Other flexibility would help rural schools.
Q. What’s required for a waiver?
A. Adopt a new accountability system that meets Federal administration requirements.The system must consider student achievement in at least mathematics and reading for all students and subgroups, taking into account whether individual students are making progress, which is not required by No Child Left Behind.The federal rules call on states to identify the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools statewide. They would be given the most intense intervention. Other schools with large achievement gaps could add tutoring, and their students would be allowed to transfer elsewhere.A third group of Title I schools — those with consistently high achievement or that are making the most progress against the odds — would have to be publicly recognized and, if possible, rewarded.The current States Performance and Accountability System is a work in progress. There’s no telling whether, once done, it would meet these requirements:
» Demonstrate to the Federal administration that it has college- and career-ready standards in mathematics and reading/language arts.
Some states met the requirement by adopting Common Core State Standards. States hope to have state college professors sign off that its standards will adequately prepare students for success in college-level classes.
» Adopt teacher-evaluation systems that take into account student achievement.
The state would have to get districts to adopt an evaluation model that uses multiple measures of performance, giving significant weight to growth in test scores. Evaluations would have to sort teachers into at least three performance levels.
Federal guidance says that evaluations must be used to help make personnel decisions, such as whether to fire a teacher. Evaluations would also be used to ensure that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified or out-of-field teachers.
States are piloting a teacher evaluation model, with a timeline for statewide implementation in the fall of 2015. As currently drawn, it would meet some but not all the conditions.
» Continued reporting on achievement of student groups.
The state and local districts must continue to publicly report annually the achievement, including graduation rates, both in the aggregate and by subgroups, including minorities, English language learners and students with disabilities. Reports must include data comparing actual achievement levels with the newly set achievement targets.
» New set of standards for special student groups.
The state would have to adopt English language proficiency standards and assessments that correspond to college- and career-ready standards. The state must develop and administer alternative assessments for student with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
» New public reporting on college-bound graduates.
The state would have to annually report to the public on college-going and college credit-accumulation rates for all students and student subgroups in each district and high school.
» Eliminate burdensome regulations and paperwork.>
States must remove duplicative and burdensome reporting requirements that have little or no impact on student outcomes.