Missouri is one of five states recently granted relief from key requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law, bringing the total to 24 states given waivers, the education department announced Friday.
What exactly it means for local school districts, like Washington, is still being sorted out, said Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer, who was going through piles of paperwork on the waiver Monday afternoon.
“It will provide districts more flexibility and that’s a good thing,” VanLeer told The Missourian. “But exactly what we will be required to do and how it will all work is something I’m still looking into.”
As she gets information, VanLeer is forwarding key details on to her administrative team and the school board. The waiver also will be discussed at the July board of education meeting.
The waiver does mean school districts will be freed from the No Child Left Behind requirement that all students test proficient in math and science by 2014, a goal that most schools across the nation are far from achieving.
“That standard was becoming more unrealistic as we approached 2014,” VanLeer remarked.
In exchange, the states must develop accountability plans that set new targets for raising achievement, advancing teacher effectiveness, preparing all students for careers and college and improving the performance of low-performing schools.
Democrats and Republicans agree that the Bush-era law is broken, but have been unable to agree on how to fix it.
Among the “flaws” in the law is that if any subgroup in a district, such as low-income, minorities and special education students, fail to meet the specific learning targets, even if they still showed gains, the entire school and district is then labeled as failing.
Some critics of the law say it has had the unintended effect of encouraging instructors to teach to the test and has led schools to narrow their curriculum.
VanLeer said school districts in the states granted waivers will still be held accountable for high performance, but it will be a more focused approach on continuous improvement. It also will be less punitive in nature, she said.
“There also will be more support and help for schools rather than just saying we’ll take your federal dollars away,” said VanLeer, who planned to participate in a webinar Tuesday to learn more details on the waiver requirements.
The White House has pushed for a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but there has been little movement in Congress over the past two years. The Obama administration announced last year that states could apply for waivers.