White House Waiver Plan Keeps States Accountable for Results

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President Obama’s plan to waive some of the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act strikes a fresh balance between the federal and state roles in educating our nation’s children. 

The new waiver process does not prescribe particular systems or interventions for the vast majority of schools, instead setting strong goals for states and giving them the flexibility to determine how their schools and districts will meet them. Indeed, the plan echoes Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s mantra: The role of the federal government should be tight on goals and loose on means.
Each state will have the opportunity to submit a waiver request that outlines how they would tackle the following challenges:

  • Adopt and implement higher level standards and assessments that aim all of their kids for college and career.
  • Build an accountability system that sets ambitious but achievable goals for their schools and measures progress in increasing overall achievement and closing gaps.
  • Take action to improve their persistently low-performing schools.
  • Develop an honest evaluation system that gives their educators the feedback they need to improve their practice and boost student learning.

For years, states have been demanding the kind of flexibility offered today. They’ve said that the terms of NCLB were unrealistic. They’ve highlighted the fact that their schools weren’t given credit for student growth. And they’ve pointed out that the law’s required interventions in schools that missed their goals created a damaging “one size fits all” approach to school improvement. In short, they’ve told us that they know how to do it better. In fact, far too many state leaders spent a lot of time and energy over the past decade bashing the law instead of getting all of their students to read and do math at grade level.

Now, the Obama administration has handed states a responsible framework in which they can exercise the flexibility they said they wanted. It’s time for them to stand and deliver — on behalf of all students, but particularly those who are farthest behind.

— by Stephanie Germeraad