Credit: Alison Yin for EdSource Today

After months of negotiations, seven California school districts have received a one-year extension of the waivers from the federal government exempting them from key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in return for meeting a slew of new requirements mandated by the Obama administration.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the extension Friday for the districts that are part of a consortium known as the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE.  The combined enrollment of the districts receiving the waiver – Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Fresno, Sanger (also in the Central Valley), Oakland,and San Francisco – total nearly 1 million of the 6.2 million students enrolled in California’s public schools.

The waivers freed districts from the requirement that every student be proficient on state tests by last spring – a goal set by the NCLB law which no state has achieved – and gave them flexibility in spending over $100 million in federal education funding.

The waiver came with a “high risk” designation that appears to have no immediate  practical consequences. Rather, it is a warning that if districts don’t make more progress in several key areas identified by the Obama administration, the waivers may not be renewed a year from now.

In detailed letters sent to superintendents of each of the seven school districts last Friday (Sept. 12), Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle said that the CORE districts were lagging in implementing a new way of assessing school performance called the  School Quality Improvement Index.

Delisle also said the districts had not made enough progress towards linking teacher and principal evaluations to measures of student academic growth, which includes test scores.

The U.S. Department of Education has granted waivers to 43 states and the District of Columbia. But the waivers extended to the seven California districts in August 2013 have received wide attention in the state and nation because they are the only ones extended to individual districts.

California declined to apply for a waiver for the entire state under the provisions stipulated by the Obama administration, in part because of the requirement that every school district link teacher evaluations to test scores. The Obama administration subsequently rejected an application from California for a  different waiver under other parts of the No Child Left Behind law.

At least four of the 43 states that have received NCLB waivers have also been given “high risk” extensions.  The high risk designation extended to Kansas, Washington, Oregon and Arizona was also a result at least in part of falling short in linking teacher evaluations to measures of student growth, including test scores.

Despite the “high risk” designation, district leaders welcomed the extension.

“With the School Quality Improvement System, the Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts in CORE are already making changes in our schools and systems that are improving students’ readiness for college and careers in the 21st century,” said John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. “A much higher risk to our students’ and our communities’ future would be to revert to the NCLB status quo.”

Rick Miller, executive director of the CORE consortium and a principal in the Sacramento-based consulting firm Capitol Impact, said he wasn’t overly concerned about the “high risk” designation.

“We feel very confident we will have those pieces (stipulated in the letters to districts) in place by next year,” he said. In any case, “that is what continuous learning is all about. You try things, you give it a shot, and then you refine. In that sense, it probably is a a risk.”

Under federal regulations, a federal agency can designate a grant or a “cooperative agreement” with states or localities as being a risk for any number of reasons, and can hold withholding authority from a grantee or contractor to “proceed to the next phase” until the federal government receives “evidence of acceptable performance within a given period of time.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/arne-duncan-no-child-left-behind-waivers-95818.html#ixzz3D6uLVJyT

The CORE districts’ proposed School Quality Improvement System will be considerably broader than the Academic Performance Index, California’s principal way of ranking schools based mainly on test scores of students on standardized tests. The new index would combine students’ academic performance with a range of other factors, including the degree to which a school and district foster “social and emotional learning” among students, and promotes a positive school climate and collaborative learning.

Fresno school superintendent Michael Hanson, who is also president of the CORE consortium, said that the districts’ more holistic accountability system will mean that they “are holding themselves to a higher level of accountability in order to track and address what’s important for success in school, the workforce, and life.”

As part of the waiver process, federal officials visited four of the districts in February and flagged several areas of concern, noting that some districts made changes to the their original waiver application without notifying federal officials, and that additional work remains to fully define the improvement system that is the cornerstone of the seven districts’ efforts. CORE officials responded to those concerns in an amended request for a waiver extension.

 


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  1. navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

    edsource, it would be extremely helpful if you could some coverage on the issue of the evaluations in this waiver. specifically, why have they not been implemented? who is prohibiting that from happening, and why?

  2. Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

    As always, these type of "approvals" create interesting questions. The School Quality Improvement System is described as being 60% academic, 20% "social-emotional," and 20% "culture-climate." I am sure that "the numbers" can be manipulated when attempting to reduce absenteeism, suspensions, expulsions, etc., and when designing surveys as well as rearranging the Special Ed identification. But when LAUSD announces that it will be providing Spring and Summer intervention programs for students at risk, either because they are … Read More

    As always, these type of “approvals” create interesting questions.

    The School Quality Improvement System is described as being 60% academic, 20% “social-emotional,” and 20% “culture-climate.” I am sure that “the numbers” can be manipulated when attempting to reduce absenteeism, suspensions, expulsions, etc., and when designing surveys as well as rearranging the Special Ed identification.

    But when LAUSD announces that it will be providing Spring and Summer intervention programs for students at risk, either because they are well behind in class or because they are English learners, and then the money earmarked for this intervention is not spent, what can can you conclude?

    Also, given that California did not have an assessment in place in 2013-14, how can the feds conclude that LAUSD, which is the 800-lb gorilla in this group, is doing all that is claimed in the approval letter?

    It seems to me that there is no evidence that LAUSD is meeting any of the stated goals. So why was this approved?

    And, no, I am not in support of the stated goals because districts are not free to create their own “student growth” assessment systems that will then be used to judge principals and teachers. The assessment systems are supposed to be state-wide and defined by the state or its agents, not individual districts (but in the Common Core era, it is a consortium of states). Besides, the only ones who believe in using student test scores to define student growth seem to be certain politicians and no academics worth their degree.

    In all, it seems to me that this is nothing else than business as usual: let’s keep extending NCLB under the pretext of waiving it.

    BTW, did any district in the nation meet NCLB’s goal of getting every one of its children to be proficient by 2014?

  3. Mary Jacobsen 2 years ago2 years ago

    I agree this would be a good idea but the problem is the critics might agree and then do the same exact thing again. Some people are just addicted to complaining and being thorns in the side of the good people trying to improve education. I agree unity is absolutely crucial, but they won't come up with a better system than Common Core and it would cause a delay of 8 years to … Read More

    I agree this would be a good idea but the problem is the critics might agree and then do the same exact thing again. Some people are just addicted to complaining and being thorns in the side of the good people trying to improve education. I agree unity is absolutely crucial, but they won’t come up with a better system than Common Core and it would cause a delay of 8 years to try to satisfy people who still probably won’t be satisfied, and the problem is by doing some things to satisfy them, you will potentially lose other people who will then be out calling for the dismantling of that system and pretending they were for common core all along. It isn’t worth it. I say you’re doing the right thing and we should support Common Core and just ignore all the detractors. They are against progress and are just noise. In a Democracy, the states rights crowd has always been there, supporting segregation, opposing gay marriage, supporting slavery. Look how far the South is behind the rest o the country. Have you ever traveled there? I have. Just let them vent and do your best to support common core. Your suggestion wouldn’t achieve what you expect and we’d all just end up more frustrated. I mostly see out of touch angry white men opposing common core, dreaming of the halcyon days of Leave it to Beaver and the Waltons. Those people don’t take the threat seriously and think state by state they’ll come up with a way to beat China. The UK tried spreading power and now, tomorrow, they may lose Scotland which will put their GDP behind France and Italy and take them from #2 to #4 in Europe. I’ll pass on that thank you very much!

  4. Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

    This is no way to run a country. Congress makes laws, and any administration has the duty to see that those laws be duly enforced, not cooperate in their evasion. Enforcing the broken stupidity of No Child Left Behind would give Congress some incentive to give education more attention, and itself undo the damage it did with the (first, illegitimate) George W. Bush administration. Allowing the secretary of education's policy preferences to substitute for established … Read More

    This is no way to run a country. Congress makes laws, and any administration has the duty to see that those laws be duly enforced, not cooperate in their evasion. Enforcing the broken stupidity of No Child Left Behind would give Congress some incentive to give education more attention, and itself undo the damage it did with the (first, illegitimate) George W. Bush administration. Allowing the secretary of education’s policy preferences to substitute for established law is bad governance and sets a bad precedent for our country.

    When Congress gets round to replacing No Child Left Behind, it ought to avoid oppressing local districts and states that want to get ahead by employing policies and practices that leading educational jurisdictions have shown to work, and by devoting more resources to the execution of such measures than other jurisdictions might be willing to spend. In particular, an Upper Secondary Schools Act might enable those of us willing to escape the one-size-fits-all oppression of America’s traditional comprehensive high school model by granting families the choice, where feasible, to pursue higher standards than those being imposed by the new ruling class managerial orthodoxy.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      People move around too much now, we don't need 50 systems. We need to have one system and one standard of parenting, flash cards, math, reading early and often, skills based. We can vary what we read, but we need to turn off the TVs and games and make sure all kids study 20-25 hours a week after age 10 outside of school, not 5-6 as they do now. Our effort as parents … Read More

      People move around too much now, we don’t need 50 systems. We need to have one system and one standard of parenting, flash cards, math, reading early and often, skills based. We can vary what we read, but we need to turn off the TVs and games and make sure all kids study 20-25 hours a week after age 10 outside of school, not 5-6 as they do now. Our effort as parents and students is pathetic. Teacher quality is important but a minor issue compared to that. Most people will live in multiple states. We’re going to be overpassed by China if we don’t improve education drastically. They have 4 times our population so if they merely reach one quarter of our productivity, they’ll become world power #1. The only way to stay ahead is to raise our expectations. Creativity is a great advantage, the 20-25 can include arts and activities to some degree, but a lot of people say you can’t just study implying the time not studying is spent doing arts, volunteering, and creative endeavors, and the truth is over 95% of the time kids don’t study they are watching TV or on a game system, not doing something creative or interesting. We need to do more or we’ll fall behind, and we need one system and to all unify behind it. We’re going to bicker our way behind China. They are unified. They are dividing and conquering us with all this anti common core crap. As if if we hadn’t done Common Core those people would just be happy and working hard to improve our standing, give me a break! Before Common Core, before NCLB, I constantly heard people bickering rather than unifying to improve our educational system. In fact, we’ve unified against other nations, but never against our own problems. It’s time to all work together and look in the mirror.

      • Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

        Floyd, Common Core will leave American students almost three years behind the Chinese in mathematics. Compare the standards (available through the APEC website): Chinese fourth-graders are at (most nearly) the same level as Common Core American fifth, Chinese sixth-graders study what Common Core eighth-graders study, and Chinese ninth grade, the end of their compulsory education system, most nearly approximates to Common Core 12th. East Asian students -- all of them, if they are bound for … Read More

        Floyd, Common Core will leave American students almost three years behind the Chinese in mathematics. Compare the standards (available through the APEC website): Chinese fourth-graders are at (most nearly) the same level as Common Core American fifth, Chinese sixth-graders study what Common Core eighth-graders study, and Chinese ninth grade, the end of their compulsory education system, most nearly approximates to Common Core 12th. East Asian students — all of them, if they are bound for college — study calculus in upper secondary school, whereas with Common Core that is at least two years away, and will require of young Americans two years of expensive college tuition to catch up to what the East Asians get in their free public high schools. And not just the East Asians: Western Europeans also study calculus in upper secondary school, before university, and so do the Russians, in the usual place, 11th grade. I supported and continue to support the idea of a common core; but this Common Core miscarried in the presence of self-interested actors (the ACT, College Board, and Pearson) who chose to change things just enough to require all new cycles of curriculum, but not enough to give American children the best possible chance to compete in the 21st century.

        • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          Maybe you're right, California is making things easier. However, it makes it hard when so many people are always wanting to drop it. I guess we should but here is my proposal. Have all the critics, leaders, union leaders, executives, congress, school boards, commentators, etc. Invite everyone. Have a 2-month summit. Cancel a month of congress for it. Do it during the Summer. Have students there, Pierson, every party. … Read More

          Maybe you’re right, California is making things easier. However, it makes it hard when so many people are always wanting to drop it. I guess we should but here is my proposal.

          Have all the critics, leaders, union leaders, executives, congress, school boards, commentators, etc. Invite everyone. Have a 2-month summit. Cancel a month of congress for it. Do it during the Summer. Have students there, Pierson, every party. Lock the doors, have 12-15 hour days. Really discuss everything, hear all points. If anyone is going to gripe or nitpick later, bring it up then or forever hold your peace. Everyone bring up all points, and vote on the best system.

          After that, no whining, we stick to that system for 20 years with no change and never change it for 20 years, and as a nation we all do everything possible to make it work. Teachers make sacrifices in terms of job security and really backing the program, taxpayers make sacrifices in terms of paying teachers more, families agree to get kids to turn the TV off and have kids study at least 20 hours a week from age 11-18, and read more than they watch TV from age 6, do flashcards, etc. Public service announcements, etc.

          One more big summit, then after that we all work as a team like China.

          I think the constant criticism holds us back. Let’s all listen to every point, come up with one system, and then unify behind it.

          If you criticized NCLB and Common Core and the system before NCLB, fine, but this is your last chance, if you get outvoted deal with it, be an adult, and put every bit of energy towards making it work so we beat China.

          That is my opinion.

          • Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

            I agree about the need to reach concord. I believe, however, that our federal nation is more diverse than is China, which has been a unitary state for most of more than 2000 years. I doubt that we can come up with as much mutual agreement as you envision; China doesn't even try, but merely sends orders down from the top. I think a better model for us to use in education would be Germany's, which, … Read More

            I agree about the need to reach concord. I believe, however, that our federal nation is more diverse than is China, which has been a unitary state for most of more than 2000 years. I doubt that we can come up with as much mutual agreement as you envision; China doesn’t even try, but merely sends orders down from the top.

            I think a better model for us to use in education would be Germany’s, which, ironically, is based on the American system imposed after the Second World War. The federal government would stay out of the matter; it has shown that it cannot contribute much of value while Congress remains broken. The states, via the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — the people who brought us the Common Core, but failed to provide much supervision — would reconvene to revise the current draft of the Common Core, this time with greater supervision of the staff centrally organizing this project, and would set up a system, like that you suggest, for greater input from the public — not mere insider invitees — with approval from individual state legislatures that would execute due diligence this time around (unlike 2010), and regular revision of the standards in these and other key subjects.

    • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

      Bruce,

      I agree. These waivers do nothing more than prolong failed policy.

      On a side note, the fact that Duncan denied waivers to some states might help get the ball rolling through different channels. Oklahoma and Washington have a strong argument to challenge the law now. Duncan’s requirements for the waiver are clear examples of federal overreach and coercion.

  5. Tressy Capps 2 years ago2 years ago

    Get the Federal government out of education.

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