California forgoes second NCLB waiver request

May 20, 2013

California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst

California has decided not to try again for a waiver from some key provisions of No Child Left Behind, at least not for the next school year.  Instead, state education officials told the U.S. Department of Education that California would instead focus its efforts next year on implementing the Common Core State Standards, federal and state officials said Monday.

Federal education officials also said that they will continue to consider the waiver application from a group of nine of the state’s largest school districts known as the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE.

The update on California was contained in a news release announcing that the federal government had approved waiver requests from three more states: Alaska, Hawaii and West Virginia. Eight states have pending requests and five states, including California, have not applied in the latest round. California did request a waiver last June, but U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan rejected it for not containing a teacher evaluation component. The federal law doesn’t call for the teacher evaluation, but Duncan is requiring it in exchange for flexibility.

“While California’s efforts to improve its education system continue to move forward, including implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the modernization of our assessment and accountability systems, the standards for obtaining a federal waiver remain difficult to meet for a state committed to local flexibility and decision-making,” state Superintendent Tom Torlakson and Board of Education president Michael Kirst said in a joint statement.

CORE submitted its application at the end of February after meeting with Duncan and his staff. CORE Executive Director Rick Miller said the organization is now responding to questions about its application from the U.S. Department of Education and plans to submit the revised application by the end of this week or early next week at the latest. The CORE districts include Los Angeles Unified, Oakland, San Francisco and Long Beach and represent a combined 1 million students.

In an interview earlier this month, Duncan told EdSource Today there are a range of waiver options and models and “we’re open to looking at anything,” as long as it improves student learning.

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