More states and D.C. receive NCLB waivers; Vermont, Alabama, Nebraska reject them
July 24th, 2012
06:06 AM ET

More states and D.C. receive NCLB waivers; Vermont, Alabama, Nebraska reject them

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - The White House announced on Thursday that it would grant seven additional waivers from restrictive provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. will receive the newest flexibility waivers, according to a U.S. Department of Education press release. To date, 32 states and D.C. have received waivers.

The NCLB law, also known as the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA), has many sections, and through these waivers, federal officials are allowing states to set their own standards for parts of the law. The waivers aren’t an automatic reprieve from all aspects of NCLB.

In order to receive these ESEA flexibility waivers, states provided evidence that they would initiate education reform efforts approved by the Obama administration, including linking student test scores to teacher evaluations.

Many supporters of the 2002 law say that the intent of NCLB is to improve education for all students, including poor and minority students, but critics contend that the law has created a “teach to the test” culture in too many classrooms.

Read more about NCLB and NCLB waivers

States are asking for waivers because they consider NCLB’s goals unattainable or even unrealistic. The law mandates that all students be proficient in reading by the end of third grade by 2014, and that all students will graduate from high school. States are far from accomplishing these goals; almost half of America’s schools are failing to meet these NCLB mandates.

Gridlock in Congress has delayed changes that could come with NCLB’s reauthorization. President Obama says that’s why he’s allowing states to develop their own standards of accountability and apply for waivers.

Michigan’s waiver, for example, means that schools will not have to have every student pass state standardized tests by 2014, as required under NCLB. Instead, Michigan’s Department of Education can set its own timeline for full proficiency.

While most states have opted to unshackle themselves from NCLB’s rigid mandates, a few states aren’t convinced that waivers will leave them better off.

Vermont had initially applied for a waiver, but withdrew its application in May. The state’s teacher’s union president, who worked on the waiver application, said that the state and federal governments couldn’t come to an agreement on the terms of the waiver. The Vermont Department of Education says on its website, “Vermont would need to do significant more work on the ESEA waiver in order to have an approvable application. Vermont’s waiver would no longer be the one that was agreed upon by stakeholders months ago when first submitted.”

Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice said in a statement to CNN, “The Alabama State Board of Education…has already created a plan for education reform in our state and feel strongly that if our plans and the requirements for the waiver are aligned we will move forward, but not if it requires us to change what our leadership has already determined is appropriate for our state.” The federal government did grant Alabama its request to freeze the percentage of students who must be proficient by 2014. Each year, that target increases until 100% percent of students meet proficiency standards.

Nebraska doesn't want a waiver, either. In a statement to CNN, Nebraska Department of Education spokeswoman Betty VanDeventer said, “Nebraska has not applied for a waiver because the state would not qualify....Nebraska also is in the process of developing its own teacher evaluation system that also would not meet waiver requirements.”

The deadline for the third round of waivers is September 6, and several states are submitting applications. West Virginia waited for feedback from other states before proceeding with its waiver application.

“It’s our best move,” said Liza Cordeiro, spokeswoman for West Virginia’s education department. “We are focused on the Next Generation Content Standards, which will include project-based and personalized learning…and focuses on fewer concepts while stressing deeper learning and understanding,” Cordeiro told CNN.

Do you think that waivers will have an impact on classrooms? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Filed under: Issues • NCLB • Policy
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Mapule

    I beleive most would perfree to be at home if at all possible.My mom would have for sure ..there wasn't any chance of getting better ..she needed dialysis though. Lord knows what the fee for that was but it was 300 each way for an ambulance .every other day. It would have been better if it was from her home or had a mobile unit brought in but this was from a home as well just the trip destroyed her. I got her moved to another home where they had dialysis .and she died after the first treatment there. It was floors and even the move through elevators and such was too much. She was so ill ..the home was so noisy and it was so stressful for her. She could barely eat and with all the medications she was on certain things made her ill and changed the taste of foods either ate what they brought or you didn't eat. Needless to say ..she quit eating. She couldn't feed herself and after the staff passed the food out ..then they'd come back and try and feed her ice cold food. In a home it's close to impossible to please everyone so I don't blame them ..I just know at home It would have been so much easier to switch the lime jello for cherry without a major production and a 45 minute wait.In her case ..she knew it was over .last days and no you can't have another 7-up because of diet restrictions? I don't want someone telling me what I can and cannot do or have the last period of my life when I know I'm dying and there's no hope. They seem to have lost the importance of choicesShe was paying top dollar and not able to participate in any of the activities. She couldn't turn her TV on and off or change channels.Turn off lights or shut the door. The massive amount of money for her care would have better well spent making her final days more to her comfort and alot less expensive at home. We were trying to find out about it and see what we could do but she died and no-one gave us jack for information on anything to do with home care to help us speed up the process at all.Doris .70 s Illinois my mom ..severe rheumatoid arthritis and kidney failure.

    August 3, 2012 at 5:42 am |
  2. Laurie Zucker-Conde

    The most useful part of the NCLB was its focus on subgroups, which required districts to create programs and train teachers to help students meet academic standards, even if the evidence of success was an invalid test.This focus has led schools towards greater individualization in instruction, and has made the end goal of simultaneous proficiency for all on a test nonsensical. The notion of grade-level, upon which standardized tests are based, is also suspect. Without the tests, waivers or no waivers, it's not clear what accountability for instruction and other services would be based on. Since tax payers pay for public education for the public good, it is important to have standards and accountability that require districts and regions to provide resources for both baseline education and services, remedial services, and enrichment services regardless of location and parental/guardian wealth. This didn't happen previously and wouldn't happen without the state and federal carrot and stick. The immediate problem is to transition from the unachievable NCLB requirement to the growth requirement without so much paperwork. It's also critical to think beyond annual standardized tests to provide evidence of academic success, especially if the goals are college and career success. Where are the rewards in accountability terms and initiative to provide gifted and talented programs, dual and foreign language programs, art and music programs, early engineering, computer, business/math, or other technical/vocational programs, or programs for students with disabilities who also excel in specific areas? Is success in these areas visible or equivalent to test scores? If not, what else besides or in addition to test scores can be used to measure success within a large, diverse country so that the money and hope we all contribute to educating all students in the United States will provide the best education possible regardless of where students live or who they were born to.

    August 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  3. Realist1953

    NCLB has been a MONUMENTAL FAILURE since inception. I remember states complaining, from the beginning, that they were being REQUIRED to follow Federal laws, to Spend Money for those requirements, and though the Federal Government was Required to PAY for these things, the Feds Paid little or NOTHING!!

    People have complained about the failures of schools for decades; yet America did things So Good in the 1940's and 1950's that we could put men on the Moon in the 1960's!! So were the schools REALLY all that bad? I doubt it.

    Yes, SOME teachers needed to be removed (I certainly had one, maybe two, incompetent teachers), and if there was a better way to tell the Unions "these are bad, and we will fire 'them', and YOU have NO recourse. If they want to return, they Must Pass through a review board".

    Now, with "waivers" being the norm, why bother with NCLB, or ANY other "improvement" program? Cancel them outright, SAVE the money, and reform the Dept. of Ed.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  4. dion

    If students cannot pass a proficiency test then they should stay in the same grade and try again. No special considerations like special classrooms for students who are withheld from other students who are a year younger. Sure there will be some ribbing for those who stayed behind but maybe that will be the fire that gets them going. Sure there will be students who are going to fail that is a given. It's time we take education seriously as in other countries you pay for it so it is more appreciated. Funny that many do not value what we get for free even though out tax pay for it.

    July 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  5. Cris Ericson

    I am thinking that there is some connection between how children graduate from high school
    and some of them can't read or write;
    and how some state legislators and members of U.S. Congress write Bills
    that are not complete.

    When a person graduates high school and can't adequately read or write,
    their education is not complete.

    When the Vermont State Legislature or members of the United States Congress
    write a Bill that states that some one else can finish writing it,
    but they go ahead and vote on it
    when it isn't finished,
    when it states that some one else, some regulatory body
    of un-elected people
    will write the rules and regulations for the bill,
    then the bill is being voted upon and passed into law
    without being finished,
    it is not complete,
    it is waiting for some one else to write the rules and regulations,
    and those people are un-elected.

    Teachers all too often can't teach anymore,
    and Legislators all too often can't write or vote on or pass
    a complete bill anymore.

    This is social anarchy.

    Someone else has to finish the teacher's job.

    Someone else has to finish the legislator's job.

    This is fraud in a fiduciary capacity and social anarchy.

    Cris Ericson
    USMJP dot com

    July 24, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Amat

      I am guessing since you do not have a lot of money to start your bueisnss, that maybe you will be running on a shoestring budget for awhile (at least 3 years). What happens when a child that is hurt in your bounce house parent sues you regardless of your play at your own risk and liability waiver. You still have to hire an attorney to defend yourself in court.At about $ 250 an hour, how many hours with an attorney can you afford? If your answer is anywhere under 100 hours (or $ 25,000) you will not have the money to even defend your play at your own risk and liability waiver. That is just for one hurt child, lets not think of if multiple children are hurt.Insurance provides a defense with the policy (well check specifically with your agent how your specific policy will work), and that is what most people forget is even if they are not in the wrong they still use their insurance to protect their interests.Maybe, just maybe I could support your decision to go without General Liability if you were an accountant (even then I would say you need it, but not as badly), but you want to run a bounce house! Children jumping around and being flung about! Being in insurance and seeing the lawsuits that fly around everyday, you would be insane to go without insurance.Sorry for being so blunt.

      August 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm |