Education secretary defends Obama administration's use of school waivers
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan defends the Obama administration's issuance of NCLB waivers at a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 28, 2012.
March 28th, 2012
04:23 PM ET

Education secretary defends Obama administration's use of school waivers

by Sally Holland, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republicans on Capitol Hill Wednesday criticized Education Secretary Arne Duncan's use of waivers for schools that haven't met the benchmarks for the No Child Left Behind law

"I don't believe that the language of the law allows the secretary to provide conditional waivers," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minnesota, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

When No Child Left Behind originated over 10 years ago, it set standards that students had to meet by certain dates or the schools would face sanctions. As the standards have gotten progressively higher, schools have had difficulty reaching the goals. Last fall, the Obama administration began providing waivers for schools that were unable to reach the benchmarks.

Bills to reauthorize and rework the No Child Left Behind Act are waiting for floor debate in both the House and Senate.

"Our children only get one shot at a world-class education and they cannot wait any longer for reform. And that's why we've offered states regulatory relief from (No Child Left Behind) in exchange for reforms that drive student achievement," Duncan said.

Kline, meanwhile, said in his opening statement: "The obscure process of granting these quid pro quo waivers leads me to question whether states are being pressured to adopt the administration's preferred reforms."

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Filed under: NCLB • Policy • Practice
March 9th, 2012
11:36 AM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

NYR: Opinion – Flunking Arne Duncan
Diane Ravitch argues that if U.S. Secretary of Education likes to evaluate teachers, then the public should be able to rate Secretary Duncan's progress. Ravitch offers her report card on the education secretary, and it doesn't include any As for effort.

The Atlantic: Opinion – Why Great Teachers Are Also Learners
Vicki Davis encourages teachers to love learning, because when students see enthusiasm for learning, she says, they are inspired and will want to learn. CCS' Unpaid School Lunch Accounts Go Into Collection
Columbus City Schools says it is short a million dollars – from parents who owe the school lunch fund. The district says thousands of parents who owe more than $50 could be hearing from a collection agency if their lunch accounts aren't settled by the end of the month. Palm Desert High School Designated 'Cuss-Free Zone'
The staff at California's Palm Desert High School is challenging its students to stop cussing. Each classroom has a "swear jar" and more than 80 students have joined the school's "no cussing" club. Girl handcuffed in school for being 'extremely rude'
A Colorado 11-year-old student was handcuffed and transported to a juvenile holding facility for being rude to school officials. Her mother admits her daughter was wrong, but thinks that being arrested was too severe a punishment, while school officials say the incident was handled appropriately.

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Filed under: Behavior • Elementary school • High school • Issues • NCLB • Policy • Practice • Today's Reading List
NCLB waivers: Round two
March 1st, 2012
06:20 AM ET

NCLB waivers: Round two

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Nearly three-quarters of the nation’s states have now asked the federal government for permission to work around the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Under NCLB (also referred to as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA) states are required to meet stringent goals for student academic performance, including 100% proficiency for all students in reading and math by 2014, a goal many see as unattainable. In September 2011, President Obama announced that the Department of Education would grant waivers to states that could devise “rigorous and comprehensive plans” aimed at improving educational outcomes and accountability.

In the first round of requests, 11 states were granted waivers from NCLB.

According to Education Week, 26 additional states plus the istrict of Columbia requested waivers by the February 28 deadline.  Those states are: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Idaho ,Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.  The states will be informed of the Department’s ruling on their requests later this spring.

As more states pursue waivers from NCLB, some critics charge that the waivers are undermining accountability  and some say they are ceding state education power to the federal government.

The deadline for states to submit for the next round of waiver requests is September 6.

Want to know your state’s status? The U.S. Department of Education maintains a Status of State Requests chart .

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Filed under: NCLB • Policy • Practice
February 29th, 2012
06:10 AM ET

My View: 'Waiving' state education control goodbye

Courtesy David Hills By Lindsey Burke, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Lindsey M. Burke is senior policy analyst in Domestic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

For more than a year now, Congress has been holding hearings about No Child Left Behind, garnering input about the federal role in education and its impact on local schools, and deliberating about how to re-write the 600-page law. In other words, Congress has been engaging in a thoughtful process about how to reform federal education policy.

Earlier this month, President Obama effectively told Congress that time was up, announcing that his administration would begin issuing NCLB waivers to states. In his announcement at the Department of Education (an appropriate location, considering the authority just vested in the agency), President Obama announced that Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee will receive the first round of waivers.

Nearly everyone agrees that No Child Left Behind is broken. But President Obama has decided to circumvent Congress and issue waivers to states that agree to his administration’s preferred education policies – a move that will not provide genuine relief to states and schools. The waivers are conditions-based, and states will only have access to the “relief” they offer if they agree to reforms such as adopting common standards and tests – a huge step toward nationalizing curriculum. So while states might feel some temporary relief from NCLB as a result of the waivers, they’ll be binding their hands in the long run by ceding more control to Washington.

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NCLB waivers: Where's the beef?
February 14th, 2012
01:19 PM ET

NCLB waivers: Where's the beef?

By Paul Frysh, CNN

(CNN) The Obama administration's announcement that 10 states are being granted waivers from some demands of the federal government’s controversial No Child Left Behind policy has some experts asking: Where's the beef?

"It's not that different from the previous policy," said Tina Trujillo, an education policy expert at University of California.

School and teacher assessment for the waiver-versions of NCLB "still centers on standardized test scores because it mandates that teacher evaluations be based largely on test scores." This can be destructive because by focusing on test scores, teachers are penalized for choosing to work with the students who are most in need - encouraging teachers, even those who want to work with more at-risk kids, to move to higher scoring districts, said Trujillo.

NCLB requires schools to hit certain benchmarks measured by standardized test scores in order to receive certain kinds of funding. Assessments are required of the states to show they have reached the benchmarks - one of which was to reach 100% proficiency in math and reading by 2014, a requirement almost unanimously maligned by education experts. Though the waiver removes the 2014 proficiency-for-all deadline, the focus on assessment through standardized testing remains.

"The Obama administration says it wants more innovative and passionate and creative teaching but anytime you tie the consequences to school performance on test scores, you encourage narrowing of the curriculum."

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Filed under: NCLB • Policy • Testing
February 13th, 2012
01:31 PM ET

Perry: President caved on 'No Child Left Behind'

CNN Education Contributor Steve Perry on why he disagrees with President Obama's decision to issue waivers for 'No Child Left Behind' requirements.

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Filed under: NCLB • Perry's Principles • Policy • video • Voices
February 9th, 2012
05:24 PM ET

10 states freed from 'No Child Left Behind' requirements

by the CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - Ten states are being granted waivers to free them from some requirements of the No Child Left Behind education reform law, with President Barack Obama explaining Thursday that the move aims to "combine greater freedom with greater accountability."

Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee will no longer have to meet 2014 targets set by the law.

In exchange for that flexibility, the states "have agreed to raise standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness," the White House said in a statement Thursday morning.

Obama elaborated on the rationale for the decision later in the day, speaking at a White House event attended by teachers and school superintendents.

He stressed that his administration remains committed to the overarching goals of raising standards and closing the achievement gap in the nation's public schools. At the same time, "We determined we need a different approach" than what was prescribed by the landmark legislation.

"We've offered every state the same deal: We've said, if you're willing to set higher, more honest standards then we're going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards," Obama said.

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Five minute primer: No Child Left Behind
President Barack Obama shakes hands with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan while speaking at an event on reform of the No Child Left Behind Act in September 2011.
February 9th, 2012
11:15 AM ET

Five minute primer: No Child Left Behind

by Donna Krache, CNN

Update: President Obama announced today that ten states have qualified for waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates.  In exchange for this flexibility, the states will implement accountability, raise standards and improve teacher effectiveness.  The NCLB primer that follows was first published last month, on the tenth anniversary of the law's signing.

(CNN) Ten years ago, on January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law.  Since then, the law has been the topic of numerous discussions among lawmakers, educators and parents. Want to know more about it?  If you’ve got five minutes, you can learn the basics of NCLB here. Read on.


NCLB, as it came to be called, enjoyed bipartisan support in its early days. Although it is often associated with President George W. Bush, one of its sponsors was the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts. The bill was actually an update of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was aimed at supporting disadvantaged students in low-income area schools. ESEA was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. With Bush’s signature in 2002, NCLB became the most sweeping federal legislation on education, with far-reaching impact in the nation’s schools.


There are many provisions to NCLB, including sections on safe and drug-free schools and parental involvement, but its intention is to drive and measure student achievement.  At the heart of the law is a mandate for accountability and measured student outcomes, derived primarily from state-administered standardized tests that are given annually in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading.

Under NCLB, all schools are striving toward “100 percent proficiency” in math and reading by the 2013-2014 school year. That means that all students must perform to satisfaction on state tests in these subject areas by spring 2014.  Since this provision went into effect, states have set their own benchmarks toward achieving the 100% goal. The yearly benchmarks are called Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP.

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Filed under: NCLB • Policy
January 9th, 2012
10:19 AM ET

Ten years of No Child Left Behind

On CNN air:  Carl Azuz talks to Gary Tuchman about the goals, shortcomings and impact of No Child Left Behind ten years after its signing.

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Filed under: Carl Azuz • NCLB • On air • Policy • video • Voices
House Republicans release No Child Left Behind draft legislation
January 8th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

House Republicans release No Child Left Behind draft legislation

By Sally Holland, CNN

Washington (CNN) – House Republicans released draft legislation on Friday that they claim will address some of the weaknesses in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); shifting the responsibility for student achievement to states, school districts and parents, and removing the system of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under which students are currently assessed.

Sunday, January 8, is the tenth anniversary of the latest version of the ESEA, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act. It has been in need for re-authorization since 2007. Last summer, Democrats in the Senate released their draft of re-authorization legislation.

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