Archives for category: Federal Waiver

Washington State declined to ask Arne Duncan for a waiver from NCLB because the legislature thought that the price was too high. In exchange for gaining freedom from NCLB’s demand that 100% of students would be proficient by 2014, the state would have to agree to endorse Arne Duncan’s inane idea that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students. Apparently some wise policy makers saw the research and the universal failure of Duncan’s idea and said “no thanks.”

Now virtually every school in the state of Washington is a “failing school.”

The superintendents are required to send a letter to parents informing them that their child attends a failing school. But 28 superintendents sent a cover letter explaining that the law required them to say something untrue.

““Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working,” the cover letter states. The letter is signed by John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, which represents the 28 districts.

“The signees include many of the larger school districts in King and Pierce counties, such as Bellevue, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Lake Washington, Northshore, Renton and Tacoma.
They announced the protest letter at an event Wednesday.

“Seattle Public Schools did not sign it, but supports the letter’s sentiments, a spokeswoman said.”

NCLB is a pathetic hoax that was intended to label almost every school in the nation a failing school. Kudos to the superintendents of Washington State for standing up to abusive federal power—not only NCLB but the coercive waiver too.

28 superintendents in Washington state join the honor roll for courage in support of public education.

This is a good news story about a state commissioner of education who stood up and said, with quiet determination, that the emperor has no clothes.

That state commissioner is Rebecca Holcombe of Vermont. She wrote a clear and eloquent letter to the parents and caregivers of Vermont, explaining the punitive and incoherent nature of federal education policy, which (under NCLB) requires that every single school in Vermont be labeled low-performing, even though many national and international measures show that Vermont is a high-performing state. She explained that Vermont refused to apply for a waiver from NCLB offered by Secretary Duncan because it would have forced the state to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores, which is unreliable and unfair to teachers and students.

Commissioner Holcombe wrote that Vermont believes that schools have purposes that are no less important (and perhaps more important) than test scores.

For her thoughtfulness, her integrity, her devotion to children, her understanding of the broad aims of education, and her courage in standing firm against ruinous federal policies, Rebecca Holcombe is a hero of American education. Most people go along with the crowd, even when doing so violates their sense of personal and professional ethics. Not Commissioner Holcombe. If our nation had more state commissioners like her, it would save our children from a mindless culture of test and punish that the federal department of education has imposed on them and our nation’s schools.

This is the letter that State Commissioner Holcombe wrote to every parent and caregiver in Vermont:

“Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), as of 2014, if only one child in your school does not score as “proficient” on state tests, then your school must be “identified” as “low performing” under federal law. This year, every school whose students took the NECAP tests last year is now considered a “low performing” school by the US Department of Education. A small group of schools were not affected by this policy this year because they helped pilot the new state assessment and so did not take the NECAPs last year. Because these schools had their federal AYP status frozen at 2013 levels, eight schools are not yet identified as low performing by federal criteria. However, had these school taken the NECAPs as well, it is likely that every single school in the state would have to be classified as “low performing” according to federal guidelines.

The Vermont Agency of Education does not agree with this federal policy, nor do we agree that all of our schools are low performing.

In 2013, the federal Education Department released a study comparing the performance of US states to the 47 countries that participated in the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, one of the two large international comparative assessments. Vermont ranked 7th in the world in eighth-grade mathematics and 4th in science. Only Massachusetts, which has a comparable child poverty rate, did better.

“On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Vermont consistently ranks at the highest levels. We have the best graduation rate in the nation and are ranked second in child well-being.

“Just this week, a social media company that compares financial products (WalletHub) analyzed twelve different quality metrics and ranked Vermont’s school system third in the nation in terms school performance and outcomes.

“Nevertheless, if we fail to announce that each Vermont school is “low performing,” we jeopardize federal funding for elementary and secondary education. The “low performing” label brings with it a number of mandatory sanctions, which your principal is required to explain to you. This policy does not serve the interest of Vermont schools, nor does it advance our economic or social well-being. Further, it takes our focus away from other measures that give us more meaningful and useful data on school effectiveness.

“It is not realistic to expect every single tested child in every school to score as proficient. Some of our students are very capable, but may have unique learning needs that make it difficult for them to accurately demonstrate their strengths on a standardized test. Some of our children survived traumatic events that preclude good performance on the test when it is administered. Some of our students recently arrived from other countries, and have many valuable talents but may not yet have a good grasp of the academic English used on our assessments. And, some of our students are just kids who for whatever reason are not interested in demonstrating their best work on a standardized test on a given day.

“We know that statewide, our biggest challenge is finding better ways to engage and support the learning of children living in poverty. Our students from families with means and parents with more education, consistently are among the top performing in the country. However, federal NCLB policy has not helped our schools improve learning or narrow the gaps we see in our data between children living in poverty and children from more affluent families. We need a different approach that actually works.”

What are the alternatives? Most other states have received a waiver to get out from under the broken NCLB policy. They did this by agreeing to evaluate their teachers and principals based on the standardized test scores of their students. Vermont is one of only 5 states that do not have a waiver at this time. We chose not to agree to a waiver for a lot of reasons, including that the research we have read on evaluating teachers based on test scores suggests these methods are unreliable in classes with 15 or fewer students, and this represents about 40-50% of our classes. It would be unfair to our students to automatically fire their educators based on technically inadequate tools. Also, there is evidence suggesting that over-relying on test-based evaluation might fail to credit educators for doing things we actually want them to do, such as teach a rich curriculum across all important subject areas, and not just math and English language arts. In fact, nation-wide, we expect more and more states to give up these waivers for many of the reasons we chose not to pursue one in the first place.

Like other Vermont educators, I am deeply committed to continuously improving our schools and the professional skill of our teachers. I have heard from principals and teachers across the state who are deeply committed to developing better ways of teaching and working with parents and other organizations to ensure that every child’s basic needs are met. If basic needs are not met, children cannot take advantage of opportunities that we provide in school. However, the federal law narrows our vision of schools and what we should be about. Ironically, the only way a school could pass the NCLB criteria would be to leave some children behind – to exclude some of the students who come to our doors. That is something public schools in Vermont will not do.

Matching Our Measures to Our Purpose

Certainly, we know tests are an important part of our tool kit, but they do not capture everything that is important for our children to learn. With this in mind, our State Board of Education clearly outlined five additional education priorities in our new Education Quality Standards, including scientific inquiry, citizenship, physical health and wellness, artistic expression and 21st century transferable skills.

As parents and caregivers, we embrace a broader vision for our children than that defined in federal policy. Thus, we encourage you to look at your own child’s individual growth and learning, along with evidence your school has provided related to your child’s progress. Below are some questions to consider:

• What evidence does your school provide of your child’s growing proficiency?

• Is your child developing the skills and understanding she needs to thrive in school and
the community?

• Are graduates of your school system prepared to succeed in college and/or careers?

• Is your child happy to go to school and engaged in learning?

• Can your child explain what he is learning and why? Can your child give examples of
skills he has mastered?

• Is your child developing good work habits? Does she understand that practice leads to
better performance?

• Does your child feel his work in school is related to his college and career goals?

• Does your child have one adult at the school whom she trusts and who is committed to
her success?

• If you have concerns, have you reached out to your child’s teacher to share your
perspective?

Be engaged with your school, look at evidence of your own child’s learning, and work with your local educators to ensure that every child is challenged and supported, learning and thriving. Schools prosper when parents are involved as the first teachers of their children.

The State’s Obligation to Our Children

Working with the Governor, the State Board, the General Assembly and other agencies, and most importantly, with educators across the state, the Agency of Education will invite schools across the state to come together to innovate and improve our schools. We hope your school will volunteer to help develop and use a variety of other measures that will give parents, citizens and educators better information on student learning and what we can do to personalize and make it better. These measures include:

• collaborative school visits by teams of peers, to support research, professional learning and sharing of innovative ideas,

• personalization of learning through projects and performance assessments of proficiency,

• gathering and sharing of feedback from teachers, parents and students related to school climate and culture, student engagement and opportunities for self-directed learning,

• providing teachers and administrators standards-based feedback on the effectiveness of their instruction,

• developing personalized learning plans that involve students in defining how they will demonstrate they are ready to graduate, and basing graduation on these personalized assessments of proficiency rather than “seat-time”,

• analyzing growth and improvement at the Supervisory level as well as the school level, to identify systems that seem to be fostering greater growth in students, as a way of identifying and sharing promising practices across schools.

Vermont has a proud and distinguished educational history, but we know we can always do better. We are committed to supporting our schools as they find more effective and more engaging ways to improve the skills and knowledge of our children. As we have done before, we intend to draw on the tremendous professional capability of teachers across the state as we work to continuously improve our schools. Our strength has always been our ingenuity and persistence. In spite of federal policies that poorly fit the unique nature of Vermont, let’s continue to work together to build great schools that prepare our children to be productive citizens and contributors to our society

The centerpiece of Race to the Top is evaluating teachers by test scores. The students of good teachers, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama believe, get higher scores. If they have low scores, it is the fault of bad teachers. There was no evidence for their beliefs, other than the speculations of economists and statisticians. Real teachers never believed the theory, because they know that many favors affect test scores, not just teachers.

Thirty five states and DC followed Duncan’s lead, even though his hunch lacked any evidence . Lyndsey Layton has a comprehensive article in today’s Washington Post, describing the latest study to disprove Duncan’s theory.

Spurred on by Duncan, many states now use test scores to determine tenure and compensation. Duncan recently said he wants to judge the quality of teacher education programs by the test scores of students taught by their graduates.

Secretary Duncan’s love affair with standardized testing is inexplicable. There can be no question that he has caused immense damage to children, teachers, and public education.

Washington State thoughtfully rejected Arne Duncan’s threat to cancel its waiver from the absurd demands of No Child Left Behind. The decision to say no to federal demands and intimidation was bipartisan.

The Legislature refused to bend to Duncan’s insistence that the state adopt test-based evaluation, which has consistently failed across the nation and has been declared inaccurate by the nation’s leading scholarly organizations.

The Washington State legislature understands federalism. Secretary Duncan does not. He thinks he is charge of the nation’s schools–every one f them. As someone who spent eight years running the Chicago public school system, one of the nation’s lowest-performing, he should have earned humility. Unfortunately, he enjoys a sense of certainty that is astonishing, almost as astonishing as his indifference to research and evidence.

The sense of the Washington State legislature was succinctly expressed by Chris Rekydal, a Democrat.

Unlike Duncan, Rekydal understands that the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution leaves education policy to states and localities.

He said in a statement:

“As a legislator who voted for our state’s robust home-grown teacher-principal evaluation system and one of the authors of our state’s new rigorous 24-credit graduation framework, I am disappointed in the federal government’s decision to repeal our waiver.

“This is a tremendous moment in our nation’s history where a state that strongly supported the President in 2008 and again in 2012 soundly rejected the federal government’s demands to structure our teacher-principal evaluation system to the specific criteria established by the U.S. Dept. of Education.

“My message to President Obama and Secretary Duncan is that Washington State is committed to education reform that is collaborative, bipartisan, and focused on student success and teacher growth. Our legislative decision to reject the federal government’s demands was done with substantial deliberation and a deep respect for state and local control.

“The bipartisan rejection of this federal government demand during the 2014 legislative session is a strong and unifying message that our state fully embraces our constitutional 10th Amendment guarantee to develop, fund, and administer our state’s education system as the citizens of the state of Washington and their elected representatives determine, not as federal officials deem it appropriate.

“Washington State has one of the leading K-12 systems in the United States. With 89% of our adult population having earned a high school diploma or greater, we are a national leader in student success, employment growth, and earnings.

“I strongly encourage federal officials to use this moment in history to model Washington State’s success instead of using us as an example of federal government power and leverage. I challenge the federal government to turn a corner on education reform, fix the deeply-flawed and failed No Child Left Behind Act, and get back to empowering the states instead of coercing them.

“No Child Left Behind is a failed policy of the Bush administration that focuses on student failure and school punishment. This is no way to run a public education system. Enacting bad policy at the state level as a result of bad policy at the federal level will not help schools – and certainly won’t help students – be successful.”

 

Subject: POLITICO Breaking News

The Education Department is pulling Washington state’s No Child Left Behind waiver because the state has not met the department’s timeline for tying teacher evaluations to student performance metrics.

Washington is the first state to lose its waiver. The loss will give local districts less flexibility in using federal funds. For instance, they may now be required to spend millions on private tutoring services for at-risk students. The waiver revocation could also result in nearly every school across the state being labeled as failing under NCLB.

Washington had pledged in its waiver application to make student growth a significant factor in teacher and principal evaluations by the 2014-15 school year. But the state Legislature refused to pass a bill mandating that student performance on statewide assessments be included in teacher evaluations. The department placed the state on “high-risk” status in August. Arizona, Kansas and Oregon are also at risk of losing their waivers.

For more information… http://www.politico.com

 

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan handed out numerous waivers to states to avoid the 2014 deadline in the No Child Left Behind law.

Under the law, every state must assure that every single child in grades 3-8 is proficient on state tests of reading and mathematics.

No state met the deadline. If the law remains in effect (it was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007, but gets extended year after year), every state would be declared a failed state, and virtually every public school in the United States would be closed or privatized or suffer some other sanction for failing to meet an impossible goal. It bears pointing out that no nation in the world can claim that 100% of its students are proficient in reading and math.

But Duncan didn’t hand out waivers wholesale. Instead, he made the waiver conditional on the state agreeing to accept his conditions, which were similar to the conditions in Race to the Top. In effect, states are now following Race to the Top requirements but without the prize money.

One of the central conditions of the waiver, like Race to the Top, was that states must agree to evaluate their teachers and principals based to a significant degree on the test scores of their students.

Washington State has failed to create such a system. Today Arne Duncan withdrew Washington State’s NCLB waiver to punish it for failing to do as he demanded.

Perhaps legislators in Washington State noticed that this method of evaluating teachers and principals has failed wherever it was tried.

Perhaps they read the joint report of the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association, which cautioned that “value-added measurement” was inaccurate and unstable, and that it measures who is in the classroom rather than teacher quality. The legislators probably did not have a chance to read the recent report of the American Statistical Association, which also cautioned on the use of VAM, because of its imprecision and its unintended effects. But they may have read Stanford Professor Edward Haertel’s advice that states should not set numerical percentages for the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. All of these reports reach the same conclusion: that Duncan’s favorite solution to raising teacher quality does not have evidence to support it.

Let’s hope that Washington State says no to the illegitimate demands of the Secretary of Education. Duncan is overreaching. He is not the nation’s superintendent of schools. He should learn about federalism and about the limited role of the federal government in the area of education.

Meanwhile, I hope that the state of Washington sues the Secretary of Education and helps him learn about federalism and about the importance of evidence in policymaking.

Here is Duncan’s official letter to Washington State, notifying them that they are being punished for defying his orders.

Here is Peter Greene’s deconstruction of Arne Duncan’s letter to Washington State: read here.

Arne Duncan may withdraw the waiver he extended to Washington State because it failed to adopt a test-based teacher evaluation system, as he demanded.

The first question is, what this will mean for Washington State, should Duncan withdraw the waiver? If the state reverts to the requirements of NCLB, then very likely every school and every district will be a “failing” school or district and therefore subject to draconian punishments, such as state takeover, takeover by a private management company, takeover by charter operators, or closure. In short, the entire state public school system would be privatized, subject to state control, or closed. The utter absurdity of NCLB would be on public display for all to see. That might be a valuable lesson for the nation, helping to hasten an end to a failed law.

Another interesting question that the Washington State issue raises is where Arne Duncan got the authority to set the terms of waivers from the law. Did Congress say he could do it? I don’t think so. Is it legal for him to create conditions that mirror Race to the Top requirements but without RTTT funding? Congress might want to know the answer to that question, especially Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who will not be happy to see her entire state branded a failure. Senator Murray is chair of the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee.

Third, why should he revoke his legally dubious waiver because a state fails to enact a program that has consistently failed wherever it was tried? Evaluating teachers by test scores has not worked anywhere, has received negative reviews from most education researchers, yet Duncan clings to it with religious faith.

Why should Washington State be punished for demonstrating good judgment, wisdom, and critical thinking?

A teacher in North Carolina left this comment:

NC has requested a waiver that even though we are now on the new evaluation system (which, interestingly, is continuously being reworked (Home Base) because Pearson is still getting kinks out—-possibly another one of those airplanes being built in the air)—anyway, the waiver would allow that even though the online evaluator system (which I assume factors in test scores) is up and running (sort of) that it not be used to make personnel decisions until 2016-2017.
It seems to be the era of mandates that are impossible, and then a series of waivers to get out of them. It seems like a parent making ridiculous parameters for children, but then constantly giving passes to work around them.
Most want to still blame everything on W. I cannot accept that. What is going on right now has nothing to do with W, directly speaking. There was an opportunity, I am assuming, to move away from NCLB and instead we are even deeper into that type of mandating and waivering (wavering).
Platitudes never seem viable. To me they just indicate posturing on the part of decision-makers.
While it may be wiser to vote for Democrats in NC in you are pro-public school, I am still waiting for Democrats to take ownership in some of the troubles we are seeing.

Add to that—while teachers can always improve, I will say that as an institution public school is far more sophisticated than any reformer would ever want to admit. I read over the stack of IEPs yesterday provided to me by the special ed teachers (because I am on the team of teachers who teach the children and therefore need to know about accommodations, modifications, behavior patterns etc) and I was thinking to myself that no matter what kind of undergraduate education a young graduate has had, a building full of inexperienced educators (such as a charter could be—not sure that they ever have been), could not possibly offer the services to special education students that a well-established public school can. The problem is right now there are ideas that want to treat everyone the same. And we are risking throwing out the baby with the bathwater in a big way. A big, expensive way. We gotta figure this out. And we can’t just blame it on W.

Education Week reports that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has tightened the screws on states and districts that get a waiver from NCLB issued by him.

They must comply with his interpretation of teacher quality and must reaffirm their commitment to Common Core (“college=and-career-readiness standards”), while upping the ante on accountability.

Based on his experience in Chicago, Duncan seems certain that more carrots and more sticks will do the trick.

The waivers enable him to impose Race to the Top requirements on every state, even those that won no money at all.

Blogger Yinzercation reports that Pennsylvania finally got its waivers from No Child Left Behind’s irrational goals of 100% success, only to face the equally punitive regime crafted by the Obama administration.

ATP (Adequate Yearly Progress) will be replaced by SPP (Student Performance Profile). Three of the four new measures are based on standardized tests. No surprise there. Love those tests

“This new SPP system will label schools without providing any real help for struggling students. If a school receives federal Title I money (based on its proportion of poor students), it will be labeled “priority,” “focus,” or “reward.” All other schools will get a profile score. It’s not clear if that score will be a number or letter grade (A – F), which is very trendy right now among corporate-style-reformers who support vouchers, charter-expansion, school closure, and other privatization efforts. Either way, the bottom line is these rating systems do not appear to work and are definitely subject to cheating.”

She points to research by Matthew Di Carlo showing that such grading systems typically identify schools serving minority communities as low-performing, setting them up for closure or privatization.

Governor Corbett boasted that the new measures would bring help to struggling schools.

Yinzercation asks, “Hello, what? Where is the money to hire back our teachers, school counselors, nurses, and librarians? How about some funding for our after-school tutoring programs we had to cut? And early childhood education? Maybe SPP should stand for Stupid Public Policy.”

And she adds: “I worry that SPP will just replace AYP: with more high-stakes-testing, more labeling-and-punishing schools, more blaming teachers, and still no results for our kids.”

I don’t understand this story.

It says that “civil rights groups” demand that Arne Duncan turn down a request for a waiver from a group of districts in California.

Since high-stakes testing invariably ends up with poor and minority kids at the bottom of the bell curve, it is hard for me to understand why civil rights groups would demand more of it.

Since accountability typically means that schools enrolling the neediest kids get closed, why would civil rights groups want more of it?

Since high stakes accountability invariably means that those who teach the most vulnerable children are likely to be fired, why would civil rights groups want more of it?

One possible answer to the puzzle is that Democrats for Education Reform is listed as a “civil rights group.” DFER is an organization created by Wall Street hedge fund managers to promote more charter schools and more testing (but not necessarily for those who teach in charter schools). Just recently, the California Democratic Party singled out DFER and StudentsFirst as fronts for Republicans and corporations.

Maybe this letter to Duncan is DFER’s revenge on California. (DFER recommended Duncan to Obama for his job as Secretary of Education.)

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