This fall, frustrated by the glacial pace of Congress in rewriting the decade-old No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education decided to go around it. The administration announced that until the law was revamped, it would grant states temporary relief from some of the act’s key provisions — such as the requirement for all students to be on track in reading and math by 2014 — if they agreed to adopt a set of school reforms.
But acquiring such relief could cost the state of California and its school districts well over $2 billion, even after potential savings are taken into account, California Department of Education staffers told the State Board of Education at a meeting today (For more detail on the CDE’s estimates, go to Item 5 on the previous link and open the Addendum document. The figures are listed on a chart on pages 8-14).
As I reported in September:
If California does apply for a waiver, it will have to rewrite a 40-year-old law that governs how teachers are evaluated in a way that satisfies the U.S. Department of Education’s standards. It will have to create a new accountability system that rewards the state’s best schools and helps the ones that are struggling the most, as well as schools with low graduation rates and the highest test score gaps between students of different backgrounds. It will also need to put in place new, national teaching standards designed to better prepare students for life after high school.
Some board members and public speakers said they were afraid California schools would go to great lengths and expense to receive a temporary waiver only to face a new set of rules when Congress finally reauthorizes the law.
NCLB, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was due to be rewritten in 2007. Four years later, there’s some momentum on a bipartisan reauthorization bill. But, as Education Week reported yesterday, it’s running into some opposition from Republican lawmakers as well as Democratic school reform groups.
Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 39 states have signaled their intent to apply for a waiver. Should California join them?
Representatives from the California Teachers Association and the California State PTA came out against the waiver, saying it was costly and potentially more restrictive than the current law. The Association of California School Administrators urged the board to apply at the end of the school year if Congress hasn’t reauthorized NCLB by then. Education Trust-West spoke in favor as well.
The state board wasn’t scheduled to make a decision today, and its next meeting isn’t scheduled until January. So unless something changes, it’s unlikely California would apply before the February deadline. It possible it will apply in June.
Still, even if the application is submitted in June and a reprieve is granted, it’s unclear when it would kick in. The timeline posted on the USDOE website say states must apply in February to receive flexibility by the end of the school year.
What would you advise the state board to do?