RELEASE: CAP Report Examines State Education Waiver Applications
Washington, D.C. — Today, a new report from the Center for American Progress provides a first look at applications from 11 states to waive requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. In September, President Barack Obama announced that he will offer states relief from some requirements of No Child Left Behind since Congress has yet to revise the law. In exchange for increased flexibility, states are required to make specific reforms. The administration has been clear that it wants states to engage in “ambitious but achievable” reforms rather than merely asking for a pass from the law.
The report released today, titled "No Child Left Behind Waiver Applications: Are they Ambitious and Achievable?", outlines what states must submit in their applications and summarizes key elements of what states proposed. In addition to examining how ambitious and achievable their accountability and evaluation proposals were, the report identifies the strengths, weaknesses, and questions left unanswered in each of the states’ applications. Although the report does not use a strict rubric to evaluate the proposals, it does rank each state’s application in one of the three following categories:
- "Stand out" applications: Applications from Massachusetts and Tennessee stood out from the rest for their clear goals and ready-to-implement evaluation systems.
- "Middle of the pack" applications: Applications from Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, and New Mexico had some positives, but also some negatives.
- Applications in need of more detail: Applications from Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Oklahoma should strengthen their applications by providing more detail before they are approved.
“States are embarking on a huge experiment to reform their accountability and teacher evaluation systems, which will set the tone for the next few years,” said Jeremy Ayers, Senior Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress and author of the report. “Our nation’s students have a lot riding on whether or not these experiments are rigorous, as well as realistic.”
The report concludes with findings that span the applications and provides the following recommendations for the Department of Education:
- Do not rush to approve every application. States are clamoring for relief from federal requirements, but the department should keep the bar high so that states indeed make ambitious reforms.
- Ask for more information. Some states should clarify how they will treat student subgroups in accountability systems, how prepared they are to implement evaluation reforms, and how they plan to reduce administrative burden on districts and schools. None of the 11 states described specific plans for reducing burden.
- Proceed with caution. States have proposed new ways to treat student sub-groups and to rate schools in accountability systems. This could provide better focus for school improvement efforts or divert crucial attention from historically disadvantaged students or key achievement measures. The secretary should carefully distinguish those plans that enhance subgroups and school accountability from those that backtrack.
To speak with the CAP experts on this topic, contact Katie Peters at email@example.com or 202.741.6285.