The NCLB Waiver Fix

November 20, 2012 at 9:45 AM Leave a comment

NCLB waivers allow States to create modified goals for achievement. However, it appears many State and Federal education leaders have missed the point. State level goals that institutionalize an achievement gap among different populations of students cannot be defended. Each state must set a target for baseline achievement for all populations by some date, which is no longer 2014. How each district deals with its own history and revises its benchmarks is a State matter.

NCLB achievement goals were set to define the lowest common denominator among students.  Any State-level regulator who proposes discrimination in goal-setting either is unclear on the concept or views its populations of students to be structurally unequal. Marginalizing students and under-serving them is not the American way. All students must pass the hurdle of a single “lowest common denominator.”

State-level goals that vary by demographic pool fail at two levels:

  • They institutionalize demographic achievement gaps, which is unconstitutional.
  • They reset the lowest common denominator within populations at some weighted average of past achievement across districts, thereby actually lowering the target for districts which have been making higher than average progress.

States that have received NCLB waivers should have latitude in how they deal with individual districts. However, the only demonstrable district targets should be (1) the redefined timetable for baseline proficiency for ALL populations, and (2) the benchmarks for accelerated progress toward baseline proficiency within any population that has fallen behind under NCLB.

Secretary Duncan has said that district-level NCLB waivers do not make sense. I, on the other hand, think that the district is the only place where variances should be tolerated even temporarily. Perhaps our point of agreement is that the State should be allowed input into resetting the NCLB timeline under Federal oversight. Then, it is the State’s prerogative to define a process that ensures realignment of individual district goals with that vision.

And, btw, don’t forget to keep going all you overachievers out there!

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Entry filed under: Issues and Ideas.

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