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Academic Bias, Recent News, U.S. Politics

No Child Left Behind Waivers Take States by Storm

Nationwide states are taking a different road for No Child Left Behind, with 34 states now having applied for or been granted NCLB waivers by the Obama Administration. In particular, Florida has come under fire for its publicized race-based education goals. As the New York Times notes, only eight of 34 states may have avoided this waiver provision.

According to Lizette Alvarez, reporting for the Times, “Florida is one of several states required to cut its achievement gap in half for all students by 2018, including those who are black, Hispanic, white, Asian, low-income, disabled or speak English as a second language.”

“[Florida] Education officials say the targets, set for 2018, have been largely misunderstood,” she reports.

“The end goal, they say, is that all students will be reading and doing math at grade level by 2023; the six-year goal is an interim step.”

“In Florida, halving the achievement gap means that by 2018, 72 percent of low-income children, 74 percent of black students, 81 percent of Hispanics, 88 percent of white students and 90 percent of Asians should be reading at grade level,” reports Alvarez. “The projected gains would be larger for those on the lower end of the scale.”

As noted in my previous blog entry, Florida has published educational goals separated by race for their schools in order to win a No Child Left Behind waiver from the Obama Administration.

“On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level,” reported Benjamin Fearnow for CBS Tampa on October 12.

Recently Education Week reported “that most of the states receiving NCLB waivers from the Obama administration have headed in the direction of establishing ‘annual measurable objectives’ — the replacement for adequate yearly progress — that differ by subgroup,” writes the Tampa Bay Times.

To be more specific, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility document (.doc) sent out by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last year grants states the opportunity to stop complying with ESEA sections 1116(a)(1)(A)-(B) and 1116(c)(1)(A). Instead, they could report using section ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(C)(v), which allows them to separate goals by race, economic status and disabilities. You can read the provisions at the links.

How many states have taken advantage of this opportunity? “But Florida is not alone in setting interim goals by race and other categories,” reports Alvarez. “An analysis this week by Education Week found that of the 34 states with new accountability plans, only 8 set the same targets for all students” (emphasis added).

You can find out if your state has applied for a waiver, and view the details of each proposal, by visiting http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/requests.

“The waivers allow for more realistic goals and delay the target date, in Florida’s case until 2023,” argues Alvarez for the Times. “In a recent speech, Arne Duncan, the federal secretary of education, said he was less concerned about how targets are set and more focused on the end result.”

“The result that matters most is whether kids are learning and gaps are narrowing,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, according to Alvarez. The Tampa Bay Times notes that President Obama recently said in an NBC broadcast that “The problem that you had was, because it was underresourced […] and because some kids were coming into school, a lot of minority kids were coming into school, already behind, the schools were not going to be meeting these standards, weren’t even coming close to meeting these standards.” However, this change–which allows states to set more lax educational goals for certain demographics–does seem to undercut the original intent of the No Child Left Behind law, which was engineered to ensure that all students receive a quality education, regardless of ethnic, socioeconomic, or geographical circumstances.

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