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California Denied NCLB Waiver, Now What?

California's request for a waiver from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act will be denied, according to this story in the San Jose Mercury News. Apparently, the state learned of this in a phone call from department officials the Friday before the Christmas holiday, but the official word hasn't gone out yet.

The denial of the waiver request is a really big deal. It means the most populous state in the country, with the biggest congressional delegation, will be stuck with the outdated, much maligned No Child Left Behind as it is for the forseeable future. And next school year is the 2013-14 school year, when all students were supposed to be at the proficiency level on state tests—so there will be many, many schools in the Golden State that will not meet their NCLB goals.

So why was California denied when more than 30 states plus the District of Columbia have been approved—and others have gotten a temporary reprieve while they work on their waiver applications? California's waiver request was different from almost everyone else's. The state tried to go its own way, essentially agreeing at least in part to two of the department's three principles—common standards and a differentiated accountability system with goals, while ignoring the third: a teacher evaluation system that takes student outcomes into account. Another large state—Texas—also went its own way.

Could California's denial put added pressure on the department to allow districts, like say, Los Angeles Unified, to apply for their own waivers? The department floated that idea earlier this year—and it met with some major pushback from state chiefs.

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