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NCLB Waiver for CORE Districts Is Bad Policy, 'Insiders' Say

Three-quarters of Washington "insiders" say U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's decision to grant a special waiver to eight California districts is bad policy.

That's according to the latest Whiteboard Advisers's survey of mostly inside-the-Beltway folks, who have some harsh things to say about the No Child Left Behind Act waiver granted by the Education Department on Aug. 6.

A sample of their criticism:

  • "Is there nothing they won't permit? Why CORE but not Burlington, Vermont? Why push for common standards but permit so much local control in how you collect and use data and what you measure?"
  • "Terrible decision, so many implications outside of just the districts. It was plausible before to argue against federal overreach; now it's nearly impossible."
  • "The waiver was not well put together, the process for approval wasn't transparent, it doesn't maintain accountability. In other words it does none of the things the Secretary of Education keeps piously saying that the waivers all do."
  • "Terrible. At this point, the Department is just making things up as they go along. It's impossible to discern a coherent strategy. [Race to the Top] for states, for districts; waivers for states, for districts. They are leaving federal education policy a complete shambles."
  • "Just imagine what a Republican president will do with this authority and what Arne Duncan as a school leader would have said."

The kindest things these insiders had to say?

  • "The California Department of Education couldn't get its act together, and the CORE districts needed relief. If the waiver allows them to adopt better policies to serve kids without removing state accountability requirements, it's fine with me."
  • "ED really had no choice, if it was to keep forward motion going."

To be sure, these people are mostly Washington insiders but (probably) California outsiders. Support is naturally stronger in California, where folks including the state chapter of the advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform and the state association of school administrators support the waiver.

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