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What Changes Are Early-Bird NCLB Waiver-Renewal States Seeking?

Happy No Child Left Behind waiver-renewal application due date! (Okay, fine, that's not an official holiday). But whether it's cause for celebration or not, nearly every state that wants to hang on to its waiver is supposed to get its application in by March 31.  

And, as we've told you before, most states are interested in keeping their NCLB waivers, although Texas isn't making the changes to its teacher-evaluation system that the department asked for. And as of earlier this month, Louisiana hadn't decided yet whether to apply for the flexibility. What's more, Georgia and Utah aren't neccesarily going for the full three-year renewal available to most states. Instead, they're only seeking a one-year renewal, which will give them time to decide whether to hang on to the waiver or ditch it. (UPDATE: Georgia had said earlier this spring it was only going for a one year extension, but it's now mulling its timetable.)

What's more, Idaho may wait to file its application until the end of April, according to the Associated Press. The Gem State wants to tweak its accountability system to give weight to factors like attendance and social and emotional growth (something a cadre of districts in California measure as part of its waiver now.)

Earlier this month, we highlighted testing asks in Colorado and a request to push back incorporating test scores into evaluations in Connecticut. 

Meanwhile, the four states that were eligible for a fast-track, extra special waiver renewal as a reward for staying on track with their teacher evaluations—Kentucky, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Virginia—could find out soon whether they get to keep their waivers for an additional four years. One other state, Minnesota, was also given a chance to apply under the early bird option, according to its state education agency website.

So what, if any, changes are those states asking for? The first batch of NCLB waiver states to file renewal applications are generally seeking modest changes, as opposed to big revisions. 

Here are some of the highlights of their applications:

  • Kentucky, which was one of three states cited in a report by the Education Trust for designing a waiver accountability plan that didn't sufficiently take into account subgroup student performance, wants to add a twist to its system. Schools would get credit for reducing the number of students scoring at the "novice" (lowest) level on state tests, and for moving students into a higher level. On the flip side, schools would lose points if students slip from a higher level into "novice" or "apprentice" (second lowest) level. Kentucky is also proposing to tweak its teacher-evaluation system, so an educator with a low rating when it comes to moving the needle on student achievement can't be considered "accomplished" under the system. The state also provided a more detailed account of how it is helping English-language learners, students with disabilities, and other students make the transition to college-and-career ready standards. For instance, Kentucky would require schools to come up with a specific plan to help any high school seniors who did not meet ACT benchmarks as juniors.
  • Minnesota, which has generally had a great waiver experience, wants to lower the number of students needed in a particular subgroup of students from 40 to 20, according to a press release on the renewal application. (I had no luck finding Minnesota's or New Mexico's full applications online, but I will update the post if I'm able to get ahold of them.)  
  • North Carolina's waiver renewal application includes an update on the state's recent work in choosing a new assessment, and information about its review of the common-core standards. It also adding language prohibiting Title I schools from receiving the highest rating in the state's accountability system if there are big gaps between subgroups and the student population as a whole. (That appears to be in response to a change that the Education Department required of every state seeking a waiver renewal.) The Tar Heel state is also seeking a little help with the the 95 percent participation rate for state assessments, in part because one of its tests, the ACT, is only given on a limited number of days. And the state is mulling incorporating student surveys into its teacher-evaluation system.
  • Virginia added language to its waiver making it clear that improvement plans for so-called "focus schools" (schools that are struggling in some area but aren't among the worst in the state) have to address the needs of English-language learners, students in special education, and other subgroup students. It's also added information about an early-intervention reading initiative for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Virginia is also hoping to change the way student growth is calculated in its teacher evaluation system, to a measure that the state hopes will provide more timely, understandable information. 
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