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NCLB Waivers Renewed for Four States; South Dakota's Put on 'High Risk'

And then there were five. The U.S. Department of Education approved Friday additional renewals of state flexibility from mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act for Florida, Idaho, Ohio, and South Dakota, leaving just a handful of waiver states waiting in the wings.

Unlike last week's renewals, in which each state locked in generous three-year waiver extensions, this round of states secured only one-year renewals. And South Dakota's waiver was put on "high-risk" status.

The Education Department said that each of the states is making progress when it comes to college- and career-ready standards and assessments, differentiated systems of recognition, accountability, and teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. But they also all need more time to make additional adjustments to fully meet waiver commitments.

"To that end, some states are receiving one-year renewals while they continue finalizing their plans for the future, and South Dakota's waiver is being put on high-risk because of serious problems with its guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems," the department said in its press release.

The Education Department specifically cited South Dakota for its lack of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations.

To maintain its waiver, the department's letter said, South Dakota must submit by January 2016 plans that will lead to the inclusion of student growth based on student performance data in its principal and teacher evaluation systems.

The department dinged Ohio with similar grievances, writing in its renewal letter that if the state is able to demonstrate it has a strong plan in place to implement a teacher and principal evaluation system based on gains in student test scores, then department officials will consider it extending its waiver for additional years.

As an aside, Ohio's waiver extension comes as a group of districts fed up with what they see as policies from state and national lawmakers that bog teachers down band together to push for greater local control.

The Buckeye State, whose governor, John Kasich, is running for president, also recently pulled out of the common-core aligned test (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) for the 2015-16 school year.

As for Florida, the Education Department criticized its inability to comply with current law requiring the state to include recently arrived English-learners in its accountability system no later than their second year enrolled in schools. If the Sunshine State submits a plan for how it plans to address the issues, department officials will consider it extending its waiver for additional years.

In a press release, the department had some good things to say about each state:

  • For Florida, the department applauded the state's decision to increase the number of high school courses available to middle school students, which it credits with increasing of the number of students in grades 6 to 8 who have taken the high school courses and end-of course assessments. The department also gave props to the state education department's office of communications for a new website it developed that includes materials and videos about what quality standards-based instruction looks like.
  • For Idaho, the department commended its use of the waiver to expand access to early-childhood education.
  • For Ohio, the department touted efforts to reduce testing time and ensure alignment between what happens in the classroom and what is assessed. For example, the state now allows middle school students who are taking advanced courses, like Algebra I, to take the corresponding end-of-course, high school-level assessment instead of the typically required middle school assessment. The department was also pleased with how the state developed its plan to support its lowest-performing school districts.
  • For South Dakota, the department cheered the state education department's reorganization efforts, including working more collaboratively between divisions in the department.  

In all, 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have received a waiver from the NCLB law. Five states are still waiting for renewals.

Having trouble keeping track of all this? We got a map for that!

waiver map.PNG

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