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Iowa Asks for 'One-Year Freeze' on NCLB Accountability

UPDATED

After being denied a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act by the U.S. Department of Education, Iowa has asked the department for a "one-year freeze" on state academic targets set under the law, the Associated Press is reporting.

It turns out that Iowa has very good reason to be optimistic about its request. The department is considering allowing states to have a one-year grace period like the one the state is seeking, provided that Iowa and any other state are definitely on board with the waiver conditional waiver process. To be eligible for the one year freeze, states have to take certain steps, such as adopting college-and-career ready standards, making data about student achievement gaps public, and sharing data about student growth with teachers. The option was designed to give states that are planning to apply for a waiver in the early fall a "transition year"— since Iowa has been participating in the waiver process in good faith, they may very well meet the department's criteria.

Last week, the state was denied a waiver because its state education agency could not enforce the requirement that teachers and principals be evaluated in part on student outcomes, as my colleague Alyson Klein reported over at Politics K-12. It marked the first time that a state was turned down by the department for a waiver, although Iowa department of education Director Jason Glass stressed that the federal agency only said the waiver could not be approved "at this time" and might be convinced to grant the waiver if lawmakers give the education agency the authority to enforce the evaluation requirement. Eighteen states had received waivers before Iowa's waiver request was denied.

In announcing the state's request to the department for the freeze, Glass said the move was only a stopgap measure until the state could final "permanent relief" from the "unrealistic accountability measures."

However, in the AP story I linked to earlier in the story, Glass does not mention the department's flexibility regarding the "one-year freeze," provided they play ball with the department. At the same time, it doesn't appear as though states that have declined to apply for a waiver, like California and Texas, will be allowed to seek the same delay. (Despite that plan, it doesn't appear as though Iowa has actually been granted the grace period yet.)

Those NCLB accountability measures require that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014, and schools that don't meet that goal face various sanctions.

Will the federal government anger Iowa officials twice by first rejecting a comprehensive waiver and then a one-year freeze? Stay tuned.

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