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NCLB Waivers: Accountability Issues to Watch

The Center on Education Policy, now housed at George Washington University, has issued a new report that identifies five possible trouble spots as 33 states plus the District of Columbia implement their waiver plans under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Titled "Accountability Issues to Watch Under NCLB Waivers," the report warns that:

  • New goals that allow states to be more realistic than NCLB's original goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and math also mean there may be lower expectations for some at-risk groups of students. In addition, the new accountability systems are so complex that they may create "an environment for subterfuge and make it easier for states to mask poor academic performance." (This is an issue we've also flagged as problematic.)

  • Allowing states to combine small subgroups of students into larger at-risk groups may reduce the focus on the unique needs of smaller subgroups. (This is an issue we've written about extensively.)

  • The new accountability systems will likely result in fewer schools being identified for interventions.

  • Although adopting common standards and tests will eventually lead to greater uniformity, states have different timelines and policies for making those transitions.

  • The presidential election and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which NCLB is the current version, could upend the whole process. (For more about the future of waivers under a Mitt Romney administration, see my just-published story.)

For more background on these issues, see the center's second report called: "What Impact Will NCLB Waivers Have on the Consistency, Complexity and Transparency of State Accountability Systems?"

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