Iowa to Continue Seeking Federal Education Waiver
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa will continue its effort to get a waiver from the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act even though state laws governing teacher evaluations are likely why it hasn't received one, the state's education director said.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Tuesday granted exemptions to eight more states, bringing the total to 19 so far.
Federal waiver guidelines call for states to adopt teacher evaluation systems that incorporate student achievement results. They also require that school districts rank educators as being at one of three performance levels in the classroom.
Gov. Terry Branstad's education reform bill included evaluation proposals that would have met the guidelines. But the Legislature didn't adopt those proposals this year. Instead, the education reform bill signed into law last week called for a task force to study the issue and to offer recommendations to lawmakers during the 2013 session.
Iowa Education Director Jason Glass told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/JvPKEV ) that there are no plans to withdraw the waiver application.
"We're a long way from getting to the (federal government's) requirements on the evaluation component. That's the sticking point," he said.
States wanting to bypass NCLB penalties were first given the option in 2011 to propose alternative accountability systems. To gain approval, states must pass college- and career-readiness standards, create a new system for gauging academic performance and improve teacher evaluations.
"I think we're through with flying colors on the first two principles," Glass said. "The third principle is the issue."
Under the federal law, all children are required to be at grade level in math and reading by 2014. Schools that don't accomplish that goal face stiff penalties, including mandates to replace staff or a takeover by a state or a contracted private education firm.
Iowa's waiver request calls for student academic growth to be considered along with proficiency.
For many of the state's educators, the model is more palatable than NCLB.
Duncan has estimated that as many as 82 percent of the country's schools could be marked as failing in two years under NCLB standards.
No state's waiver application has yet been denied. Iowa's request was supported by several education interest groups, including School Administrators of Iowa, the Iowa Association of School Boards and the Urban Education Network of Iowa.
Many of the backers said they thought a state-specific student achievement system would be preferable to NCLB, which sorts schools based on the percentage of students ranked proficient on math and reading exams.
"The waiver isn't perfect, but it is preferable to No Child Left Behind," said Dan Smith, executive director of School Administrators of Iowa. "Pretty soon, under NCLB, we're going to reach a point where every school is labeled as 'in need of assistance.' When virtually everyone's on the list, it doesn't have much authority."
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