New York State was granted a No Child Left Behind waiver on Tuesday, gaining a little more flexibility with the controversial 2001 school accountability law, says the Albany Times Union.
Beginning in September, the state’s poorest-performing schools will be labeled "priority schools," while those making the most progress will be "reward schools." School districts that need to improve will be dubbed "focus districts,” says the article.
One would assume that this last "focus district" category applies to us, as Tarrytown Union Free School District is navigating its first year as a "" based on some subsets of scores in the middle school.
While students overall exceeded state standards, two subgroups, children with disabilities and children with limited English proficiency, fell below acceptable standards, triggering both the district designation and a School in Need of Improvement label for the middle school in particular.
Superintendent Dr. Howard Smith had not yet received any official information on how the waiver would affect our district; in fact, he was scheduled for "webinar" class from the state Department of Education on Thursday morning.
"It is a vindication of what a lot of schools and people have been saying, that setting an arbitrary date of 2014 that everyone across the board must meet a target is not possible," Smith said. He was cautious however about being too relieved as he doesn't know "how aggressive the goal targets will be and how realistic."
A little more leeway will be given to the rigid goal that all students are "proficient" in reading and math by 2014, one of the tenets of the original No Child Left Behind act, says the Times Union.
The article also mentions that failing schools in the state will now have more flexibility in how they spend money to improve academically, using a district-wide approach, with more emphasis on parent involvement.
"The waiver lets New York move away from NCLB requirements that were unproductive or unrealistic," state Education Commissioner John King said in a statement.
The waiver was granted Tuesday to New York and seven other states. In all, 19 states have gotten more flexibility from the 2001 school accountability law. Eighteen other states are under review for waivers. So far no state has been denied, the Times Union reports.
In a blog post on Patch on Thursday, Rep. Eliot Engel wrote that New York state had no choice but seek a waiver, and suspected every other state would follow:
NCLB puts too much of an emphasis on standardized testing, and has grossly underfunded any assistance for states to meet these requirements. The flaw in this logic is that a standard solution exists that fit every school in the same manner. As a result schools are being punished for failing to reach artificial benchmarks, thus making it more difficult for them to improve the education of young Americans.