Minnesota applies for NCLB waiver
Peter Olson, Staff Writer
December 11, 2011
Filed under News
Over the past nine years, one pressing issue has constantly been on the minds of politicians, teachers, and school board members alike: the No Child Left Behind policy (NCLB). Enacted in 2002, the policy’s purpose was to improve the education of American students by using standardized test scores as a basis for funding. Every public student in the nation would eventually take these standardized tests, and in order to receive funding, the scores must reach a set state standard. Schools that were unable to raise failing test scores would have their funding cut or face a shut down.
During the years it has been active, the NCLB law received increasingly negative reception. A 2007 poll created by Education Next showed that 57 percent of Americans wanted to renew NCLB. However, it dropped by seven percent in 2008, bringing the percent of people that supported the law to 50. Forty-two percent of teachers wished NCLB to be terminated. A more recent poll by USA Today/Gallup revealed that 47 percent of the people who responded said NCLB needs major revisions and 16 percent wanted to abolish the law altogether.
These statistics express the nation’s desire to reform the education system. Some claim that instead of closing the achievement gap, it only favors the elite who do well on tests. Often, students and schools who actually need the funding to help improve their education don’t receive it because they do so poorly on tests.
Now, nine years since the NCLB was passed, states have the chance to be exempted from it.
In September 2011, President Barack Obama stated that he would allow states to fill out waivers that would excuse them from certain aspects of the No Child Left Behind law. The only requirement is that the states would need to develop new standard for evaluating the performances of students and teachers, as well as create performance targets that will help prepare high school students for post-secondary education. The first deadline for these waivers was November 14.
According the the Department of Education’s website, 39 states have responded to this declaration, saying that they intend to apply for flexibility. Eleven of these states, including Minnesota, filled out the waivers in time to meet the November 14 deadline. States that have their waivers approved will be notified in January 2012.
The important part of these waivers are the plans they contain. Each state has their own ideas of how to evaluate schools. Most of these plans, though, have a similar style. They would try to focus more on the student’s academic growth and decreases in the achievement gap instead of math and reading test scores.
If these waivers are granted, the impact would be significant. By 2014, states would be able to measure a school’s performance through multiple ways and not just test scores.They could also develop specific plans that cater to the needs of each school district. Finally, states would have the flexibility to spend federal money on their school’s education.
The other 28 states plan to apply by the next deadline, mid-February 2012. No matter the effect of the waivers, this change will certainly be a milestone in the history of the nation’s education system.