Indiana will act quickly to seek a waiver of controversial federal school
accountability rules under new freedoms announced Friday by President Barack
“We’ll be in the
first wave of states that apply,” said Indiana Superintendent of Public
Instruction Tony Bennett. “Everything we put into place enables us to
progressively pursue a waiver based on high accountability and high
Friday that states need more freedom to experiment with ways to improve
schools, teaching and student achievement and the federal No Child Left
Behind Act - enacted in 2002 during President George W. Bush’s
administration – limits such experimentation.
“I want to say
the goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable, and President Bush
deserves credit for that,” Obama said. “But experience has taught us that in
its implementation, No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are
hurting our children instead of helping them.”
In Indiana, the
federal law has led education officials to give schools grades that are
lower than they would have otherwise achieved. Education officials have
complained that misleads parents and communities about the progress of their
Waivers of the
federal law are necessary because Congress has failed to amend and
reauthorize the NCLB act, leaving rules in place that were created nearly 10
years ago, said Terry Spradlin, director for education policy at the Indiana
University Center for Evaluation and Education.
The NCLB systems
for measure school success have become outdated, Spradlin said. Since the
law’s passage, researchers have pushed a so-called growth model that states
– including Indiana – are implementing today.
The growth model
assesses how a school’s students have improved over an academic year as
opposed to simply whether those students achieve passing scores on
Alex Damron, a
spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, said that since the
original passage of the NCLB law, states have found more advanced and
accurate methods to measure the level of success in schools.
NCLB was “somewhat controversial at its passage,” he said. “We have learned
a lot over the past decade and educators and researchers are looking for the
next generation of accountability methods.”
allow states like Indiana to use their own accountability system for
schools, which would include the growth model used by the Indiana Department
of Education, Spradlin said.
schools in Indiana are assessed under systems that are separate but
connected. NCLB requires that schools achieve what’s called “adequate yearly
progress” on standardized tests.
If a school
misses the mark in just one demographic category – such as special education
students – it fails to meet adequate yearly progress. That in turn bars a
school from receiving a letter grade better than a C under Indiana’s system,
even if the school has improved significantly or has high overall
accountability system is very confusing,” said Spradlin. “We need to take
the best ideas from both and marry them into one single accountability
officials are also interested in applying for a waiver of several teacher
accountability portions of the No Child Left Behind Act, Damron said.
“We agree that
the (highly qualified teacher) requirement is very important, but in years
since passage, we have found new ways to tackle this issue,” said Damron.
Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a
statement that the NCLB waivers are one step in the right direction but
there are still flaws in the way the nation evaluates teachers.
“Waivers are an
imperfect answer to the stalemate in Congress and, at best, can provide only
a temporary salve,” said Weingarten. “Some of what the administration
proposes is promising, some is cause for concern, and there are missed
opportunities that could have enhanced both teaching and learning.”
said in his speech that too often today, educators are forced to teach to a
standardized test. Statewide tests – such as ISTEP in Indiana – are
becoming more of a focus in classrooms than making sure students actually
learn the material.
history and science have been squeezed out,” Weingarten said. “And in order
to avoid having their schools labeled as failures, some states, perversely,
have actually had to lower their standards in a race to the bottom.”
Friday that the waivers are not an excuse for states to slack off and opt
out of education accountability completely. The goal of the waivers is to
allow states to use their own systems to grade their schools that are more
rigorous and aggressive than the federal government is capable of at the
“This does not
mean that states will be able to lower their standards or escape
accountability,” said Obama. “In fact, the way we’ve structured this, if
states want more flexibility, they’re going to have to set higher standards,
more honest standards, that prove they’re serious about meeting them.”
Secretary Arne Duncan indicated that states could get the opportunity to opt
out of the unpopular provisions only if they meet the federal requirements.
requirements include creating ambitious but achievable goals for schools to
meet in order to show improvement as opposed to needing school to be 100
percent proficient by 2014.
education officials do not believe in a blanket waiver for all states,
demonstrate a clear commitment to improving their education evaluation
process,” said Damron. Indiana has “an interest in this process and would
love to move forward.”