Monday, September 19, 2011

Duncan's Waiver Plan

Speaking of ed goings on at the federal level, here's DFER with some words of caution:


Proceed, With Caution: Secretary Duncan's Waiver Plan Has Potential Risks and Opportunities for Education Reform


September 15, 2011




Last month, President Obama and Secretary Duncan announced that the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) will soon begin a formal process for considering state and local waiver requests of federal education laws. Today, Democrats for Education Reform issued a briefing memo that lists our concerns and recommendations on the process. 


Key points:


·         We are skeptical on the grounds of both process and substance. Some of the states that have made the least effort to improve the quality of education and close achievement gaps are now asking for waivers that in essence allow them to gloss over or abdicate responsibility for low-performing districts and schools;

·         We do not question the Department's authority to solicit or issue waivers. The Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) clearly gives the Secretary this power;

·         Many waiver requests have merit. There is an opportunity for some good to come from these waivers as part of an overall state plan consistent with the basic purposes of ESEA, such as states having "challenging standards" and working to "equalize the distribution of effective teachers;"

·         Many other requests, however, are preposterous or at the very least misguided and should not even be considered for approval as happened last year in VA, when the state was allowed to set their annual goals after tests were already administered, as also was done last month for the 2010-11 school year for the state of Montana;

·         States should be held accountable for some fundamentals around standards, assessments, and teacher effectiveness before a waiver request is considered, or as a condition for final waiver approval;

·         Some states should be ineligible for goal-lowering waivers prima facie, such as California, where the state Superintendent opposed attempts to improve teacher equity by modifying "Last In, First Out" policies, or Mississippi, which has the lowest standards of any state, yet only identified 25% of its schools as in need of improvement, a policy that sweeps under the rug schools in which, for all intents and purposes, students are being consigned to ultimate academic and economic failure.

You can access a full copy of our list of recommendations on our website here.

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