The state I live and work in, Virginia, received word Friday that it would be exempt from meeting some key requirements of NCLB. This is great news and yet, not so great news. NCLB has turned into the Vietnam of education reform. It is too important to dismiss but to messy to agree on how to fix.
Instead of revising it or getting congress to pass a new law the USED (US Department of Education) has decided to use the law as leverage.
Virginia received a waiver on how soon 100% of it’s students would need to be proficient in reading and math. The 2014 deadline was unrealistic in 2001 when the bill was created. Instead Virginia will hold schools accountable for closing its achievement gaps across sub-groups of students including, ESL students, exceptional education students, and economically disadvantaged students. The new expectations include reducing gaps by 50% overall and in each sub-group.
Virginia joins Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota and Utah in being granted relief from AYP type requirements. Waivers have been granted to twenty-four states.
What did Virginia have to give up to get this “relief”? Virginia agreed to mandate that it’s school systems make 40 percent of teacher’s evaluations based on students’ academic performance. Most teachers I know wouldn’t have a problem with this except the state hasn’t quite figured out how to hold teachers accountable who don’t test or proven that there isn’t enough error in our current standardized state assessments to prove them a reliable indicator of the work teachers do in schools. Our state assessments were originally created to help determine funding decisions not teacher teacher effectiveness.
Virginia has a reputation for making slow and steady educational reform. I hope that it continues to maintain that progress without giving up its principles of well researched decisions for a little relief from a bill that should have been revised 7 years ago.