A request by Minnesota for a waiver on the accountability measures of the No Child Left Behind law will make a flawed system work better and has the potential to make schools, students, teachers and principals more accountable.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius was in Mankato last week to get feedback from education leaders and stakeholders on the state’s request for the changes to the federal law.
The standards set by No Child Left Behind, that all students become “proficient” by various educational measures will not be changed. The changes come in how “proficient” will be measured and how schools will be graded.
Cassellius points out that the change is not a dumbing-down of the standards. But it will measure how fast and far students grow in aiming to meet the standard. It will also address the so-called achievement gap between students of different races and economic status.
The current rules under No Child Left Behind called for all — meaning every single child — to be proficient by 2014. The problem came in that every state set up its own standards for proficient. States like Minnesota set them fairly high, and as a result, 50 percent of the schools were falling short of achieving their “average yearly progress.” Other states set them low and show almost no failing schools.
In fact, Minnesota is adding to its standards with a bipartisan law passed last year by the Legislature that required new evaluations of teachers and principals.
In short, the waiver asks the federal government to remove the 100 percent proficient by 2014 standard and adopt a method of proficiency that measures student growth, still continuing with the measures of all students in all subgroups.
It asks the federal government to remove sanctions for schools not meeting average yearly progress measures and allow the state to still measure failing schools, but also require an improvement plan that is more carrot than stick.
Overall, the request for a waiver from federal guidelines will allow how the No Child Left Behind law is implemented to be more consistent with the intent. The waiver will also will help solve some of the flaws in the law without an act of Congress.
— The Free Press of Mankato