An unprecedented set of recent Education Department decisions about No Child Left Behind waivers is at the least an overreach and at the very worst illegal, a chorus of critics say.
Last week, the department declared NCLB waivers for Kansas, Oregon and Washington state “high-risk” because each state has more work to do in tying student growth to teacher evaluations – a major requirement for states that want out of the more arduous provisions of the law. And in early August, the department granted waivers to eight districts in California, the first time the department bypassed states on No Child Left Behind flexibility.
Observers and analysts say the department’s high-risk waiver decision simply isn’t allowed under federal law. And they say Education Secretary Arne Duncan broke with what he told Congress in February about a preference not to grant district waivers, which these critics think are just plain bad policy. NCLB is long overdue for reauthorization. With that renewal nowhere in sight, Duncan has granted more than 40 waivers of the law to states, D.C. and the group of California districts, freeing states from requirements such as having all students reading and doing math at grade level by the 2013-14 school year.