NCLB Waiver Shows CT Is Again Competitive In Education
School Flexibility A 'No Child Left Behind' waiver should help improve state schools.
Hartford Courant Editorial
May 31, 2012
Connecticut garnered the first tangible benefit of its hard-won education reform package this week when U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan came to Hartford to announce that the state had gotten a waiver from parts of the controversial 2001 federal law known as No Child Left Behind.
The law was supposed to close the achievement gap and generally improve public education across the country. It at least focused attention on important areas such as accountability and teacher preparation.
But critics, and they are legion, charged that some parts of the law were onerous, overly restrictive and unachievable. Under the law, all students were supposed to reach a proficient level in mathematics and reading by 2014; less than 20 percent were on track to make it. Last year nearly half of Connecticut's schools were failing to meet the federal standard.
While Congress dithers over rewriting the law, Mr. Duncan's department has begun issuing waivers to states who develop strong reform plans to meet the broad goals of the law. Connecticut's waiver speaks well for the state's reform plan, in several respects.
First, after fumbling three attempts to win Race to the Top funds in recent years, it shows the state Department of Education is again nationally competitive.
It means the state will have more flexibility in the use of federal funds. State education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said some NCLB rules on the use of funds are overly restrictive. For example, he said the money can be used for after-school programs but not for a longer school day — even if a longer day is the better option.
Also, the state will be able to use a broader measurement of student achievement. NCLB had one fairly minimal standard, "proficiency." What often happened was that schools would push students who were almost at that standard, at the expense of those way above or below it. Mr. Pryor said a broader system of measurement will help a broader spectrum of students.
So far, so good. But the state still has the worst achievement gap in the country, so let's get these reforms to the classroom.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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