Arizona to leave No Child Left Behind behind

Arizona may move to leave No Child Left Behind behind and request a waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Superintendent of Public Instruction Huppenthal told Arizona’s Joint Education Committee that “This waiver will allow us to free ourselves from burdensome regulations, streamline duplicative processes and enable Arizona to use the very best science to drive education policy.”

The state has until February 21 to apply for the waiver. Ten other states have sought and received the waiver. Few states will meet the requirements laid out in NCLB, and a waiver is one way to avoid failure.

Instead, the Obama administration has allowed states to create their own accountability plans.

Huppenthal said in his statement that “it is unlikely that Congress will reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year.” As a result the waiver must be sought now before waivers are no longer available and before states most certainly fail to achieve the No Child Left Behind requirements.

“As a result, Arizona is pursuing the largest possible waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

Huppenthal says that he believes the state’s new school-rating system provides accountability, and that trying to comply with the “dysfunctional federal system distracts from improving the state system.” The state will not lose any money if it receives the waiver.

Most standards applied in the determination of compliance with No Child Left Behind are created by individual states. Contrary to what most people firmly believe they know; No Child Left Behind merely requires that states meet the standards they themselves have set for themselves. Some of them have set miserably low standards, including Arizona.

Over 800 Arizona schools, of which 68 were TUSD schools, failed to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” this past school year. According to the Arizona Republic, “Last year, 563 schools, or 29 percent, failed to make “adequate yearly progress.” Changes in the way tests were scored, as well as the increased percentage of students demonstrating proficiency that each school had to use in order to calculate Adequate Yearly Progress, made a significant difference in the percentage of schools meeting AYP requirements in writing.

The White House previously released a statement on the waivers, “States must adopt and have a plan to implement college and career-ready standards. They must also create comprehensive systems of teacher and principal development, evaluation and support that include factors beyond test scores, such as principal observation, peer review, student work, or parent and student feedback…they must set new performance targets for improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps. They also must have accountability systems that recognize and reward high-performing schools and those that are making significant gains.”

One long time public school advocate, John Hunnicutt, “It appears the waiver “winners” just promised to adopt narrow, prescriptive teacher evaluation and school improvement policies that apply to charter schools as well as district schools. How will the very powerful Arizona charter school lobby react to these requirements if Arizona secures a waiver?”