This past Monday, Sept. 26th, Connecticut state officials began to decide what must be done to pursue a waiver of federal No Child Left Behind regulations. On Friday, the same day President Obama released details on the process of seeking a waiver, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that the state would seek a waiver. Under the federal No Child Left Behind act, all children are supposed to reach a proficiency level in mathematics and reading by 2013-2014. It has become evident in Connecticut and across the country that this goal is unrealistic.
Mark Linabury, spokesman for the state Department of Education, explained that the U.S. Department of Education will offer a series of webinars to provide technical assistance to state agencies as they apply for waivers. “The waiver has numerous technical components,” said Mark Linabury, spokesman for the state Department of Education. He added that the state is “moving toward understanding all the elements of the waiver opportunity.”
Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, co-chairman of the legislature’s education committee, said the requirements of the federal act “have been unrealistic from the outset. You can point to school districts in Connecticut that are outstanding school districts. A couple of children in one sub-group have failed to reach a certain score and suddenly, this school or whole district is deemed as falling to make adequate yearly progress.” Even when schools are improving they look bad under No Child Left Behind. While students are generally performing slightly better on the statewide tests (CMT and CAPT), more schools and districts are now failing to meet the federal NCLB standards of ‘Adequate Yearly Progress.’
Only about 53 percent of Connecticut’s schools met this year’s performance standards under No Child Left Behind. While more schools than last year failed to meet the standards, this variance is due in large part to the intensification of the federal requirement of NCLB for 2011, where now nine in ten students are required to be proficient in mathematics and reading. The results are based on student performance on the 2011 statewide assessments which more than 290,000 students participated in. A waiver, Fleischmann said, that will enable the state “to have an approach that better matches with Connecticut realities makes perfect sense.”
In return for a waiver states are required to make certain reforms in specified areas. These include overhauling teacher evaluation systems, turning around the lowest-performing 15 percent of schools and implementing common core standards. Connecticut officials are hopeful that under the waiver, schools will get credit for making significant progress in improving test scores, even if they don’t meet No Child Left Behind targets for proficiency.