Under the No Child Left Behind legislation, there were no gray areas. There were two options, perform to the standards, or be taken over. Not much in life is quite that black and white.
Schools now have the ability to choose a different course. Instead of being locked into a largely unwinnable march to failure in 2014, there are now options.
The Obama administration, with Arne Duncan at the helm of the Department of Education, has offered school districts the ability to opt out some portions of NCLB. Nothing in the legislation lets districts off the hook relative to advancing learning. Rather, it puts in place reasonable goals that are, with work, achievable.
The trade off is this: states that opt in to the new regime will be required to adopt “…college- and career-ready standards, focus on 15 percent of their most-troubled schools, and create guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance.”
States applying for waivers have till the middle of November to do so. Those states granted waivers will find out sometime after the first of the year. The requirements are sure to be rigorous, and states will need to fully agree to participate in order to receive a waiver.
What does this mean for education in general? That is hard to say. The reality is that nothing is as it seems on the surface when discussing legislation regarding education. The full import of what all this means won’t be known until a year or so after it is put in place.
It is, perhaps, a good place to start though. Rigorous, not rigid, expectations are far better than the certainty of doom under the unintended consequences of the original NCLB.
Educators will hopefully be included in the discussions about how to satisfy the conditions of the waivers. Gov. Brown would do well to include actual classroom teachers, from rookies to old pros, in this process. It’s not too much to ask for.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything.