A proposal by Rep. Art Swann to allow the state commissioner of education to waive enforcement of laws applying to public school systems has been attacked on a bipartisan basis by colleagues who say it probably violates the state constitution.
The bill (HB1970, as amended) is entitled “The Public School Achievement Flexibility Act”. It would empower the commissioner to grant high-achieving school systems a “waiver of any state board (of education) rule or statute that inhibits or hinders the desired flexibility for the school.”
The Maryville Republican said that state law already allows charter schools and achievement school districts, which are under state supervision because of low performance, to ignore regular rules and laws
“If it’s good for charters, why shouldn’t it be good for public schools?,” he said, describing the legislation as “leveling the playing field.”
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today lauded the approval by U.S. Department of Education officials of Tennessee’s waiver request from certain portions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Tennessee was the first state to request a waiver and was one of only 10 recipients of the first round of waivers. The Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability model under NCLB has been an ongoing obstacle for schools and districts because it does not fully account for schools’ growth.
“Tennessee schools have continued to make progress over the past decade that NCLB has been law, but the rigid and unrealistic AYP accountability model labeled some of these schools as failures despite meaningful improvement,” Haslam said. “We’ve implemented rigorous standards in Tennessee, and Tennessee received this waiver because of our commitment to improving education for all of our students.”
Under the waiver, Tennessee proposes to raise overall achievement by 3 to 5 percent each year and to cut achievement gaps in half over an 8-year period.
To track progress, the U.S. Department of Education required Tennessee to identify three groups of schools:
· Reward schools: 10 percent of schools throughout the state with the highest achievement or overall growth.
· Focus schools: 10 percent of Tennessee’s schools with the largest achievement gaps.
· Priority schools: The bottom 5 percent of the state’s schools in terms of academic performance.
“It’s just not helpful or realistic to label schools and districts as failing, especially when they are making significant academic gains,” Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said. “This waiver is all about approving achievement for all students while closing persistent achievement gaps.”
Tennessee’s approved waiver can be found at the Tennessee Department of Education’s website: www.tn.gov/education, and for more information, contact Kelli Gauthier with the department at (615) 532-7817 or Kelli.Gauthier@tn.gov.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 9, 2012
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND FLEXIBILITY
1:57 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Please have a seat, have a seat. Thank you so much. Well, hello, everybody, and welcome to the White House.
I want to start by thanking all the chief state school officers who have made the trip from all over the country. Why don’t you all stand up just so we can see you all, right here. (Applause.) It’s a great group, right here. Thank you. And I want to recognize someone who is doing a pretty good job right here in Washington, D.C., and that is my Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Love Arne. (Applause.)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday will free 10 states from the strict and sweeping requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law in exchange for promises to improve the way schools teach and evaluate students.
The move is a tacit acknowledgement that the law’s main goal, getting all students up to par in reading and math by 2014, is not within reach.
The first 10 states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee, the White House said. The only state that applied for the flexibility and did not get it, New Mexico, is working with the administration to get approval.
Obama said he was acting because Congress had failed to update the law despite widespread agreement it needs to be fixed.
“If we’re serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone,” Obama said in a statement, released before the official announcement later Thursday. “Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.”
A total of 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they, too, plan to seek waivers — a sign of just how vast the law’s burdens have become as the big deadline nears.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Education is making some changes to a waiver that would allow the state to opt out of the No Child Left Behind law.
President Barack Obama announced in September that he’s giving states the option. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that 82 percent of schools in the country could be labeled failures next year if the law is not changed.
To get a waiver, states must agree to education reforms the White House favors — from tougher evaluation systems for teachers and principals to programs helping minority students.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters in a conference call Monday that the state’s waiver application requires more specificity and some new requirements, such as dividing schools into categories with targeted interventions or rewards for each group.
For instance, schools will be recognized for their high performance and rapid growth; then there will be those singled out for low proficiency and large achievement gaps between subgroups of students defined by race, economic status, disability and English proficiency.
Huffman said there will be an opportunity for those schools that are successful to share what they’re doing with struggling schools, which will be given the necessary resources by the state to improve.
“This will be challenging work, but our districts believe they can do this,” he said.
Huffman cited Memphis’ Booker T. Washington as a high school that has improved drastically.
Graduation rates at the school, which is in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood, have risen impressively in just three years. The school won a national competition to secure Obama as its commencement speaker in May by demonstrating how it overcame challenges through innovations such as separate freshman academies for boys and girls.
“Booker T. Washington High School is no longer a story about what’s gone wrong in education,” the president said in a weekly radio and Internet address a few days after the commencement. “It’s a story about how we can set it right. We need to encourage this kind of change all across America.”
“Those are the types of schools that I believe we can learn a lot from,” he said.
In July, preliminary results from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program showed math scores in third- through eighth-grade improved by 7 percent this year over last year. Reading scores improved by 3.7 percent.
In 18 school systems, student scores improved by 20 percent or more.
Still, under current No Child Left Behind guidelines, the state is only 41 percent proficient in math for those grades, and 48.5 percent in reading.
Tennessee was to submit its waiver application late Monday.
Education Department spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier has said that waivers are to be submitted by November so that they can be approved or denied by the end of the year.
Gov. Bill Haslam acknowledged the waiver process has taken longer than he expected, but believes it is “really important to Tennessee, both in principle that the state should be able to decide, but in reality, we have enough going on right now without schools abiding by some policies that they know they can’t make.”
Governor Bill Haslam doesn’t use the same rhetoric to describe the federal Department of Education as Republicans running for President, according to WPLN’s report on his Monday appearance on a MSNBC education discussion. Ten governors sat on a stage in New York City. The three Republicans were asked if they identify with the GOP presidential contenders, whose proposals range from hollowing out the Department of Education to abolishing it altogether.
Governor Haslam, who has made multiple appearances with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, says he does want less control from Washington.
“I’ll say this to make it real easy. I think we want a federal Department of Education that all of us see as a resource and not a regulator.”
The department has been both in recent years. Tennessee benefited from half a billion dollars in grant money from Secretary Duncan’s Race to the Top program. And the state expects to receive a waiver under No Child Left Behind standards.
For Secretary Duncan’s part, when asked what he thinks of GOP Presidential hopefuls debating whether to abolish his department, Duncan said he does not watch Republican debates.
Governor Haslam was also asked about No Child Left Behind waivers and his recent cooperation with the White House.
Changing No Child Left Behind is one initiative where Haslam says he and the Obama Administration see eye to eye.
“We had set an unattainable target for schools, which was de-motivating to teachers. I believe we should link student performance to teacher evaluations, but if the evaluation standard is unrealistic, then we’re not achieving our goal.”
At a news conference in Nashville this afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam said he thought there were at least three reasons President Obama invited him to attend an announcement on the president’s plans for No Child Left Behind waivers.
“Number one, I think it’s a recognition of what Tennessee is doing. Number two, I think they do want some states they can give waivers to – hopefully quickly – and say, ‘This is a state that’s on the right path’.”
“And I think obviously, politically, it doesn’t hurt anything to have a Republican governor up there with him, to be truthful about it,” Haslam said.
Asked whether he received any indication whether Tennessee’s request for a waiver would be approved, The governor said that, when invited to attend the event, “I said up at the front end, ‘Please don’t ask us up there if you’re going to embarrass us down the road.”
Haslam said he has had already had “several” conversations with Duncan about Tennessee’s waiver and is optimistic about approval because “all the key things the president talked about are the the things that we’re doing in Tennessee.”
“They obviously can’t guarantee that, but I think they feel really good about what we’ve submitted to them and what we’re doing in Tennessee,” he said. “So I don’t have any final word, but I feel real good about our position.”
Text from the White House press office:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Everybody, please have a seat. Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. I see a whole bunch of people who are interested in education, and we are grateful for all the work that you do each and every day.
I want to recognize the person to my right, somebody who I think will end up being considered one of the finest Secretaries of Education we’ve ever had — Arne Duncan. (Applause.) In addition to his passion, probably the finest basketball player ever in the Cabinet. (Laughter.)
I also want to thank Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee for taking the time to be here today, and the great work that he’s doing in Tennessee. I’m especially appreciative because I found that his daughter is getting married, and he is doing the ceremony tomorrow, so we’ve got to get him back on time. (Laughter and applause.) But we really appreciate his presence. Thank you.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s push for the federal government to let states seek an exemption from performance standards under the No Child Left Behind school reform law has earned him a supporting role at the White House, reports Michael Collins. Haslam will introduce President Barack Obama today at a White House briefing in which the president will offer states guidance on how they can get around some provisions of the decade-old law, a White House official said Thursday.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in August the administration would allow states to seek a waiver under the law. The Obama administration will spell out today the terms that states must meet to qualify for such an exemption.
Haslam announced in July that Tennessee had become the first state in the nation to ask for a waiver under the law, which was enacted under former President George W. Bush. The reforms sought to hold schools more accountable for student performance and get better-qualified teachers in classrooms.
But states have argued the standards are too punitive and don’t adequately measure student achievement. About half of schools in Tennessee currently fall short of meeting the standards under the law, according to the “annual yearly progress” reports for Tennessee schools.
As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subjects — based on state-administered tests — plus a 90 percent graduation rate. Most Tennessee schools are expected to fall short of those standards next year.
Tennessee’s waiver request basically asks the U.S. Department of Education to drop the federal standards for schools and substitute Tennessee standards.
On Monday, Memphis school board members will vote on spending more than $9 million in state funds on private tutors for Memphis City Schools students this year as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to The Commercial Appeal. The tutoring kicks in when a student is assigned to a failing school for a third year.
But evidence that the tutoring increases state test scores is so sketchy or nonexistent that state Department of Education officials asked for a waiver from the requirement in July, saying the tens of millions of dollars it is forced to set aside for private tutors would be better spent on longer school days.
The department made the request because “because there is no hard evidence that the services have been effective in raising student achievement,” said spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier.
In Memphis, the recruiting is in full force. Each of the city’s 53 failing schools is holding mandatory tutoring fairs so parents can make their choices.
“The state advised us that we are to proceed with services this year because we don’t know when the waiver will be reviewed,” said Marjorie Douglas, executive director of federal programs, grants and compliance in Memphis, where 27,473 students are eligible for tutoring.
Memphis budgeted $1,444 per student, enough to give the 20 to 25 percent of students who sign up about 30 hours with a private tutor, starting Nov. 1.