NCLB waiver gets federal reviewA U.S. Department of Education committee appears “encouraged” after reviewing North Dakota’s waiver releasing the state of requirements under No Child Left Behind, said a state official on Wednesday.
By: By Jennifer Johnson, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
A U.S. Department of Education committee appears “encouraged” after reviewing North Dakota’s waiver releasing the state of requirements under No Child Left Behind, said a state official on Wednesday.
Prompted to clarify information submitted to the federal department in September, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction sent in its first revision today.
“I anticipate this will lead to additional discussion points with the (DPI), but I think that the indications are encouraging,” said Greg Gallagher, state director of standards and achievements.
North Dakota and Minnesota are among 34 states and the District of Columbia that formally submitted waivers so they would no longer be held to standards-based legislation. The waivers allow states to provide plans to improve student performance in lieu of trying to meet 100 percent proficiency in reading and math.
A committee representing state educators spent part of the last year examining whether the state should depart from NCLB.
“The committee came back and overwhelmingly recommended the state pursue the waiver,” Gallagher said.
Once the state decided to pursue the waiver, the committee focused on three things within the state-defined accountability system: college/career readiness, school improvement methods and overall teacher and principal evaluation.
“They’re critical elements that constitute the framework of the waiver application,” said Gallagher.
In the past, each district created its own evaluation system for principals and teachers. Models varied widely per district, and, with each reflecting individual goals and standards, the state had a difficult time monitoring progress. Under the new system, each district will still be able to create its own system but must follow state guidelines.
General standards set for principals include developing a culture conducive to student learning, collaborating with the community and acting in an ethical manner. They can also be required to provide self-assessments, parent and community outreach and a school improvement plan.
Teachers will be measured by their understanding of student growth and development, creating environments that support collaborative learning and other requirements. Student, parent, teacher or community perception surveys could also be included in their evaluation, as well as peer feedback.
Principal and teacher effectiveness can also be based in part by student outcomes on ACT scores and other standard yearly tests.
The committee’s changes to the waiver mostly involved adding information to topics such as student preparation for college. The committee also examined the state’s proposal to reduce the number of non-proficient students in reading and math by 25 percent within the next six years, which is required by the waiver, said Gallagher.
To help students meet this requirement, the committee wanted to choose a realistic annual growth goal for low-performing schools based on past performance at these schools, he said.
“That way, it would be the kind of progress that would be commendable,” he said. “If you reach too high, sometimes, that can lead to discouragement because you can’t achieve it at that level.”
No formal deadlines have been set by the U.S. Department of Education to approve the waiver, but Gallagher anticipates hearing back in February.