Colorado among first states seeking education waiver
November 14, 2011
DENVER – Colorado is among the first states asking for federal permission to overhaul how it measures student achievement under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
In a waiver application sent Monday, Colorado argues that its state accountability system meets many of the federal requirements instead of having both a state and federal system to rate schools and districts.
“At the centerpiece is that all kids are college- and career-ready by the time they exit,” Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said in a meeting Monday with other state school chiefs in Washington, D.C.
Colorado’s plan would still measure schools for “adequate growth,” and students would keep the option to transfer out of struggling schools.
Colorado’s application lands it among the first states to apply for flexibility after Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama announced in September that they would let states get around unpopular parts of the federal law in exchange for better ways to measure student performance.
Applications for waivers submitted by Colorado and other states will be reviewed in December, and the Education Department is expected to announce which waivers will be granted early next year. Nearly 40 states have said they plan to apply for a waiver between now and February.
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Obama called for Congress to overhaul the federal law, which was passed in 2002 under former President George W. Bush, by the start of school. The White House has grown increasingly frustrated as political divides and disagreements over how to change the law have held up its reauthorization.
“We’re going to let states, schools and teachers come up with innovative ways to give our children the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future,” Obama said during a Sept. 23 speech. “Because what works in Rhode Island may not be the same thing that works in Tennessee – but every student should have the same opportunity to learn and grow, no matter what state they live in.”
The law has been due for a rewrite since 2007.
Last week, Colorado’s state Board of Education finished work on a new statewide assessment for teachers and principals. The plan calls for a four-tier ranking system for teachers, from “highly effective” to “ineffective.” Teachers would have to be ranked “highly effective” for three consecutive years before they achieve non-probationary status, or tenure. The ratings are based half on student test scores, half on other measures.
Colorado’s teacher rating plan will be pilots at test schools and reviewed by state lawmakers before it’s used statewide by 2014. Colorado’s NCSL waiver request filed Monday included the entirety of the bill setting up the four-tier system.