Because Iowa's state application for a waiver from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act was turned down, the Iowa Department of Education today requested a one-year freeze of the state target increases that schools are held to under the federal education law.
The targets vary by grade level and subject, but in most cases, they are set at about 80 percent and will increase by about 7 percent for 2012-13 unless the one-year freeze is put in place. Approval from the U.S. Department of Education would protect some schools from being impacted by the blame-and-shame sanctions required under No Child Left Behind.
Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass described the request as a temporary and stopgap measure while the state continues to seek permanent relief from No Child Left Behind’s unrealistic accountability measures. In the absence of a waiver from No Child Left Behind or full reauthorization of the law, Iowa’s targets will continue to increase until schools are held to a requirement that 100 percent of students meet grade-level standards in reading and mathematics by 2014.
"We’re disappointed that Iowa did not receive a No Child Left Behind waiver, which would have allowed us to develop a rigorous accountability system that makes sense for Iowa and emphasizes student growth and progress in addition to proficiency on tests," Glass said. "We're hopeful that through this new request we can temporarily halt the ratcheting up of unrealistic targets that are included in the blame-and-shame policies of No Child Left Behind."
The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires public schools and districts to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets for the overall student population and for demographic subgroups in grades 3-8 and grade 11. These subgroups include socio-economic status, limited English proficiency, race/ethnicity and special education. Schools most likely to be labeled as failures under No Child Left Behind are larger schools that serve the most disadvantaged students.
Schools must meet all targets in every student group to meet AYP and must test 95 percent of students in each group. As prescribed under the law, the U.S. Department of Education has put in place regular target increases to ensure schools meet the unrealistic No Child Left Behind requirement that 100 percent of students meet grade-level standards in reading and mathematics by 2014.
President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last August invited states to apply for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive state-developed accountability plans. Iowa’s waiver proposal was submitted in February, and the Iowa Department of Education made it clear to the Iowa Legislature that state education policies must be brought in line with waiver requirements for Iowa’s application to be successful.
In a letter June 21, the U.S. Department of Education indicated Iowa's waiver cannot be approved because of a new state legislative requirement that any changes to the system of educator evaluation must be studied by a task force and then brought back to the full Iowa Legislature in the 2013 session.
"While I hope today's request is approved by the U.S. Department of Education, this temporary and stopgap measure really doesn’t address the root of the problem," Glass said. "As a nation, we must make reauthorization and significant changes to the No Child Left Behind law a priority and address its flaws head on. Our children deserve better than tinkering and inaction."
Iowa may play a key role in the work of No Child Left Behind reauthorization and revision through Senator Harkin’s important position as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and through Glass' involvement on a No Child Left Behind reauthorization advisory group with the Council of Chief State School Officers.