Monday, September 1, 2014

Waiver Revealed

Sunday night on twitter was a great discussion regarding the loss of Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver. The frustrating thing for me is all the misinformation that continues to surround this critical time in education.  Here is a no nonsense explanation of what happened, what it means, and what is next for Oklahoma Public Schools.

What Happened

According to a letter sent from Assistant Education Secretary Deborah Delisle, Oklahoma could no longer meet the pre-requisites needed to qualify for a No Child Left Behind waiver. In her letter, she stated all states must commit to “adopted college- and career-ready standards in at least reading/language arts and mathematics for kindergarten through grade 12 at the time of its request, and to have implemented those standards no later than the 2013- 2014 school year”.

My Take – If you remember, Oklahoma rushed to adopt Common Core State Standards and its assessment component PARCC to meet the college and career component of the waiver. If you go back and look at the original 2011 waiver, you will notice on page 14 the very first principle of the waiver was college and career readiness standards. Oklahoma leapt at the chance to get out from under the unrealistic AYP benchmarks required by a NCLB that hadn’t been reauthorized in 2007 and was severely out of date.

·         HB 3399 repealed CCSS in reading and math making PASS our state standards.
·         Regents of Higher Education have not certified PASS as College & Career ready.
·         No CCSS and no other College & Career standards meant no more waiver

What’s Next

Oklahoma will be required to follow the guidelines of the NCLB legislation and not the policies put in place by OKSDE, the Governor, and our legislators. Oklahoma must calculate an index score for each school and compare the index to the benchmark set by NCLB. Furthermore, the state must calculate Annual Measureable Objectives (AMO’s) for each school. Schools not meeting or exceeding the benchmark or meeting its AMO’s must be designated a school in “Needs Improvement, Corrective Action, or Restructuring” based on the number of years the school has not met the benchmark since 2011—2012.

                My Take – The interesting thing here is how our state leaders will react to this. The way I read the letter and accompanying documents from Deborah Delisle, the federal requirements of NCLB have to be implemented “no later than” the 2015-2016 school year. Does this mean the timeline of the NCLB requirements will be left to the discretion of the OKSDE? Will the SDE wait until next year or will they take this opportunity to implement now?  Immediate implementation will cause irrevocable harm to schools. Some leaders even question the legality of the USDE to deny the waiver based on standards. My take is the SDE can implement NCLB at the beginning of the 15-16 school year which would give schools the time they need to make adjustments, give the Higher Regents time to review our standards, give the state of Oklahoma time to re-write college and career standards, and the new State Supt. Of Public Instruction time to request a new waiver.  Want to bet it doesn’t happen that way?

What it Means

The OKSDE must relinquish control over how schools meet the requirements of NCLB. This means schools will have a performance calculation in every subgroup where more than 30 students are tested in reading or math. AMOs will be calculated, and the schools will be labeled as “needs improvement, corrective action, or restructuring”.  In other words, schools will be given a post mortem label for every year since 2011.  The loss of the waiver means schools will also get an AYP determination and an A-F grade.  A-F is state law, but AYP is federal accountability. 

                My Take – The real question is how the OKSDE interprets the letter from the USDE. The way I read it, it appears the OKSDE can use discretion in several components of re-implementation of NCLB. First, no money will be lost this year, nor will any set aside be required by the feds. Second, supplemental services and public school choice isn’t required until 2015-2016.  Most importantly, in my opinion, school designations should move forward only 1 year based on 2011-2012 status. In other words, if a school was in year 1 in 2011-2012, they could only be in year 2 for 14-15.  Even the Obama administration understands you can’t fast forward 3 years when you were under a different set of rules. However, this all depends on how the Barresi administration handles it from here on out. Technically, she could implement all the aspects of NCLB right now. She would require 20% of Title 1 money to be set aside for public choice and supplemental services. This could force schools to lay off teachers and teacher’s aides. She could fast forward schools not meeting AYP to the maximum level of designation. For some schools, it could require teachers to be fired. It could mean administrators and board members to be removed.  Worse, some schools could move from never have been on the list to year 3 and not even had the chance to address issues masked by the A-F grading system.  Remember all those flaws OU and OSU researchers told us about? They could possibly come to fruition.  You think JB has a vendetta against public schools? We are about to find out. You think the reformers want to KILL public education in this state? The potential is there, and they get political cover because the reformers will blame the Obama administration. Only time will tell.