Parents: make your voice heard on your state’s NCLB waiver!

Dear all:

As you know, the U.S. Department of Education is offering a “waiver” of NCLB requirements (ESEA flexibility) to those states that agree to specific requirements.

Unfortunately, these new requirements may be as onerous and expensive, if not more so, than NCLB itself. States must adopt new curricula, new tests, new sanctions/supports for the 15 percent lowest scoring schools, must link teacher and principal evaluations to standardized test scores, and instead of all students being “proficient” by 2014, all students must be “college ready” by 2020.

California has estimated that it will cost the state over $2 billion to implement the mandates attached to this “flexibility.”

Montana found that the requirements would cost the state millions of extra dollars and the “reforms” required were not in students’ best educational interests. Montana declined this NCLB “replacement program” because it did “not make educational or financial sense.” Montana had informed the federal government months earlier that it would freeze its AYP targets for this year anyway, and suffered no repercussions.

The next deadline for states to apply is February 21.

The U.S.D.O.E. website indicates that the following states have declared their intent to apply by this deadline: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

According to the guidelines for applying, “states must meaningfully engage and solicit input on its request from teachers and their representatives,” and “from other diverse communities, such as students, parents, community-based organizations, civil rights organizations, organizations representing students with disabilities and English Learners, business organizations, and Indian tribes.”

The states have to also indicate whether or not they modified their applications based on this input and whether the groups consulted included groups from high needs communities.

If you live in one of the above-mentioned states, do you know what procedures your State Education Agency has set up for “meaningful input?”

In Connecticut, for example, the State Department of Education had merely set up an email address to which one can send “input.” It had not made the application or any draft of the application available to the public.(it is impossible to give input on an application no one has seen). Nor had it scheduled any hearings.  However, subsequent to a column I wrote and to many parents then writing in to request that the application be made available and hearings be held, the State Department of Education has just scheduled hearings and has begun to make portions of the application available online.

This “flexibility” represents massive changes in educational practices (e.g., basing teacher and principal evaluations on standardized test scores will mean standardized tests in every grade and every subject). It also might very well mean the state diverting millions of education dollars to comply with the waiver mandates. Therefore, the public must be allowed a chance to weigh in on the wisdom of applying prior to the submission date.

If you have any information regarding your state, please let us know.

Information regarding the request guidelines and previously submitted applications can be found at

Thank you,  Wendy Lecker

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