Utah is in the midst of deciding whether or not to renew our ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) waiver which is the waiver from some of the stringent requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mess. NCLB was a deeply flawed law that encouraged states to set the bar low so that the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements could be met each year. It included a number of onerous reporting requirements as well that put undue burdens on our schools. That said, the Common Core reform package has been called NCLB on steroids because its vast reach surpasses what NCLB envisioned.
One point of clarification before continuing, someone recently emailed me the technical review by the federal Department of Education for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools application for Race to the Top funds (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-district/2012/finalists/metropolitannashvillepublicschoolstn.pdf) . The federal reviewer of the application in section A1 states:
“A clear embrace of aligning curriculum, improving professional development, improving teacher quality through effective teacher evaluation, the Common Core Standards adoption, among others. The CCSS are, by definition, linked to college/career ready standards. Thus, the vision’s link to these is important with respect to connecting to the core assurances.”
Thus we know that all references to “College and Career Ready Standards” are by definition, Common Core Standards.
The waiver from NCLB that states applied for in 2012 contain 11 waivers from NCLB provisions that were mostly tied to AYP requirements and how states must utilize some Title 1 funds (Title 1 is for low income, disadvantaged students).
After the waiver section where states check the boxes requesting that waiver, there is a section called “assurances”. The second “assurance” by the states reads:
It will adopt English language proficiency (ELP) standards that correspond to the State’s college and career‐ready standards, consistent with the requirement in ESEA section 3113(b)(2), and that reflect the academic language skills necessary to access and meet the new college‐ and career‐ready standards, no later than the 2013–2014 school year. (Principle 1)
In Utah’s application for the ESEA waiver (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/ut.pdf), we read:
“The elements found in the Utah waiver application associated with Principles 1, 2 and 3 were in place before the application for waiver process began. The following details the variety of ways that diverse stakeholders, including teachers and communities, were informed and encouraged to provide input.”
So how did we put these principles into place before the application for waiver process began? Again from Utah’s waiver application document.
“Principle 1 College and Career‐Ready Expectations for All Students Stakeholder Consultation The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) adopted the College and Career Readiness Student Standards(CCSS) in June 2010.”
A big thank you to the state office of education for admitting that we adopted Common Core in June 2010, which was the same month Common Core standards were released.
The point here is that the ESEA flexibility waiver’s main “string” is that if you want released from the AYP requirements of NCLB, you have to be on Common Core. Now I haven’t researched what has happened to the few states who didn’t adopt Common Core and if they got their waiver applications through with the feds, but this waiver seemed to me to be a direct shot at those states telling them they needed to get in line and adopt Common Core or else continue with NCLB. There is a battle in congress right now over renewing NCLB. The House and Senate have different plans and there’s talk of eliminating it which is exactly what needs to happen. NCLB should face a “nullification” effort by the states to declare it constitutionally invalid because the federal government has NO authority to step into education. Education is a state issue.
Here’s a few more tidbits from Utah’s ESEA waiver application.
“Check here if you are interested in collaborating with the Department in this evaluation, if your request for the flexibility is approved.” (Utah checked this box and then provided this explanation)
“Utah is interested in collaborating with the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts under Principle 2: State‐developed differentiated recognition, accountability, and support. Utah stakeholders have invested considerable time and expertise in the articulation of a comprehensive system for school accountability. The proposed Utah Comprehensive Accountability System (UCAS) includes three components: achievement, growth, and readiness. This system will result in a performance/growth target assigned to each Utah school, and is designed to improve student achievement and school performance, close achievement gaps, and increase the quality of instruction for all students.
This accountability approach is significantly different from Utah’s current accountability system. As Utah implements the UCAS, an evaluation of the impact of the system on Utah schools and communities is critical for the process of continual improvement and refinement of the system.”
In checking the box requesting collaboration with the feds, Utah gives further credence to the notion of federal involvement in our state education system.
“Establishing curriculum with high standards and relevance for all Utah children (Principle 1) In January 1984, The USBE established policy requiring the identification of specific core curriculum standards to be completed by all K‐12 students as requisite for graduation from Utah’s secondary schools. The Elementary and Secondary School Core Curriculum is defined in Board rule R277‐700.
The new Utah college‐ and career‐ready student standards for English language arts and mathematics provide a performance‐based pathway to ensure all students in Utah public schools are prepared with knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers for today’s economy. The Utah Core Curricula, which now incorporates these standards, is taught with respect to difference in student learning styles, rates, and individual capabilities without losing sight of established standards. (epic fail on this point) Professional development has been provided to LEA staff regarding the use of standards‐based (CCSS) individualized educational programs (IEPs) and alternative language interventions to address the instructional needs of students with disabilities and English language learners transitioning to the CCSS.”
All federal programs are essentially a one-size-fits-all approach to education. What has happened since the feds got involved in education a few decades ago? Massive spending increases, no improvement in education, and more kids on Ritalin.
The ESEA waiver should not be renewed because it gives credence to federal involvement in Utah education, it includes new strings by the feds that mandate the use of Common Core standards and other reforms, and NCLB just needs repealed/nullified so that states gain power and stop begging the feds for crumbs from the masters table. We also shouldn’t be setting policy through waivers but through laws. The only real solution to educational issues is a return to true local control where parents, teachers, and students collaborate on what’s best for their children’s education.
Someone just forwarded me an email from Terryl Warner which is a well thought out email I thought I should include here. I don’t have responses to all of these items but I do stand by what I wrote above that we should be seeking to nullify federal education involvement.
I appreciate your email regarding this issue and thought I would take a few minutes to respond. It is my understanding that the ESEA waiver and the Common Core State Standards are two separate decision-making processes. Whether we renew or don’t renew the ESEA waiver, we have adopted and implemented the Common Core State Standards and those will continue no matter the decision regarding the ESEA waiver.
I have researched the ESEA waiver over the past few months and this is what I have found:
** The ESEA waiver waives the requirement to follow No Child Left Behind; No Child Left Behind was from the President Bush era and indicated that 100% of students would be 100% proficient in core subjects by the end of the 2013-2014 school year. It is my understanding that no school in Utah will live up to that goal.
** The ESEA waiver allows us to use our own accountability measurements instead of the federal Department of Education accountability measures.
** The ESEA waiver up for renewal would be for one year only. In the last Board meeting we were informed that after the waiver is signed, we could always opt out of it at any time; however, if we made a conscious vote to not renew the waiver, we could not go back and try to get the waiver at a later date.
** Utah receives about $500 million in federal funds; Title 1 funds (for low-income students) are at about $100 million of that allotment. Title 1 funds are used primarily for reading and math programs, after-school tutoring programs, aides in the classroom, etc.
What happens if the ESEA waiver is signed:
** Utah does NOT have to be compliant with No Child Left Behind.
** Utah uses it’s own accountability measurements.
What happens if the ESEA waiver is NOT signed:
** Even if Utah does NOT renew the waiver, we would still receive the Title 1 funds; however, 20% of the funds would immediately have to be set aside to provide provide before/after school services, transportation away from failing schools, restructuring school improvement plans, hiring private tutoring programs and hiring outside consultants to work with failed schools. This equals approximately $23,221,997 in lost funds to schools. How do we replace those funds?
** Once the decision to not renew the waiver is made, the 20% set aside requirement would begin. This means that we the State Board does not renew the waiver on Thursday or in August’s meeting, these changes would begin in our 2014-15 school year. Please note that all Title 1 schools in Utah will be labelled failing schools.
** Utah will not be able to use it’s own accountability measurement process; Utah will be required to use the federal process.
To me, if we do not sign the waiver at this point, we will be under more federal control as we will have to begin implementing the federal improvement program. I have contacted the offices of Senators Hatch and Lee along with the offices of Congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz; all have said that the federal government probably won’t replace No Child Left Behind for the next two years. This puts us in a dilemma: do we approve the waiver and allow local districts to use their Title 1 funding in a manner they choose or do we not sign the waiver and go back under federal control?
Here is my biggest concern: I believe that if Utah does not want to renew the waiver, school districts need more than a handful of weeks to handle the financial loss; unfortunately, NCLB mandates would take place immediately. It is my understanding from a number of principals in my District (District 1), that the schools would take significant financial losses if the waiver is not renewed. One idea I have thought about is to renew the waiver for one year only – this gives local districts the opportunity to determine how best to meet the 20% set aside requirement. To move away completely away from any involvement with the federal government means Utah would lose about $500 million in education funds; I believe that if there is a movement to do this, local stakeholders (parents, community leaders, educators, administrators, elected officials, etc.) need to come together on a local level to determine how local school districts can best handle that significant of a financial cut.
I believe that before a decision affecting millions of dollars is made, we need to give local districts sufficient time to handle the financial impact and ensure the cuts do not outweigh the benefits and I struggle with the idea that we will have to set aside funds with little time to absorb those cuts.
Please let me know what you think about the idea of signing the waiver for one year; during that year, local districts and stakeholders work together to figure out how to absorb the set aside mandate in the 2015-16 school year.
Again, thank you for your input.
Utah State Board of Education