Los Angeles Unified School District and eight other school districts in California are seeking an exemption from tough provisions in the No Child Left Behind law requiring 100 percent of their students to be proficient in math and English by 2014 or face sanctions, including school closure.
The coalition of districts, dubbed the California Office to Reform Education, submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Education in February and an updated version in May. The group — consisting of Clovis, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sanger and Santa Ana Unified School Districts —is now working to answer remaining questions from the government regarding its proposal. The application by CORE represents the first time that school districts have joined to submit a unified proposal.
In 2011, the Obama Administration announced that it would grant states waivers to the requirements in return for agreeing to certain reforms. The waivers would exempt schools from No Child Left Behind’s proficiency goals and would grant districts more freedom in spending federal money.
So far, 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Education have requested waivers. To date, 37 states and the District of Columbia have been granted them. Other requests are pending.
California officials submitted an application for a waiver, but it was rejected in January because it did not include provisions that linked teacher evaluations to student achievement on standardized tests. State officials said they would not submit another application.
As a result, the U.S. Department of Education considers California to be among a handful of states that have not applied for waivers.
Unlike California’s failed proposal, the CORE proposal allows for some accountability tied to test scores. However, it would also look at factors such as graduation rates, chronic absenteeism and performance surveys by students, staff and parents.
McLean said CORE is hopeful its plan will get final approval before the 2013 school year begins. If it receives approval, it will allow California districts or charter schools to join the waiver in return for adopting its proposed plan of accountability.
“This is an iterative process,” said Hilary McLean, a spokesperson for CORE. “We’re really, really excited that we feel like we’re close to getting the Federal nod to start implementing it.”
The 11-year-old No Child Left Behind law mandates that public schools bring 100 percent of their students to proficiency in math and English by 2014 or face sanctions, including school closure.
In January of this year, state officials predicted that 80 percent of California schools would fail in 2014.
State school officials have said they support any attempt that will grant relief to local education agencies from the tough provisions in No Child Left Behind.