Updated: Virginia Receives Waiver from Controversial Federal Education Law
Virginia superintendent announces U.S. Department of Education has granted the state a waiver to No Child Left Behind.
The state superintendent announced on Friday that Virginia schools and school divisions no longer will need to meet “arbitrary and unrealistic” benchmarks outlined in federal law mandating that all students achieve grade-level proficiency by 2014.
“Virginia schools and school divisions can now focus their energy and resources on implementing the state Board of Education’s rigorous new content standards and assessments without contending with outdated and often counter-productive federal requirements and rules,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright said. “The commonwealth will continue to hold schools accountable for closing achievement gaps but schools won’t be subject to a system of increasingly unrealistic annual objectives.”
The waiver allows the state Board of Education to establish “challenging but attainable goals,” according to Wright, which will focus on increasing overall student achievement and student achievement in demographic subgroups.
Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Morton Sherman said: "I am so pleased that the onerous provisions of what I call 'No Child Left Untested' have been changed. The high ideals of NCLB have never been realized in implementation because of the negative approach of this law. We will work closely with our staff and families to explain the implications for ACPS."
City Councilman Rob Krupicka, who also is a member of the state Board of Education, said on Friday that he’s pleased with the change.
“It gives [Alexandria City Public Schools] more flexibility in how it spends federal money…and takes away prescriptive punishments for school districts that are not meeting achievement goals. The overly prescriptive requirements created limited options for how you can transform schools.”
He added that NCLB still needs to "go away," but the announcement is good news.
School Board Chairman Sheryl Gorsuch said the waiver approval "will end the intensive duplicate planning that was necessary with current rules in place while new rules were pending."
She added that accountability with new benchmarks demonstrating growth in student achievement "is a more realistic and beneficial way to measure student progress."
The School Board will be briefed next week on the final approved changes that affect ACPS, according to Gorsuch.
"Relief from unsuccessful NCLB requirements, such as mandatory Supplemental Education Services from third party vendors, will be a welcome outcome so that we can focus resources on students in ways that are proven to improve achievement," she said.
Annual benchmarks will be set with the goal of reducing the failure rate in reading and mathematics by 50 percent — overall and of each student subgroup — within six years. In contrast, NCLB, as passed by Congress in 2001, requires all students — regardless of circumstance, disability or current achievement level — to demonstrate grade-level proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014.
Virginia’s Education Department will continue to report as it has since 1999 under the Standards of Learning program, which are annual school accreditation ratings in September based on overall achievement in English, mathematics, science and history and high school graduation and completion.