President Obama announces waiver plan for NCLB

President Barack Obama announced sweeping changes today that will allow states to apply for waivers from current requirements under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. As the deadline approaches for all students to be proficient in reading and math — by the year 2014 — the waivers will give states more control over how they meet the requirements of a law that is often viewed as too limiting. 

“To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level,” President Obama said.

The federal government released a fact sheet stating that to apply for a waiver, states must develop and submit plans aimed at improving student outcomes through: 1) college and career-ready standards; 2) systems of differentiated recognition, accountability and support; and 3) evaluating and supporting teacher and principal effectiveness. NCLB, signed into law with strong bipartisan support shortly after 9/11, is the latest incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is supposed to be renewed every five years. It was due for re-authorization in 2007, but Congress has yet to reach agreement on reauthorizing it. Few experts see hope for a re-authorization before the 2012 presidential election.

Obama’s waiver plan has the support of some organizations that have previously called for a full rewrite of NCLB, including Education Trust, an organization focused on closing the achievement gap, which feels the plan strikes a nice balance between federal and state control.

Other groups, like Democrats for Education Reform, have expressed concern that the waivers could allow some states that haven’t shown much improvement to avoid accountability.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said that she feels the waivers don’t adequately address what is known about effective teacher-evaluation systems.

RiShawn Biddle, of Dropout Nation, writes that the waiver plan is a strong move away from accountability.

What’s your take — is the Obama administration’s plan for NCLB waivers a good idea?