U.S. Department of Education rejects Iowa's waiver from NCLB legislation
DES MOINES — Iowa’s attempt to rid itself of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation was thwarted Thursday.
That’s when the U.S. Department of Education notified the Iowa Department of Education that its request for a waiver from key provisions of NCLB had been denied.
Mt. Pleasant currently has four attendance centers that have not met the required standards of NCLB legislation. How the denial impacts Mt. Pleasant is not known. Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Roederer is on vacation and could not be reached for comment today.
The central stumbling block and reason for denial, according to the Iowa Department of Education is a new statutory requirement, passed by the Iowa Legislature this past session, that any changes to the system of educator evaluation must be approved by the Legislature.
“This was a missed opportunity for Iowa’s schools to find relief from a law that holds them to unrealistic measures and then blames them for failure,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass. “We made it clear to the Legislature in committee meetings and in writing that the Iowa Department of Education needed statutory authority to move forward on implementing a waiver-compliance evaluation system. The legislature did not follow through.”
In her letter to Glass, Deborah S. Delisle of the U.S. Department of Education said, “The U.S. Department of Education provided guidance to state educational agencies explaining that, in order to meet the principles of ESEA flexibility (state waiver), the state education department must develop and adopt guidelines for teacher and leader valuation and support systems that:
• Will be used for continual improvement of instruction;
• Meaningfully differentiate performance using at least three performance levels;
• Use multiple valid measures in determining performance levels, including as a significant factor data on student growth for all students (including English learners and students with disabilities), and other measure of professional practice (which may be gathered through multiple formats and sources, such as observations based on rigorous teacher performance standards, teacher portfolios, and student and parent surveys);
• Evaluate teachers and principals on a regular basis;
• Provide clear, timely, and useful feedback, including feedback that identifies needs and guides professional development; and
• Will be used to inform personnel decisions.”
Delisle said Iowa’s waiver request reflects that “the Iowa Department of Education does not currently have authority to ensure implementation of teacher and principal evaluation and support systems consistent with the principle of ESEA (waiver) flexibility. Because of these constraints, the department is not able to approve Iowa’s request for flexibility at this time.”
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad blamed the legislature for the failure of the NCLB waiver request. “Responsibility for the denial of this request lies squarely at the feet of the Iowa Legislature, which did too little to improve our schools despite repeated warning.
“The education reform plan Lt. Governor Reynolds and I proposed would have ensured a waiver from the onerous federal No Child Left Behind law. Lawmakers, instead, chose to delay updating our educator evaluation system by requiring a task force to study the issue and make recommendations for consideration by the 2013 Legislature.
“The U.S. Department of Education, however, left the door open to approving Iowa’s request for flexibility if lawmakers come back to the table and pass meaningful reform that gives the Iowa Department of Education the authority it needs to update evaluations now.
“Iowa has slipped to the middle of the pack in education in part because we did not adopt the same rigorous policies as other states receiving the waiver. This reflects poorly on Iowa, and our students deserve better.”