A joint resolution was submitted in the Alaska House of Representatives today to have Gov. Sean Parnell direct the Department of Education & Early Development to pursue a waiver for the No Child Left Behind act.
The department has been looking at options since Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a possibility of waivers last September, releasing details later in the month.
EED Public Information Officer Eric Fry said the department has already been doing the work necessary should the state apply for a waiver. He said applying for a waiver really takes a three-pronged approach and the state is already doing, or close to doing two of them. The third wouldn't take long and could be completed before the next deadline to file for a waiver.
The newly proposed math and English language arts standards would probably meet the federal requirements for a waiver, Fry said, but the department will need to develop an assessment tool to go along with it. The state Board of Education is slated to approve a final version of those standards in June.
"Another portion is to come up with some way of tying in teacher evaluations with student assessment results to some degree," Fry said. "We’ve had a teacher quality working group, working on issues related to teacher quality for a few years. They’ve been focused on a few ideas for that."
Fry said the department would have something in place for districts to create their own standards to meet the expectations of the federal government.
Reps. Bob Miller, D-Fairbanks, Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, Scott Jiu Wo Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, and Les Gara, D-Anchorage, introduced House Joint Resolution 39 on Wednesday "to opt-out" of the federal NCLB and develop "its own Alaska-appropriate education standards."
“No Child Left Behind was a federal mandate that never worked for Alaska,” Miller stated in a press release. “It’s time we develop our own Alaska-appropriate standards and get out from under this federal program that set too many of our schools up to fail.”
He also said there is no bar too high for requirements on the waivers to "opt out."
Fry clarified the waivers aren't to get out of regulations on No Child Left Behind, but they allow states to tailor regulations to their needs.
"The waiver the federal government is offering is not a free-form waiver," he said. "I wouldn’t say you’re opting out of NCLB if you get a waiver, you’re agreeing to a different set of requirements."
Fry said Title I schools would still require an intervention, for example.
"If you get a waiver, you would be freed with that 100 percent goal, but you still have to come up with your own goals," he said. "Presumably they’d be more reasonable than expecting 100 percent."
The federal law calls for all students to be at 100 proficiency in the Adequate Yearly Progress exams by 2014.
But what Miller and his cosigners appear to be getting at is the state-tailored aspect of the waivers.
Fry said the last piece the state needs to do to be ready to apply for a waiver is set up a statewide accountability system that would meet the requirements of the federal government. That would require statewide stakeholders to formulate the system and a public testimony process.
"We still have time to do that before the September deadline," Fry said, adding the department isn't behind in its process. "At some point the governor is going to have to sign off on whether he wants to apply for a waiver or not. The department is working toward making it possible to apply for a waiver."
Fry said the state will benefit from watching the first set of states who have been granted waivers because it will be able to evaluate what they've done.
For the resolution documentation, see http://bit.ly/wCxe5Y. For more information on the waivers, visit 1.usa.gov/qcR6vD.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.