DES MOINES Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass and other department leaders on Tuesday, Feb. 28, submitted an application for a waiver from the rigid accountability measures of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The proposal reflects a bold accountability system that makes sense for Iowa and emphasizes student growth and progress in addition to proficiency on tests, Glass said.
While No Child Left Behind has advanced some important reforms, such as shifting attention to the nation's neediest students, the law also holds schools to unrealistic measures and then labels those that fall short as failing.
"Today marks an opportunity for Iowa's schools an opportunity for this era of blame and shame to come to an end," Glass said. "This new accountability system will be central to our work to transform Iowa's good schools into world-class schools."
President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last August invited states to apply for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive state-developed accountability plans. States must meet three principles in their waiver applications: Adopt college- and career-ready standards for all students; redesign the accountability system to fairly identify successes and target supports to schools that are struggling; and improve evaluation and support systems for teachers and administrators.
Elements of education legislation introduced by Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds in January set the stage for a successful waiver request. The legislation builds on the work of establishing state standards through the Iowa Core; redesigns Iowa's system of assessments so they tightly align with the Iowa Core and emphasize applying knowledge to complex problems; includes a college-entrance exam for all 11th graders and a career-readiness assessment for students who opt for one; uses a sophisticated student growth measure that takes into account student backgrounds and demographics; and improves teacher and principal evaluations to deliver timely and individualized feedback.
Over the past two months, Department leaders have worked to share information and to gather input statewide from education stakeholder groups, educators, state policymakers and community leaders, and parents and students. Communication efforts will continue as Iowa moves forward with its waiver proposal.
The Department is joined by the School Administrators of Iowa, the Iowa Association of School Boards and the Urban Education Network of Iowa in the commitment to bring state education policies in line with the waiver proposal a critical component needed to make Iowa's application successful.
Glass said he will withdraw the waiver application if there is little or no movement in this area at the State Capitol this session.
"Neither the status-quo policy framework, nor an overly watered-down version of education reform, will meet what has been written into Iowa's waiver," Glass said.
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have indicated they will apply for waivers by the second-round deadline, which is today.
Eleven states that applied in the first round in November were approved.
Glass said he expects to receive feedback from the U.S. Department of Education and to make any necessary revisions in the spring.
An overview of federal guidance and information about the waiver process can be found at www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility.
For more information about Iowa's waiver, please visit www.educateiowa.gov.