Florida's NCLB waiver comes with conditions
Florida's waiver from No Child Left Behind mandates, announced earlier Thursday, comes with strings attached.
In a letter to commissioner Gerard Robinson (attached below), US Education Secretary Arne Duncan explained that Florida must do more to ensure inclusion of all students in setting school grades. He also said the state must take steps to resolve concerns with the way it has implemented federal School Improvement Grants for low-performing schools:
"Our decision to place conditions on the approval of Florida’s request is based on the fact that Florida has not formally changed its inclusion policies to ensure that all students, including all English learners and all students with disabilities, are fully included in the State’s system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support. It is also based on the fact that Florida has an unresolved monitoring finding related to its implementation of the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program and the process the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) used to award its fiscal year 2010 SIG funds. In its request for ESEA flexibility, Florida has committed to changing its inclusion policies related to English learners and students with disabilities, and we are confident that Florida will quickly resolve the finding regarding its implementation of the SIG program.
"To receive approval to implement ESEA flexibility through the end of the 2013–2014 school year, Florida must: (1) provide an amended request demonstrating that Florida has modified its inclusion policies to ensure that all students, including all English learners and all students with disabilities, are fully included in the State’s system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support in accordance with ESEA requirements for such inclusion, including by attaching to the amended request evidence of such formal modification of the State’s inclusion policies; and (2) submit an approvable plan to the Department no later than July 15, 2012, as required by step 5 of the corrective action required to resolve the finding in the February 8, 2012 SIG Monitoring Report related to the FDOE’s awarding of its fiscal year 2010 SIG funds. If Florida fails to demonstrate that it has modified its inclusion policies or fails to take the necessary steps to resolve the SIG monitoring finding, the waivers being granted to Florida through ESEA flexibility will expire on July 27, 2012, and Florida and its districts will be required to immediately resume complying with all ESEA requirements, including making adequate yearly progress determinations based on assessments administered during the 2011–2012 school year."
The state has until July 27 to comply. Georgia and Oklahoma also received conditional approval for their waivers, among the 10 states to win approval.
Mike Petrilli, executive editor of Education Next, ridiculed the conditions on his Twitter account. The USDOE "made FL add back the dumbest parts of AYP in order to get 'flexibility,'" he wrote. "Florida wanted to stop the ruse that all kids with learning disabilities would be proficient. @arneduncan said no."
Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson wouldn't take that bait. He said he was happy to have the waiver and wanted to "give it a fair chance to see how it works out," adding that Florida also was able to rid itself of many of the restrictions that leaders felt hampered the state's accountability effort.