1. The Education Gradebook

Do waivers nullify No Child Left Behind?

Published Jul. 6, 2012

As Florida and a growing list of other states win waivers to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, critics have begun to question whether the law — which Congress has failed to revamp and reauthorize — really matters anymore.

In the middle of the 2012 presidential election campaign, some have suggested that the Obama administration's decision to cut states loose of the rules in exchange for certain agreements is really Obama's way of subverting lawmakers to get what he wants.

But the NY Times reports that some observers are not impressed with the waiver policy, noting that few states are making major overhauls in their public education policy despite being freed of the mandates. Florida, for instance, decided to keep pouring its Title I money into NCLB tutoring programs despite getting a waiver that could end that expense.

Then there's the whole issue of testing, which isn't going away despite growing pressure to at least reduce its emphasis. From the NY Times report:

"The waivers 'should probably make the meh list,' said Joshua Starr, superintendent of the Montgomery County schools in Maryland, which was granted a waiver in May.

"Mr. Starr said he believed that education reform should focus on incentives to help teachers collaborate and help students learn skills that could not simply be measured by tests.

"'It is another example to me of how we're not focused on the right things in the American education conversation today," Mr. Starr said. 'I have a lot of respect for Arne Duncan,' he added, referring to the secretary of education, 'but it's just sort of moving around the chairs on the Titanic.'"

Let's hear your thoughts. Are the NCLB waivers helpful to states? Or just a different way to do the same thing?


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