The director of the Iowa Department of Education submitted the state’s request for a waiver from the federal “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) education standards today. Director Jason Glass says the waiver approval is contingent upon the creation of an approved education plan by the Iowa legislature.
Glass says the legislature needs to act on adopting elements of the Iowa core curriculum, begining the work of redesigning the student assessment system, developing a measure to gauge student growth, and developing an evaluation system for teachers and administrators.
Today is the federal deadline to submit the waiver request, and since the legislature is still in session, Glass says they will have to compare what the legislature passes with the NCLB requirements.
“If nothing happens in this legislative session, then I will be forced to withdrawal our waiver application,” Glass says.
The Iowa House and Senate are each working on education plans, and Glass was asked whether those plans will meet the waiver requirements. “They each contain elements that move us in the right direction, but neither one is quite there yet,” according to Glass.
“We like the direction the Senate is going in terms of evaluation systems, and so I think there is work that we can pick up on with that. We like that the House amendments did address redesigning the assessment system specifically around a college entrance exam — but we think that that needs to be stronger. And so, I think that there are components of this that we can work with on both sides.”
Glass says if the waiver is granted there could be an immediate impact on how schools are treated. He says the department will identify the high-achieving schools.
“They will be provided greater autonomy in our monitoring, so they sort of earned their autonomy. So, they will have less frequent visits from the Department of Education, less frequent scrutiny from the Department of Education because they have showed with their achievement data that they are getting things done,” Glass explains.
“On the other side of that equation, we will have to identify priority and needs improvement schools In those schools we will be focusing more on monitoring and support.” Glass says they expect to hear sometime this spring if the waiver will be granted.
Governor Terry Branstad said he supports the waiver request, because the state plan will be tailored more to the needs of the state than the federal plan. “I think it makes a lot more sense for Iowa to have its own accountability system that will do a lot better job of preparing teachers and evaluating teachers to make sure that we have great teachers and we’re assisting those who need improvement. As well as well focusing on how we can improve student achievement and measure student achievement in a fair and objective way.”
Glass says 10 states have already been approved for a waiver of the federal rules, and Iowa is one of 30 others that are seeking the waiver.