Indiana

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Bennett: NCLB Waivers Can't Lower School Accountability Standards

Indiana will ask for a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind requirements, but the waivers don’t mean states can soften their standards, state superintendent Tony Bennett said Thursday.

Many policymakers have been backing off the aggressive NCLB mandate that 100 percent of students nationwide be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Instead, Bennett said Indiana will ask for a waiver from the mandate that instead lets the state continue putting a system in place that measures student growth, rewarding schools with high growth and sanctioning schools with low growth or decline.

“The real danger is to accept blanket waivers or blanket waivers couching soft reforms. We’re going to have a very rigorous waivers with rigorous reforms underneath it,” Bennett told an audience at the Fordham Institute yesterday (Yes, at Education Idol. He had already been crowned the winner.)

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — who helped craft the legislation as a member of the Bush administration — told MSNBC on Wednesday he was glad Duncan is offering the waivers, but not to lose sight of the fact that the intentions of NCLB were, he said, noble:

The law gets more grief than it deserves. We needed accountability in education. We came off decades in which the education establishment said, “Just shovel in some more money and shut up.” And finally national policy said, “No.” We want to see every child have the chance to succeed in life… The general idea of NCLB deserved the bipartisan support that it had, but it was a pretty clumsy implement.

States are lining up by the dozen to take advantage of the waivers, even without knowledge of the waiver plan’s details. From Ed Week:

It’s probably pretty easy for state officials to cheer the administration’s waiver plan when there aren’t any real details out yet. It will be interesting to see how many of these folks are still on Team Waiver when the administration gets into the nitty-gritty. For instance, South Carolina seems to be on board with the waiver plan, but it didn’t want a Race to the Top grant that could have come with similar strings.

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