Indiana

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Indiana’s NCLB Waiver Condition Explained

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The state has 60 days to meet the U.S. Department of Education's requirements for the No Child Left Behind waiver.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education sent state superintendent Glenda Ritz a letter informing her the state’s No Child Left Behind Waiver now has a condition placed on it.

This condition comes after a review at the end of last summer, when the U.S. Department of Education issued a report outlining what criteria Indiana wasn’t meeting.

This is a big deal, but also hard to understand, so we thought we would explain the important parts of this issue and what this means for Indiana’s schools going forward. 

What does a No Child Left Behind waiver provide the state’s education system?

When No Child Left Behind went into affect in 2002, it said every school in the country should have its students at 100 percent proficiency in math and language arts by 2014. As 2014 approached, it was obvious to the US Department of Education this was not realistic. So they granted waivers to states that applied, which exempted them from meeting those requirements.

The condition for being exempt from NCLB’s requirements was meeting different requirements laid out by the Department of Education, including a measurement plan of school performance, how to evaluate teachers and most importantly, exemption from the 100 percent proficiency benchmark.

Why is Indiana at risk of losing the waiver?

There are two main areas of the DOE requirements that Indiana is not meeting: Monitoring (following up with low performing schools) and implementing college and career ready standards with a high-quality assessment to test them.

When the DOE conducted the review in August 2013, the state had just started implementing the Common Core and created a new monitoring program to go into low performing schools to get them back on track. Because both of these were just starting, they could not be measured, thus didn’t meet the DOE’s expectations.

The state now has 60 days to prove it’s meeting these expectations before the waiver would be put under further scrutiny.

Did the passing of Indiana’s new standards influence this decision?

 It is important to note, the letter and threat of removing the waiver is not a reaction to the recent passing Indiana’s new academic standards, since it all references the state of education in Indiana almost a year ago. It’s a coincidence, the U.S. Department of Education issued its report around the same time.

Michael Cohen, President of Achieve, says proving Indiana has college and career ready standards today won’t be difficult.

“Achieve was actually one of the organizations the governor’s office asked to review the standards so I’m familiar with them and both in terms of the content of the standards and the process for developing them,” Cohen said. “I’m quite sure the new standards meet the U.S. Department of Education’s requirement for having college and career ready standards.”

What will happen if the state does lose its waiver?

If the DOE removes Indiana’s exemption then the state has to comply with the original No Child Left Behind requirements, with 100 percent of students proficient in math and reading.

If Indiana is held to that standard, a majority of schools would be considered failing and district funds would have to be allocated to tutoring and remediation services.

This happened in Washington State recently, when they lost their waiver. But as Cohen points out, Indiana’s situation is different.

“[Washington] lost its waiver because the state legislature didn’t enact a law about teacher evaluations that the U.S. Department of Education required,” Cohen said. “So that one is not on the Washington State Department of Education. It appears to me in contrast in the Indiana case, steps that haven’t been taken are in the province of the State Department of Education.”

The state has until June 30 to prove to the U.S. Department of Education it is meeting its requirement. If it doesn’t, the waiver will then be put at “high risk”, one step closer to removal. The State Board of Education scheduled a special meeting Tuesday to ask the Indiana Department of Education about its plan to meet the requirements.

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