Maryland receives No Child Left Behind waiver
USDE announces eight states who will receive flexibility from federal mandatesBy Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun
6:39 PM EDT, May 29, 2012
Maryland was among 25 states and Washington, D.C., to apply in the second round for relief from the federal law, which requires that every student in the country be proficient in reading and math by 2014 and has since labeled more than half of the country's schools as failures.
Last year, President Barack Obama offered states that have embraced his administration's key education reform initiatives — including Maryland — the opportunity to apply for a waiver from some of the elements of the Bush administration's 2002 signature education law.
So far, 19 states have been approved for waivers. Many of the states had also adopted reforms for the federal Race to the Top grants.
In addition to Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, North Carolina, Ohio, New York, Louisiana and Rhode Island also received waivers Tuesday. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., are still under review.
In a conference call, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the states whose applications were strongest had three key elements: They were on track to strengthen college and career readiness programs, are focusing on teacher and principal effectiveness, and would apply strong accountability measures for their lowest-performing schools.
"States can only receive waivers if they are protecting children," Duncan said, "and these eight states have met that bar."
According to Maryland's application, schools should cut their achievement gaps in half in the next six years. Schools will be measured not just on how all students perform, but also on groups of students, including minorities, special education students and those who speak English as a second language.
"Federal officials are allowing Maryland to concentrate efforts on those schools in greatest need of assistance," Interim State Superintendent Bernard Sadusky said in a statement.
"We are not turning our back on accountability, and will continue to work to make certain all schools and students improve. At the same time, we are pleased the U.S. Department of Education will allow us to funnel resources into those classrooms with the most vexing issues."
Districts across Maryland have been anticipating the waiver, as the percentage of schools labeled failing — in even the highest-performing districts like Montgomery County — has increased every year, as the 2014 deadline approaches.
Currently, one-third of Maryland's schools, which have been deemed No.1 in the country, are considered failing under NCLB.
Under its application, the state will give each school an individual goal to meet in six years in reading and math. Using the percentage of its students who now pass Maryland School Assessments, the state will require each school to halve the number of students who currently aren't achieving. Groups such as special-education students would also have to make similar progress.
High schools will be judged on how well students do on the Maryland High School Assessments and on whether they are increasing their graduation rate.
A school that doesn't meet the goals will not be labeled failing and will not have to institute drastic overhauls that could include getting rid of the principal and most of the teachers.
"The goals in the application will help the entire state redefine progress," said Baltimore City schools CEO Andrés Alonso.