Utah education leaders plan to ask the feds to waive many No Child Left Behind requirements for the state in exchange for new school achievement programs and rules regarding teacher evaluations, according to a proposal the State Office of Education released Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Education announced last year that it would offer waivers in exchange for state plans to address college and career readiness for all students, school accountability, teacher evaluation and administrative burdens on schools.
The State Office of Education released some of the details of its plan Thursday and now is seeking public comment at http://1.usa.gov/waqOH2.
The waiver, which 27 other states have so far requested, likely would eliminate the NCLB requirement that 100 percent of students test proficient in language arts and math by 2014 a goal many have criticized over the years as unrealistic. It also could mean more flexibility when it comes to a federally designed system of consequences for Title I schools which receive federal funding for serving high percentages of students from low-income families that fail to make enough progress toward that 100 percent goal.
In exchange for waivers, Utah is proposing to implement new labels and programs for Title I schools, based on schools' scores under the state's new grading system. For example, the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools in the state could be considered "priority schools" and continue using turnaround strategies they have already started.
The next lowest-performing 10 percent of Title I schools could be labeled "focus schools" and would receive money to help them make certain reforms. Also, the state's highest-performing Title I schools could be labeled "reward schools" and be publicly recognized.
The state would continue moving forward with yearly educator evaluations based on student growth in tested and nontested subjects; instructional effectiveness based on classroom observations; and input from parents and/or students.
Those evaluations then would be used to make decisions about training, pay and employment.
State Superintendent Larry Shumway said the plan is based on goals the state has been moving toward anyway.
"Of course we'll be treading very carefully not to commit ourselves here to things that aren't goals for our Utah public education [system] and aren't aligned to Promises to Keep," he said, referring to priorities set by the state school board. "But as the Department of Education has offered the opportunity to waive some of these onerous rules, we want to take advantage of that."