What is the “Waiver Renewal”?

Background on the waiver renewal: The Office of the State Superintendent of Education has (DC’s state education agency, known as OSSE) launched its effort earlier this year to solicit public input on what’s formally called the “ESEA waiver renewal.” For the most up to date version of OSSE’s proposal, click here.

You may wonder: What is the “ESEA waiver renewal” and what does it mean to get it renewed? Under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as the No Child Left Behind Act), (virtually) every child in every school needed to test at the “proficient” level by 2014—or the school could be sanctioned in various ways, including being shut down. Since virtually no school could meet this standard, the federal Department of Education offered each state the chance to file a “waiver” that could exempt its schools from this 100% requirement.
To get the waiver, the state education agency had to make commitments to the federal ED about how it would hold schools in its state accountable for improving student achievement and how it would help low-achieving schools to improve. DC (like most states) applied for and got a waiver several years ago. The waiver is now about to expire, so OSSE has to apply for a renewal. As part of its application, OSSE can revisit the commitments it made. Interim state superintendent Amy Maisterra indicated that OSSE has learned a good deal about what works and what doesn’t from its previous waiver and may revisit such issues as:

• The basis for evaluating student achievement
• The basis for categorizing schools and the names for those categories
• How it assists schools that are struggling
• How it can help schools with lower-achieving students to attract and retain excellent teachers

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