State Board of Education Adopts “ESEA Waiver Report.” 2015

State Board of Education Adopts “ESEA Waiver Report,” calling for a review of the side effects of DC’s accountability system, enhanced school report cards, more meaningful reporting of test scores

The No Child Left Behind law requires every state (and for this purpose DC is a state!) to adopt academic standards for each grade, to administer annual tests in reading and math, to report these test scores by school and subgroup, and hold schools accountable for student achievement.  NCLB required schools to get 100% of their students to the “proficient” level by 2014 or face sanctions. Given that the 100% threshold is, practically speaking, an impossible goal (at least if you maintain a high standard), the Department of Education allows states to apply for “waivers” of the law.  In return for adopting its own accountability system (that meets a number of federal guidelines), a state can get a waiver of certain NCLB rules. DC applied for and received such a waiver several years ago.  It’s now time for DC to apply for a renewal.  The renewal is handled through DC’s state education agency, the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE). OSSE has filed an initial waiver request and will make additional amendments later, after further discussions.

The State Board of Education thinks this is the right opportunity to revisit several aspects of our accountability system.  I was the chair of the SBOE committee on the Waiver Renewal.  The committee  recommended, and the full SBOE adopted, a set of recommendations that we hope OSSE will include as it pursues our city’s waiver renewal. You can see the full report here.  Some highlights are:

**Examine the side effects of DC’s accountability system—specifically, the excessive time spent on testing and test prep and the narrowing of the curriculum, especially in elementary grades, to the heavily tested subjects, meaning that history-social studies, science and the arts get squeezed out.  And, establish a task force to figure out how we can promote these subjects.

**Enhance the state report cards to or provide a broader view of school quality.  These report cards are heavily relied on by parents as they choose schools for their kids, and they send a signal to schools about what is regarded as important.

**More transparent, relevant reporting of key school data.

What do you think about these issues? Your responses will help determine how we pursue these issuesPlease email me here.

For a great piece on the growing interest in the connection between high-level reading comprehension and students’ knowledge of history-social studies, science, and the arts, see this article by Natalie Wexler in Greater, Greater Washington.  

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Ruth Wattenberg for Ward 3 School Board 2014

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