North Carolina is one of eight states receiving flexibility waivers from key provisions of No Child Left Behind in exchange for state-developed plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the new round of waiver approvals on Tuesday. To date, 19 states have received waiver approval, and another 18 waiver plans are under review.
This decision comes after several months of peer reviews and negotiation with the US Department of Education. Through this process, North Carolina education leaders clarified information provided in support of its waivers and adjusted some elements of the state’s plan.
The waiver process allows states important flexibility that they need in order to move forward with efforts to improve schools and support opportunities to close achievement gaps and improve learning for students. North Carolina’s waivers allow the state to move away from the Adequate Yearly Progress measure that is an “all or nothing” measure. Many felt the AYP process unfairly labeled schools for missing one or two targets among many and provided disincentives to states that wanted to implement new accountability models, more rigorous standards and other improvements.
State Superintendent June Atkinson was pleased to receive the news that the state’s waiver requests had been approved. “I fully support the fundamental goal of accountability, but I have never felt comfortable with the one-size-fits-all nature of NCLB. These waivers allow us to better meet the needs of our schools and students while also giving clear information to parents about performance and progress.”
In its request, the NCDPI identified how it would ensure public school students would meet College- and Career-Ready expectations for all students, how Title I schools would be held accountable for students’ academic proficiency, and how the state would support effective instruction and leadership. Title I schools are those that receive federal dollars through ESEA to assist students who attend high poverty schools.
While schools will still be measured against annual measurable objectives (AMOs) calculated and reported under NCLB, it will no longer be the “all or nothing” measure of the past. Because the law, which is more than four years overdue for Congressional reauthorization, required a 100 percent proficiency target for every group of students, it virtually guaranteed that most schools eventually would be labeled as failing. As a result, information provided through the AYP calculations became less useful and informative, the provisions for public school choice became unworkable and requirements for providing supplemental educational services did not necessarily reach the students needing this intervention the most.
North Carolinians will see the impact of these waivers as early as this summer. Rather than reporting on Adequate Yearly Progress, the NCDPI will report on Annual Measurable Objectives. These include more specific achievement targets for each student group, guarantees that at least 95 percent of students participate in testing, high school graduation rate targets for each student group, and attendance rate targets for students in grades K-8.
Public school choice options and Supplemental Educational Services to qualifying students will become local school district options in the 2012-13 school year. NCDPI will continue to maintain its list of approved supplemental educational service providers as a service to local school districts that choose to continue this program.
Under the new ESEA Title I School Designations, Title I schools will be categorized as:
- Focus Schools – an elementary or middle school that is contributing to the achievement gap in the state or a high school with a graduation rate less than 60 percent over a number of years that is not identified as a priority school. The total number of Focus Schools must equal at least 10 percent of the Title I schools in the state (130 schools in North Carolina).
- Priority Schools – a school that has been identified as among the lowest-performing schools in the state. The total number of priority schools must be at least 5 percent of the total number of Title I schools in the state (77 in North Carolina).
- Reward Schools – a school that is a highest-performing school (all student groups make AYP) and cannot have significant achievement gaps across subgroups; or a high progress school which is a Title I school among the 10 percent of Title I schools in the state that are making the most progress in improving the performance of all students over a number of years and exhibit no significant achievement gaps across student subgroups. There are 120 Reward Schools in North Carolina.
The Focus and Priority Schools will be required to take actions to improve educational services for students. Local school districts will have discretion to decide how to intervene in Focus Schools. Priority Schools will receive more prescriptive interventions to improve performance. Schools remain on the Focus or Priority lists for three years, and a new list of Focus and Priority Schools will be developed in 2015. Reward Schools will be identified annually.
Reward Schools will be eligible for public recognition and to apply for additional funds.
NC’s Flexibility Waiver Request (including school lists)
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 100 charter schools serving over 1.4 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state’s public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.