Waivers won’t hurt accountability, says state education board official

State Board of Education member Marcia Neal of Grand Junction believes Colorado’s intention to apply for a waiver to No Child Left Behind requirements will leave the state more, not less, accountable for student performance.

The Colorado Department of Education and education departments from other states have until Nov. 14 to submit a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education to have a request reviewed this December. The state board of education has to grant the CDE permission to apply for the waiver.

A waiver would allow the state to bypass Adequate Yearly Progress measures, a federal standard that judges schools based on targets set for standardized test performance in various categories, such as performance of students on free and reduced lunch. Adequate Yearly Progress scores are used to decide if schools should create an improvement plan. If the plan doesn’t work, the school has to spend federal funding in specific ways or, in extreme cases, close.

States have to create their own accountability plans to qualify for a waiver. Colorado has an “excellent” accountability system already, Neal said, citing the state’s push for a new assessment by 2014 and an accountability system that debuted last year called performance frameworks. Performance frameworks measure a school’s success based on test performance, student test score growth, performance gaps between certain groups, graduation rates and ACT scores.

“We’re applying for a waiver not because we want to get out of accountability, but because we already have better accountability,” Neal said.

Twenty-three District 51 schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress this year and 19 did. Five of those schools are on improvement plans, which means they did not make AYP for two consecutive years.

Chatfield and Rocky Mountain elementary schools are in their third year on improvement plans, which means they have to provide after-school tutoring and busing for students at those schools to another schools that did make AYP if the student wants to attend another school.

School performance frameworks, which have not yet been released for 2011, placed Chatfield on a priority improvement plan and Rocky Mountain on an improvement plan last year. Schools have to close or restructure if they spend more than five years on a priority improvement or turnaround plan.

Neal said the state expects to hear if Colorado was granted a waiver early next year. The state board of education, she said, has informally approved the waiver request and will likely make that decision formally next month.


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