Submitted By: Steve Drake and originally from EIA
As Enterprising Educators was ready to go to “press,” EducationWeek and major newspapers nationwide reported that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, frustrated that Congress has failed to address or reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), is prepared to grant states relief, possibly in the form of waivers, from what is currently known as “No Child Left Behind (NCLB).” Duncan, facing mounting pressure from states and school districts to be excused from NCLB’s 2014 deadline for all students to be “proficient” in reading and math, announced the move in a June 10 conference call with reporters. “The worst-case scenario is that Congress does nothing, and we do nothing,” Mr. Duncan was quoted by EducationWeek as telling the reporters, adding that the waivers constitute his “moral obligation” to states and districts.
EducationWeek goes on to indicate that in exchange for relief from provisions of NCLB – including supplemental educational services – Duncan would expect “commitments to key reforms” from public school jurisdictions. While the Secretary offered few details on what the NCLB relief would constitute, many believe it would come in the form of waivers.
“Secretary Duncan’s announcement of a ‘Plan B’ is certainly no surprise, as he has already granted hundreds of waivers to NCLB over the past year or so,” said EIA Executive Director Steve Pines. “The good news for EIA members, and SES providers in particular, is that together with Tutor Our Children, EIA continues to take some significant steps to fight what has clearly been a growing trend.” (See Next Article)
Regarding SES, the EducationWeek article said: “Mr. Duncan said he’d like to give states the ability to focus on student gains rather than absolute test scores, as current growth models do. And he’d like to grant more flexibility in how Title I money for disadvantaged students is spent. Though he didn’t offer specifics, that could mean waiving the requirement that schools in need of improvement under the law must set aside a specific amount of money to provide tutoring or school choice.”
For its part, Congress reacted to Duncan’s announcement with mildly veiled criticism and a bit of defensiveness. Senate Education Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) said in a statement, “We are making good progress toward introducing a bill. … Given the bipartisan commitment in Congress to fixing [NCLB], it seems premature at this point to take steps outside the legislative process that would address NCLB’s problems in a temporary and piecemeal way.”
House Education Chairman John Kline (R-MN), through a spokeswoman, said he “remains concerned about any initiative that would allow the secretary to pick winners and losers in the nation’s education system.” And House Education Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) expressed skepticism about the timing and need of potential waivers, and concerns about the message the Secretary’s plan would send to states and districts.
On the other side of the ledger was the National Education Association, which welcomed Secretary Duncan’s announcement, insofar as the teachers union wants to see flexibility on the current law’s 2014 proficiency requirements. Interestingly, however, the NEA said it did not want the Department to waive requirements that districts provide tutoring under NCLB, or waive requirements that districts disaggregate data that illuminates student achievement among subgroups, such as special education students.
The National School Boards Association and the American Association of School Administrators have also called on Secretary Duncan to freeze NCLB’s penalties.
About the Contributor
Steve Drake provides corporations, small businesses, non-profits and government agencies with targeted, expert and cost-effective communications, marketing and business development strategy and implementation. He holds both a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, where he currently serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication. He speaks and writes on a range of communications topics, including public relations in China, international public relations, and strategic thinking.