Obama Administration Moves Forward with NCLB Waiver Plan

On August 8, 2011 President Obama’s Administration announced that Education Secretary Arne Duncan will move forward with his plan to offer states waivers of some of the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), including the mandate for all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Earlier this year, the President requested Congress to re-write NCLB before the beginning of the 2012 school year to promote education reform and avoid further labeling of U.S. schools as “failing” under current NCLB standards. A few bills have been introduced in Congress in recent months, but none appear viable, prompting the Administration to move forward with the NCLB waiver plan first proposed by Secretary Duncan in June.  Although both Democratic and Republican members of Congress have expressed concerns about the waiver plan, an August 9th Huffington Post article observed that Democratic opposition may have died down with the acknowledgement that the current partisan atmosphere in Congress makes a timely NCLB overhaul unlikely. The article quoted a House Democrat as stating “I understand why Secretary Duncan and President Obama feel they need to take action – the timing, coupled with recent disappointing policy actions by Republicans, make it very difficult to see how we can get a bipartisan [NCLB] this Congress.”  On the other hand, a House Republican who continues to oppose the plan questioned the Secretary’s legal authority to grant the waivers and stated that he “will be monitoring the Secretary’s actions closely to ensure they are consistent with the law and congressional intent.” 

According to the August 9th Huffington Post article, Secretary Duncan believes that his NCLB waiver plan is bipartisan because none of the Democratic and Republican governors he has spoken to have turned the plan down.  An executive at the Center on Education Policy has predicted that the vast majority of states will apply for waivers. Several states, including Virginia, Minnesota and Kentucky, have already expressed interest in seeking waivers, as reported in separate August 8th articles in Education Week online.  The Secretary has indicated that the waivers will be granted to states in exchange for agreements to implement education reforms.  Although the details for the education reforms won’t be available until September 2011, the Secretary has indicated that the reforms will reflect the President’s March 2010 Blueprint for Reform which stresses improving data usage, adopting college- and career-ready academic standards, enhancing accountability, and improving teacher quality.

PCG Education offers tools and professional consulting services that promote goals for education reform, including:  web-based electronic systems for data warehousing, special education case management, response to intervention and positive behavioral supports that can assist education agencies to collect, manage, and effectively use student data and highlight accountability for student progress; and professional literacy and learning consulting services that can assist in establishing and maintaining college- and career-ready academic standards and improve teacher quality through professional development.