The Obama administration is inviting states to apply to renew their waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act. And according to guidance issued Thursday, these renewed waivers could last all the way through the 2018-2019 school year -- locking down some of President Barack Obama's education policy changes well into the next presidency.
The new guidelines don't radically change the criteria for escaping the law's strictures. According to an Education Department document, states will have to ensure that schools cannot receive top ratings for accountability if they are not closing "significant achievement or graduation rate gaps" between different groups of students. Some states have struggled to keep promises they made under the 2011 waiver guidelines to improve low-performing schools. Under the new guidance, states must update their lists of such schools "to ensure that interventions are being implemented in the lowest-performing schools."
Beyond that, a state must continue to show "how it will continue to ensure all students graduate from high school ready for college and a career, through implementation of college- and career-ready standards and high-quality aligned assessments," the new guidelines say. Many states have satisfied this waiver requirement by adopting the Common Core State Standards, a controversial set of learning standards that formally define what students need to know in English language arts and math by the end of each academic year. Oklahoma dropped Common Core earlier this year, and lost its waiver in August as a result.
States must also continue to show that they are implementing teacher evaluations that take student performance into account, as they promised when they initially joined the program. Washington state lost its waiver for failing to comply with this directive.
Peter Greene took on the news at Curmudgucation:
The new guidelines are essentially like the old guidelines, with a hard line emphasis on basing evaluation of teachers, schools, students, principals, bus drivers, landscaping artists and the guy who delivers paper supplies to the school on standardized tests. It was just a month ago that Duncan was shrugging his shoulders and saying, "Dang. I don't know why the heck everyone got so obsessed with testy stuff. I guess it was all of us, huh?" Now he's back to "You will all eat, breathe, live and die by the tests. Or else."
For Obama-watchers, there is no surprise in this news.
There was no way the Obama administration was going to back away from CCSS, high stakes testing, teacher evaluations tied to test scores and all the other ed reforms they brought to fruition.
Sure, Arne Duncan paid lip service to over-testing concerns.
But he was jiving - this is the Ed Sec who never saw a test he didn't like or a test score that wasn't the responsibility of a teacher.
So now they're looking to impose the Obama ed policies long after Obama and Duncan will be gone from the scene.
Obama is looking to do the same with his immigration policies.
There's been a huge outcry over Obama using executive orders to bypass Congress.
It will be interesting to see if the NCLB waiver renewals Obama and Duncan want in place through 2018 or 2019 cause the same furor.
They surely ought to, as Neal McCluskey at Cato points out:
If the outcry over unilateral executive moves we’ve seen over the last few years remains consistent, Obamacare and immigration are likely to keep sucking up most of Republicans’ attention and the media’s coverage. But just as sweeping have been executive waivers issued from the hated No Child Left Behind Act – really the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – that have been instrumental in connecting numerous states to, among other things, the Common Core national curriculum standards. And yesterday, the Education Department issued guidance offering states the chance to obtain waivers – if they do the administration’s bidding, of course – lasting well into the term of the next president: the 2018-19 school year.
These waivers are almost certainly illegal – even a Congressional Research Service report often cited to suggest the opposite says they are unprecedented in scope and, hence, an untested case – and even if they are not deemed technically illegal, the reality is they still amount to the executive department unilaterally making law. NCLB does grant the Secretary of Education the authority to issue waivers from many parts of the Act, but it grants no authority to condition those waivers on states adopting administration-preferred policies. Indeed, as University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black writes in a recent analysis of waivers, not only does NCLB not authorize conditional waivers, even if a court were to read any waiver authorization as implicitly authorizing conditions, the actual conditions attached – “college- and career-ready standards,” new teacher evaluations, etc. – fundamentally change the law. In fact the changes, Black notes, are essentially what the administration proposed in its 2010 “blueprint” to reauthorize NCLB. And quite simply, the executive fundamentally changing a law is not constitutional.
The latest waiver guidance goes beyond even the toxic status quo. Not only is the President using his vaunted pen and phone to unilaterally make education law, but law that would continue well into his successor’s term. It is a very dangerous move that, quite frankly, deserves at least as much alarmed coverage as Obamacare waivers and immigration actions. If for no other reason, because the action is moving us swiftly toward a de facto federal curriculum. In other words, direct control over what the vast majority of the nation’s children learn.
Federal power can’t get much more invasive than that.
Nope, it really can't.
The Obama administration has picked up where the Bush administration left off with their authoritarianism.
Imposing policies, laws and the will of Congress (or the people) be damned.