August 21, 2013

NCLB waiver is a step in the right direction for PA students


After cutting nearly $1 billion from our public schools and subjecting school districts to unrealistic, unachievable academic benchmarks, Gov. Tom Corbett finally requested a waiver for Adequate Yearly Progress requirements dictated by No Child Left Behind.

Federal education officials approved the state's request on August 20.

For students, parents, educators, and school officials, this welcome news is better late than never.

“It's about time that Gov. Corbett figured out what parents, students, and educators have known since 2011," said PSEA President Mike Crossey, noting that 40 other states have already been grated waivers since the federal government provided the opportunity two years ago.

The U.S. Department of Education's approval makes Pennsylvania the 41st state to receive a partial waiver granting permission to exempt schools from AYP benchmarks by developing an alternative method of assessment.

Without the waiver, students have been required to achieve an unrealistic benchmark of 100 percent proficiency on standardized tests next year.

“We've always known that a single standardized test doesn't tell the whole story of a student's progress," said Crossey. "This is a step in the right direction. We're glad that PA has finally taken it.”

In place of AYP scores, PDE announced that a new rating system will include a wide range of performance measures including standardized test scores, attendance, graduation, and others.

Schools with a high percentage of low-income students and low academic performance will be eligible for intervention and support services.

But replacing AYP benchmarks with multiple measures of student achievement won't solve the statewide need for more education funding.

"It's a lot harder to improve student achievement after $1 billion in school funding cuts," Crossey noted.

"We're glad that PA has finally gotten the waiver that most other states already received, but if Gov. Corbett is serious about helping our students succeed, he needs to restore school funding cuts to lower class sizes and bring back programs proven to increase student achievement."

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