The common theme in the states application for waivers from requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Rhode Island is no exception.
The current deadline under NCLB is that all student be proficient in math and reading by 2014. The difficulty is that proficiency targets continue to go up, making it harder to achieve AYP. If they fail to make AYP, they will face sanctions. The flexibility gives states time as they work on education reform, teacher evaluations and training so that they can reach proficiency.
One thing that everyone can agree is NCLB needs to be rewritten. The goal of proficiency by 2014 was put in place in 2001 when NCLB was authorized. As 2014 approaches, it is crystal clear that goal will not be attained by any school. Most, if not all, of the public schools would then be listed as failing schools. Some believe the system is broken. They want school choice and charter schools, but find resistence with the public schools and the teacher unions.
There is concern that without the mandate of AYP, schools could very well continue to fail children. Famlies and advocates are concerned about the population of children that might get left behind; the special education, low-income and ELL students.
Rhode Island has prepared their draft application for the second round deadline of mid-February 2012. On their application, numbers 2, 3, and 4 specifically relate to relief from AYP. Rhode Island has held open forums in an effort to engage all stakeholders as required by federal law before submitting their application for the waiver. The deadline for input is February 14.
In order to be approved for a waiver and be granted relief from the 2014 deadline, states have to do three things. They have to adopt college or career ready standards that are tied to state testing. They must adopt an accountability system that focuses on the most troubled schools. A teacher evaluation system partially based on student growth must be established.
The first 11 states that filed their applications for a waiver during the first round have received letters in December outlining concerns, although those letters have not been made public yet. Some of those states have already responding willing to make the changes needed.
The federal government still has a lot of control over education policy. It has recently been stated that the federal government would like the states to take over more of that control, but they will not hand it over without forethought of what is best for the education of all children.