Teachers look forward to being part of a productive partnership with policymakers, administrators, parents, and community leaders in the wake of U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s announcement yesterday that Connecticut has secured a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
“We are ready to think creatively about how to use federal flexibility to help all students succeed,” said CEA President Phil Apruzzese following the announcement. “NCLB’s overreliance on testing and negative labels did not promote the thoughtfulness that is necessary to develop effective strategies for school improvement. It’s our expectation that we will be working closely with education stakeholders to develop sound accountability and support systems to replace NCLB mandates.”
CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine said, “With this waiver program, the federal government has acknowledged that NCLB took schools in the wrong direction from teaching to the test to imposing requirements that had little basis in research. The best ideas don’t come from Washington or outside consultants or bureaucrats; they are ground-up reforms that embrace collaboration and proven ideas that work.”
Provisions of Connecticut’s new school reform law, signed by the governor on May 15, were predicated on getting the federal waiver. Loftus Levine continued, “There is great potential in our new law, since it recognizes how misguided the NCLB focus on testing truly was. As the new law is implemented, Connecticut has to be careful about the choices it makes. We need to keep one thing at the forefront of our thinking: Teachers, students, and schools should be judged on multiple indicators with the support and resources to get reform done right.”
Federal officials getting out of the way
At a Hartford news conference announcing the NCLB Waiver, Secretary Duncan said his goal with the waiver is “to get out the way” so that states can develop “locally tailored solutions” as education stakeholders roll up their sleeves and work together to identify the best plans.
According to state and federal officials the waiver will provide that Connecticut:
- has greater flexibility with Federal Title 1 dollars, meaning that the state can now use that money to fund programs and reform models that are right for Connecticut and gets it to the students who need it;
- avoids a situation where nearly half of the state’s public schools would have been deemed “failing” – setting in motion massive restructuring and possibly even school closures; and
- creates a system that more accurately measures student achievement across all levels.
“Receiving a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act will ensure that Connecticut has the flexibility to implement a reform plan that fits our state, one that is not bound strictly by federal mandates,” Governor Dannel P. Malloy said. “For years, while other states implemented education reform plans, Connecticut stuck to the old way of doing things and many of our students suffered for it. But the debate we had over the last few months sent a powerful message – that we were finally serious about turning around struggling schools. Now that we have a reform plan in place, we will begin working in earnest to close the nation’s largest achievement gap.
According to Secretary Duncan Connecticut’s waiver application was among the strongest submitted. He noted the importance of the state’s new reform law saying it was a “huge step.” Governor Malloy referred to the new laws as a tool set that the state can use to close the achievement gap.
Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said, “This waiver application captures the education reform activities Connecticut is genuinely and vigorously in the process of pursuing. From Common Core implementation to low performing school turnaround to educator evaluation, we were able to convey Connecticut’s authentic agenda in our presentation to the federal Education Department. We’re proud that our state’s application has been approved and we’re very grateful for the flexibility Secretary Duncan is enabling us to exercise in pursuit of our Connecticut agenda.”