Connecticut may seek waiver from NCLB requirements

Connecticut education officials are considering seeking a waiver to requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, saying the state is unlikely to meet the benchmarks.

“We do not have the resources necessary to do what No Child Left Behind requires,” said State Board of Education Chairman Allan B. Taylor. “Connecticut should certainly apply for a waiver.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced in June he plans to create a waiver process to give states flexibility.

“Our administration will develop a plan that trades regulatory flexibility for reform,” Duncan told Politico in June.

And while some states are waiting for details of the waiver policy, many others have already begun creating their own alternatives to the NCLB requirements that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading in three school years.

Mark Linabury, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Education, said officials there are deciding now how to proceed.

“It’s become clear that it’s a challenge for 100 percent of our schools to meet those requirements,” he said. “We are in the information gathering period now of what to do.”

Last year’s NCLB performance results showed more than one out of every four schools were not meeting the requirements–a long way from the benchmarks the state department is required to meet.The latest results are to be released by the end of this month.

“Ever since the law was passed, members of the [state] board have been saying how ludicrous it is,” said Taylor. “We need a more rational accountability system and we certainly should be creating an alternative plan.”

Such an alternative plan, if approved by the U.S. DOE, could exempt districts from NCLB sanctions–which include offering students the option to transfer to other schools or firing principals and teachers. Taylor said the state will not skirt NCLB requirements without federal approval.

Other states, including Idaho, Montana and South Dakota, have received mixed reactions from the department after choosing to ignore the requirements.

After Idaho’s education leader informed the department of the alternative plan they intended to launch, Duncan responded with formal permission.

Montana was not as fortunate, and Duncan has even threatened to withhold their federal education funding aimed at helping low-income students.

While waiting for federal guidance on requirements for a waiver, Taylor said the state should be working on its alternative plan.

“It’s a rigid and very burdensome law. We have to get a waiver, and the only way to do that is to have a plan ready,” he said.