With half of schools failing NCLB, Malloy to seek a waiver

With almost half the schools in Connecticut failing to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was quick to say the state would be seeking a waiver from the federal law’s requirements under a process announced today by President Obama.

“I anticipate that we would be looking at a waiver,” Malloy said. “As No Child Left Behind was drafted I think there were some major mistakes made and this is one way to clarify that. Cleary not [this many] American schools are failing, that’s just not the case.”

Malloy’s decision comes a few days after he was non-committal when asked if the state would try to seek a waiver. But he did not hesitate today, confirming his intention to reporters about 15 minutes after the president announced states would be granted waivers.

“To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level,” Obama said in a statement.

The waivers will give school districts some reprieve from the requirement that 100 percent of their students be proficient in reading and math in three school years. The tradeoff will be that states show they meet certain conditions, such as imposing standards to better prepare students for college or employement and setting evaluation standards for teachers and administrators.

“This waiver will put more of a sense of reasonableness in getting better outcomes from students,” said Mark Linabury, a spokesman for the State Department of Education. Linabury said the state’s incoming education commissioner Stefan Pryor attended the announcement this morning by the Obama Administration.

Results released Monday by the state Department of Education showed 47 percent of the schools in the state did not meet the requirements of the law — a long way from the benchmarks the state department is required to meet. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has estimated that more than 80 percent of the nation’s schools are not meeting the requirement benchmarks.

Details of what reforms Connecticut’s will pitch to the U.S. Department of Education in their waiver application were not immediately available, but if it is approved if could exempt districts from NCLB sanctions –which include offering students the option to transfer to other schools or firing principals and teachers.

According to a fact sheet released by The White House on the waiver, the current requirement that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014 will be pushed back if states “establish ambitious and acheivable goals … to support improvement efforts for schools and students.”

However, that flexibility will only be provided to states that launch interventions to turn around their lowest-performing schools and for those that measure teacher and administrators performance with student outcomes as a factor.