In a move that education leaders hope will turn the tide of so-called failing schools in the state, the California Department of Education recently applied for a waiver from the often controversial No Child Left Behind.
In a letter sent to Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle June 15, California seeks waivers from NCLB's harshest provisions 1116(b) and (c) regarding school improvement, corrective action and restructuring of so-called failing schools.
California seeks to return to the "single system of performance goals," utilizing the Academic Performance Index officials say is highly effective, as well as end the labeling of schools as in need of program improvement and give districts greater flexibility in spending to accommodate each student's unique learning levels.
The waiver would be effective for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years.
States seeking waivers from NCLB were given a waiver package by the Department of Education, but Torlakson stated in the request that California would not be able to carry out mandated activities and programs given the current fiscal dilemma.
"It is impossible for the state or its districts to implement the requirements of the Secretary’s waiver package effectively … we are not willing to make promises that we are unable to carry out," Torlakson said.
The waiver request outlined to federal officials how California's own accountability system is far more effective. In the 13 years since the development, the API system has reportedly led to overall increased student achievement and has helped close the achievement gap, Torlakson said.
Officials also claim that since the creation of California Standards Tests in 2003, proficiency in English-language skills has risen from 35 percent to 53 percent from 2003 to 2011. Proficiency in math rose from just 35 percent to 50 in the same time period.
California looks ahead to also analyze and improve the state's API system by revising calculation methods for schoolwide and student group targets and how it will identify schools and districts that do not meet educational standards. This will be determined early 2013, officials said.
The state will also determine sanctions on a case-by-case basis for schools and districts that do not meet CDE standards.
Local representative Grace Napolitano, candidate for the 32nd district, is a supporter of the waiver request and was one of many, including administrators, teachers and parents, throughout the state to issue a letter of support along with the waiver request.
The waiver is said to be able to provide temporary relief to the state, Torlakson said. In the long haul, officials desire the reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, which the current incarnation of is NCLB, so that new provisions can take effect and properly aid the varying needs of individual states, Torlakson said.