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Update: Federal Review “Going In the Right Direction” for LAUSD

Brianna Sacks | July 12, 2013

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It’s still a waiting game for LA Unified and eight other California school districts who have yet to hear if their revised No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver application will be given the thumbs up by the US Department of Education in Washington.

The nine districts, known as California Office to Reform Education (CORE), are still in the dark as to if and when they might be exempted from some of the more stringent requirements of the federal NCLB law that among other things requires all students to be proficient in English and math by 2014.

But spirits remain high.

The Obama administration continues to send positive signals about the process.

“If there are millions of kids and we could make a difference, then that’s something we have to look at,” said Joanne Weiss, chief of staff to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a recent EdWeek interview.

And, according to CORE, the plan to have the waiver accepted by the start of this upcoming school year is still very much in motion.

“We’ve been having less formal, ongoing conversations with the U.S. Department of Education” in recent weeks, Hilary McLean, CORE’s director of communications told LA School Report. “Things seem to be going in the right direction.”

California submitted an application for a state waiver back in January, but was rejected because it was unable to include provisions that linked teacher evaluations to student performance.

In May, State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson said that the state would not make any more attempts, saying that the standards were “too difficult” for a state of this size.

CORE first submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Education in February, marking the first time that school districts, not an entire state, submitted a unified proposal.

The CORE districts, consisting of Clovis, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sanger and Santa Ana Unified School Districts, represent 1.1 million students. Under its proposal, which was revised and re-submitted in May, the waiver would be extended to any other district or charter school system in the state that agrees to follow its guidelines.

As of this week, the US Department of Education is still looking over CORE’s proposed accountability system, known as the School Quality Improvement Index, which aims to create what CORE describes as more realistic goals for students and more flexibility to student performance regulations at the district level.

The State Department of Education would not comment on the nine school districts’ decision to pursue their own waiver, though Torlakson did say California remained “committed to local flexibility and decision-making.”

The U.S. Department of Education also had no updates on whether getting the goal approved by the upcoming school year was a possibility.

“We are still working with CORE on their waiver request,” said JoAnn Webb of the US Department of Education.

Despite concrete deadlines, the nine districts believe their new school improvement proposal will be replacing No Child Left Behind’s “narrow accountability rules” come September.

“It is a little bit of a waiting game and we are mindful of the ticking clock,” said McLean. “But we know the US Department of Education has to make sure everything is right.”

Previous posts: Reform Group Splits over Federal Waiver for LAUSDFeds Want More Details from Waiver ApplicationDistrict Waivers Worry State Education Chiefs

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