ESEA Waiver Renewal

In late August, the U. S. Department of Education released its guidance for ESEA Waiver Renewal. As many pundits have noted, Secretary Duncan attached more strings to states earning renewal of their waiver. As it stands, to get a two-year extension of their waivers, states must reaffirm their commitment to college and career ready standards, esea-flex3assessments aligned to those standards, and to the implementation of their designed and submitted system of differentiated accountability (with an expressed focus on closing achievement gaps). This is all expected fare, to be honest, both the focus and the new strings. Currently 41 states have waivers. The bulk of those (35) were granted in Rounds 1 and 2 of the waiver process and these states will be the first to run through the new drills to get their renewals. Continue reading

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ESEA Waiver Renewal

here is one line in the Department’s press release that is really interesting to me, “… (the Department’s renewal process) will also provide an opportunity for states to make necessary adjustments to their approved plans for improving student learning and the quality of instruction.” This is interesting to me because I wonder how far the Department will let states go with those adjustments. Will they allow waivers within a state’s waiver for programs like Kentucky’s Districts of Innovation? What about enabling states interested in moving towards competency education, like those in CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network, to pilot parallel assessment and accountability systems for a subset of districts? It seems to me that if the Department is interested in allowing states to be truly innovative in the way we deliver education to our students, this waiver renewal process may be an important, and maybe their last, opportunity to do that. Continue reading

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Big Week for Competency Education

Maine’s new accountability system under the waiver, you can find the full application here, contains several accountability factors including achievement data and a school accountability index. One of the five components of the school accountability index is graduation rate. Maine’s graduation requirements are proficiency- (or competency-) based. This means that, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time any sort of federal accountability system has included a measure of competency. Continue reading

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ESEA Waivers: The KnowledgeWorks Bucket List

The dust has settled on the Administration’s ESEA waiver announcement, and aside from the Senate HELP Committee’s much anticipated ESEA mark-up, all eyes are on the states as they weigh next steps. I suspect there will be a pack of frontrunners, a hefty number of wait and see states, and a few that would rather risk it all than spend months shuffling paper with the Administration and its peer review team.

Given this impending deadline, KnowledgeWorks has put together a bucket list for state waiver applications that reflects the principles embedded in our World of Learning work. These recommendations are meant to breathe new life into an education system that has seen better days. Continue reading

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ESEA Waivers: A Call for States to Create Innovation Zones

As an integral component of this district accountability strategy, a substantial number of community organizations must integrate the P-16 data system into their provision of services to promote continuous improvement of all schools. Activities should be aligned with the district’s Title I plan and ongoing federal school improvement activities occurring in the district’s low performing schools.

In both of these enumerated strategies, states should closely monitor district progress and proceed with appropriate state takeover requirements in districts that fail to make sufficient gains on leading indicators after two years of implementation.

The effectiveness of the ESEA waiver package is yet to be determined. We can argue the conceptual merits or the legal authority, but it is up to states to grasp the current opportunity and build effective, sustainable strategies to partner with and ultimately transform our most struggling districts. Continue reading

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ESEA Waivers: State Capacity

I fully recognize that many states and districts have implemented pieces of interventions and supports and have developed some pockets of excellence. But that is just not good enough and does not rise to the challenge we face as a nation nor does it fully grasp the opportunity, the waivers present, to build capacity at the state and district level. We have a choice we can keep getting stuck on issues of capacity, principally personnel, resources, and flexibility, or we can focus and align efforts for the betterment of all students whether they attend a Priority School, Reward School, or a school in the vast middle. Continue reading

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ESEA Waivers: The One Missing Piece

Lillian Pace writes that “It’s nearly impossible to separate digital learning from comprehensive education reform. As states design waiver applications that include state developed school turnaround principles or strategies for building state and district capacity, we certainly hope digital learning isn’t far from their minds.” Continue reading

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