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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Waive Requirements at the District Level?

A coalition of civil rights groups is opposing efforts by Los Angeles Unified and eight other school districts to get a waiver from a federal law requiring that all students be proficient in English and math by 2014.

In a letter sent Monday to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the groups say that exempting the districts from the No Child Left Behind law would create disparate systems for measuring student achievement.

"Considerable experience tells us that for low-income students, students of color, Native students, English-language learners and students with disabilities, different expectations far too often mean lowered expectations," said the letter, whose authors include Democrats for Education Reform, The Education Trust and the National Women's Law Center.

California Education Department officials have previously voiced concerns about having differing standards for individual districts.
The Huffington Post adds more detail:
Obama gave Congress a Fall 2011 deadline to rewrite the then long-since-expired law, but that didn't happen. So he and Duncan moved ahead with a plan to help states move out from under NCLB's strictures without legislative action: The U.S. Education Department gave states waivers from AYP if they agreed to adopt elements of the administration's education agenda, such as teacher evaluations based, in part, on student test scores.
California didn't exactly comply with everything the administration asked for, so its NCLB waiver request was denied. Now, a group of school districts in the state -- known as the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE -- wants to go over the state's head to get its own waiver. COREincludes school districts in San Francisco, Sanger, Oakland, Sacramento, Long Beach, Clovis, Fresno, Los Angeles, Garden Grove and Santa Ana. Their waiver request is now under peer review at the Education Department.
But some disabilities advocates are worried about the precedent the CORE waiver could set if approved, since it doesn't address testing for students with disabilities.
Until now, states have created modified assessments for students with disabilities -- and in some states, these exams rely on different standards, cutting students off from obtaining a diploma. California is one such state.
"They're putting too many students off track to get a regular diploma to make it look like most students are passing tests," explained Laura Kaloi, the policy director for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
The state NCLB waivers only allow students with the most severe disabilities to take modified exams. But since California was denied that waiver, and since the CORE waiver application doesn't address the issue, Kaloi remains concerned that some students with disabilities in both CORE and other California districts will continue to be denied diplomas.