No Child Left Behind Waiver—What does it mean for Georgia?

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Last week the U.S. Department of Education granted Georgia’s waiver of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Georgia is one of 10 states to receive a waiver from the requirements of the NCLB law.

This means that Georgia will not be required to meet the NCLB mandate that all children be proficient in reading and math by 2014. However, this doesn’t mean Georgia won’t be held accountable for student progress and teacher effectiveness.

State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge and Gov. Nathan Deal both say this is wonderful news for Georgia’s students, educators, and parents.

“No longer will we be bound by the narrow definitions of success found in No Child Left Behind,” said Barge. “We will now be able to hold schools accountable and reward them for the work they do in all subjects and with all students.”

The governor said, “This waiver will give Georgia the flexibility we need to pursue our goals of student achievement. We appreciate the cooperation of federal officials as we seek to prepare young Georgians for higher education and the jobs of tomorrow.”

In exchange for the waiver, Georgia agreed to implement a teacher evaluation system tied to student performance, which this state is already piloting in 26 counties under our Race-to-the-Top Award.

Highlights from the waiver:

  • Each content area will carry the same weight.
  • Starting in fall 2012—Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) is replaced with a College- and Career-Ready Performance Index—Georgia’s new accountability measure.
  • Department of Education will identify priority and focus, and reward schools:
    •  Priority and focus schools replace the needs-improvement category.
    •  Reward schools replace the distinguished-school category.
  • An alert system was created to better evaluate subgroups. All subgroups will be monitored under this system to identify disparities and gaps within and between subgroups such as-socio-economic status, subject areas, and graduation rates. In an effort to capture more data on smaller groups, subgroup size will be reduced from 40 to 30 students.
  • Performance targets replace annual measurable objectives.
  • Districts can use flexible learning programs in place of supplemental educational services.

Some areas of the waiver are still being developed such as what weight test scores will carry in determining a school’s performance, but for the most part changes will begin to occur as early as the end of this school year.

This waiver will help Georgia take a more tailored approach to evaluating education. I believe it will help to strengthen the great work already happening in Georgia and bring increased attention to, and action in, the areas that need improvement.