Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna was among more than a dozen state school chiefs invited to joint President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, at the White House this morning to unveil a new waiver process for states under the No Child Left Behind Law. Luna said Idaho, which earlier refused to comply with changing rules in the program, will be among the first states to apply for one of the new waivers in November.
"Idaho has been extremely vocal on what the waiver process should look like, so I'm not surprised they invited Supt. Luna," said Melissa McGrath, Luna's spokeswoman. After the White House ceremony, Luna said in a statement, “This will not be a waiver from accountability, but it will give the necessary flexibility states need to increase accountability and focus on making sure every student in Idaho is growing academically every year they are in school. I believe this is a symbolic shift of power from the federal government back to the states.”
Luna made the trip to the White House from New York, where he was attending a conference on education technology hosted by the New York Times. After the D.C. ceremony, he's scheduled to fly back to New York to participate in NBC's "Education Nation" school-reform summit, part of which will be televised on Sunday on MSNBC. Luna is due back in Idaho the evening of Sept. 29. Click below for a full report on the new waiver process from AP reporter Jessie Bonner, and you can read Luna's full statement here.
Idaho to seek waiver for No Child Left Behind law
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho will be among the first states to apply for a waiver from the federal government to skirt provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, according to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
Luna was expected to join President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Friday at the White House as they give states guidance on the 9-year-old federal law.
Idaho was among a handful of states that vowed earlier this year to ignore the latest No Child Left Behind requirements, saying they set unrealistic benchmarks.
Under the Obama administration's plan, states can ask the U.S. Education Department to be exempted from some of the law's requirements if they meet certain conditions. The terms include enacting standards to prepare students for college and careers and making teachers and principals more accountable.
"We'll absolutely be one of the first states to apply," Luna said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"I think this is the first step, it's a symbolic step, but it's an important first step in turning back the authority and control of running our schools back to the states and away from the federal government," he said.
Luna said he has been advised that the first round of waiver applications will be due Nov. 15 and a second round of applications will have a January deadline.
The No Child Left Behind law sets a goal of having 100 percent of students proficient in math and reading by 2014, but states were allowed to establish how much schools must improve each year. And many saved the biggest leaps for the final years because they anticipated the law would be changed.
But it hasn't, and states like Idaho, Montana and South Dakota made plans earlier this year to reject the latest requirements for determining school progress under the law — even if the move toward noncompliance might put them at risk of losing some federal funding.
In Idaho, Luna contends new education changes that were signed into law this year focus on the academic growth of students and not on whether they can pass a test. He argues Idaho can no longer wait for Congress to overhaul the nation's governing education law to better gauge how kids perform.
Secretary Duncan has also said he wants the emphasis to be more on growth than on test scores.
The No Child Left Behind law was passed in 2001 with widespread bipartisan support. It sought to hold schools more accountable for student performance and draw better-qualified teachers in classrooms. But the law has since been widely panned by critics who say it brands schools as failures even as they make progress, discourages high academic standards and encourages educators to teach to the test, as opposed to providing practical classroom learning to students.
No Child Left Behind has been due for a re-write since 2007, and Obama and Duncan had asked that it be overhauled by the beginning of this school year. But a growing ideological divide in Congress in recent years has only complicated efforts to do so.
Duncan has said the administration's plan would not undermine efforts in Congress because the waivers could serve as a bridge until Congress acts.
Jessie L. Bonner can be reached at http://twitter.com/jessiebonner .
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.