Rhode Island will join a majority of states in requesting relief from the controversial national education law, No Child Left Behind. However, Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist recently told the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education that the state would wait until February to apply for a waiver, bypassingthe first opportunity in November.
Gist said she plans to hold public meetings to gather ideas from parents, teachers, principals and superintendents about what needs to be changed. Based on that feedback, the state Department of Education will develop its application, she said.
President Obama announced in September the U.S. Department of Education would allow states to apply for the waivers, which grant flexibility from some No Child Left Behind provisions.
One of the most criticized aspects of the law was its requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014, a deadline no state is on target to meet.
The waiver would exempt states from that goal, while requiring them to embrace other changes including: tough high school graduation standards that prepare students for good-paying jobs and college; dramatic improvements to the worst-performing schools; and new teacher evaluations that include student growth and performance.
Rhode Island has already embarked on those initiatives as part of the state’s successful Race to the Top grant that is bringing in $75 million to Rhode Island over four years for school improvements.
Many educators have criticized No Child Left Behind, saying it places too much emphasis on standardized test scores, penalizes schools with low test scores even as they strive to improve and sets unrealistic expectations on schools and teachers to have all students reach proficiency by 2014.