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Posted at 01:49 PM ET, 01/19/2012

D.C.’s ‘No Child’ waiver application draft available for comment

The District’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education has posted a draft of its application for relief from the federal No Child Left Behind law, which you can read here.

If the waiver is approved by the U.S. Department of Education after formal submission late next month, the District will be out from under NCLB’s requirement of 100 percent reading and math proficiency by 2014.

Like many states, D.C. isn’t even close. Out of 187 eligible public and public charter schools, just 25 made “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) in 2011, more than half qualifying through the “safe harbor” provision that requires a 10 percent decrease in students below proficiency.

Also like many states, D.C. wants to replace the one-size-fits-all AYP measurement with a more meaningful set of metrics, emphasizing growth over annual test results. District officials say schools will be no less accountable for performance under the proposed new system. The OSSE application makes plain that no matter how they are measured, D.C. schools have a long way to go.

“Some other states have used the waiver process as a way to recognize that the majority of schools within the state are successful and only failing to close AYP achievement gaps within their state rather than overall proficiency,” OSSE said . “DC has a different situation – most schools are still failing to make AYP because of the low overall proficiency levels of all students in many schools.”

Describing student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), OSSE said: “While D.C. has looked better in recent years in comparison to other urban districts, it is still well below the national urban average at both 4th and 8th grade and in bother reading and math.”

The proposal also means that OSSE plans to join DCPS and the D.C. Public Charter School Board in giving parents and policymakers a broader and deeper statistical portrait of how schools measure up.

The proposed new data scheme would show not only growth in reading and math scores, but growth among students in the bottom quarter of their schools. It would also include rates of ninth grade completion, high school graduation (using a new and more rigorous formula) and college completion.

OSSE would place all public and public charter schools into one of five categories, each with its own set of benefits and penalties or interventions: “Reward,” “Good Standing,” “Continuous Improvement,” “Focus” and “Priority.” Reward schools represent that top 5 percent based on proficiency or top 10 percent according to growth. Priority schools, at the bottom of the pyramid, would be those with lowest rates of proficiency or growth, as well as graduation rates under 60 percent for two consecutive years. OSSE can’t close any public schools on its own, but could recommend closure to DCPS or the charter board under this plan if a school remains in priority status for three years. The application online doesn’t rank the schools, but OSSE officials say they will provide that listing within the next few weeks.

The agency will present the application for public comment in a series of community meetings between now and late February.

By  |  01:49 PM ET, 01/19/2012

 
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