Last week, we published a policy brief on the waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requested by the Arkansas Department of Education. The waiver request was part of a 100-page document that highlighted not only the flexibility the state requested from certain tenets of NCLB, but also the plan state education leaders have for creating an a strong system of accountability and support for students and educators in the state.
There is no doubt that the requirement that 100% of students become proficient in Math and Literacy by 2014 is a lofty and utopian requirement. However, it is not obvious to us that the proposal written for Arkansas sets a strong enough for standard for the students in our state. The request is the product of the hard work of education leaders around our state to create a more meaningful system of accountability. And we certainly don’t want to be overly critical. But there are a few things that stick out to us:
- There does not seem to be strong enough action taken towards improving chronically low-performing schools
- Furthermore, AYP will no longer be measured by the same arbitrary number for every student in the state, but primarily by more individualized targets for schools based on the proficiency achievement gap and graduation gap. The problem with a gap-focused accountability system is that there is no incentive to improve the performance of students already at proficiency. The rewards system in place for school doesn’t seem nearly enough of an incentive to counteract the unintended incentive of keep proficient students at the level they are to assist in decreasing the achievement gap
- We are happy to see that Arkansas is implementing a teacher evaluation system across the state
It will be interesting to see if the US Department of Education approves these waivers. They have said they would only approve rigorous plans to improve student achievement. The verdict is out on whether this plan does so.