A Waiver for Clarity

Many of you may have read in the news recently about No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers and how Florida is planning on seeking one. I want to take a quick moment to explain why this is important, and the potential benefit to our state. 

  • Currently, we have “A” and “B” state-graded schools that are labeled as struggling according to federal requirements. This is confusing for parents and spreads too many mixed messages in our communities.
  • Florida set a high standard for those federal requirements early on, while other states set lower standards that give the appearance of better performance. 
  • Existing federal requirements are very narrow and do not account for many different facets of the work of our schools.
  • These same requirements do not account for the learning growth of every student.

Florida has been ahead of the curve on this issue, working with our federal partners to establish a school improvement program several years ago that bridged both state and federal accountability requirements. A federal waiver would allow us to further enhance this program to account for the issues above, and allow us to bring clarity to the performance of our schools. I hope you follow this issue closely in the coming months as the benefits to our students will be immeasurable.    

And I close with this: Florida is neither waiving standards nor accountability. Florida simply seeks relief from regulations to better educate our students and to create a learning environment to support our teachers and principals.


6 thoughts on “A Waiver for Clarity

  1. As the Co-President of the Learning Disabilities Association, Parent Advocate for the National Center for Learning Disabilities and a strong supporter of Public Education, I would like to welcome you to your new role and share a few thoughts

    Florida waivers have resulted in Students with Disabilities being excluded from AYP Requirements in 42% of the schools. The Florida grading program ignores sub-groups to the detriment for African American, Hispanic, Economically Disadvantaged and Students with Disabilities. The waiver Florida received to raise the N group was one of the culprits.

    To highlight how this directly impacts SWD, one school in Boca Raton had goals and action plans for SWD until the waiver, then a school with 50 SWD no longer had to meet the goals for and the principal has not set goals or developed action plans since.

    Only 36% of the SWD in Florida are passing the FCAT, and I believe this is largely due to the State Accountability System allowing schools to get As and Bs without any regard to any subgroup

    On an unrelated matter. Superintendent Klein discussed at a Jeb Bush meeting how he compared schools in the better neighborhoods to schools with the same SES, and schools with more economically disadvantaged kids against schools just like them. Might make sense for Florida to do the same

    One last point, Broward and Palm Beach Counties were getting As when you would be hard pressed to rate them as As — only when the Federal standards were used to measure them did they kick into action — if we go back to state standards I hope that Florida finds a way to
    – Raise the bar
    – Use a growth model and not a percent passed model
    – Recognize sub-groups, keep the N size low, and not require schools to achieve every target
    to get a good grade
    – Measure schools against schools just like themselves

    If I can help in anyway please holler
    Mark Halpert

    Note, I am not a Democrat or Republican, just an American who believes in helping the next generation to be well prepared to succeed with a robust public education system

  2. How will we better educate our students when presently the budget cuts as well as the decisions of school boards stifle us from obtaining vital electronic academic assistance. I take on the example of textbooks. Many textbooks ordered by the school board are extremely heavy in weight as well as pricey. Let’s eliminate the literal stress placed on the backs of our students. From the standpoint of a health professional, I say eliminate these books.These heavy books are causing musculo-spinal problems. Most textbooks are available online from the publishers. It would make more healthy sense as well as financial sense to equip our students with either netbooks or ipad 2’s. This way all textbooks would be available easily to all students. There are indigent schools in Mexico where the entire school is not only wired for wireless internet access, but every student is equipped with an ipad 2. There are no textbooks They are all online. When a student enters the classroom, all his work is immediately uploaded to the teacher for review. Work would not be lost. It is retrievable online. In addition, our 21st century students were raised with video games, headsets, ipods, mp3 players and such. If we want our students to buy into our academic plans then we must use a medium which is both familiar to them as well as student-friendly. The cost for replacement of an ipdad 2 in these Mexican schools is $100.00. We want to raise the bar. learning gains and accountability. Then we need to change our approach as to how students learn.

    • Thanks so much for your comments. Florida is in the midst of a five-year transition toward increased utilization of digital instructional materials. In 2011, Florida implemented an all electronic instructional materials review process, requiring all instructional materials submitted for adoption to be reviewed and evaluated via an online evaluation system. The Florida Department of Education, in partnership with Learning.com, also launched the Florida Virtual Curriculum Marketplace to provide school districts and teachers with better access to high quality free and fee-based digital content. The culmination of this five-year transition occurs in the 2015-16 fiscal year, with the requirement that school districts expend at least 50 percent of their instructional materials allocation on digital materials.

  3. I am continually amazed by the daily rhethoric regarding the need for public education reforms. Whether they be blogs, tweets, emails, or any other form of communication, so much of the body of these discussions leaves out one very critical component to positively impact any system of education; namely parental involvement and parental responsibility. All too often parents send children to schools with needs and issues that are best met by parents, not by educators. And when educators attempt to intervene, we often get our hands slapped. You cannot have it both ways. A parent either needs to be a parent and to stop making excuses for her/his child(ren), or allow the education system to do it for parents and accept what is doled out. Once that is made clear to parents, I think the natural order of change will begin to occur. Fortunately, most good parents want their children to advance and to learn. But as with all learners, there are processes involved that need to be respected by both students and parents. Educators do not tell parents how to raise their children. In turn, parents should not be permitted to tell educators how to teach their children. For those parents that disagree with the system that much, perhaps they should home-school their children.

    • Parent involvement has improved student success 98%. All parents that attend the meetings and follow our program have improved their child’s success rate to a high grade point average (GPA). Students that were failing, are now passing with at least a C average, and most of them raise their grades to a 90% or higher. We have found the program we use very effective.

  4. I am just a parent…but I do have a concern. I have 4 children…1 in middle school and 2 in Elementary all 3 under the NCLB program…my 4th child is going into Kindergarten this coming year. I work until 2pm, pick my kids up at 2:20pm from the bus stop. Explain to me how I am supposed to pick up 3 children at 2pm from two different school if my 5yr old is not allowed to go to the same school as his siblings?reassignment is not an option because, evev if i do get it, my youngest child will not be allowed to take transportation with his siblings! I can’t afford after care for all. Which is why I only work until 2pm. What happens when my 4th grader gets to middle school? then what happens? 4 different schools? 4 different pick up? I do not know about anybody else but I do not have ANY family who can help? what happens to the children already in the NCLB program? School district said to me there may be no garantees that they would remain where they are at!! Why can’t the state come up with a decision a little quicker? why wait for the last minute?

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