"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

NCLB Waiver - The Most Costly Relief Ever

Good news!  The MO State Board of Education is working on an application for an NCLB waiver.  Finally! We will have relief from the onerous requirements of that ill-conceived legislation and everything will be all right.

It would be fine, except for the fact that the MO legislature is looking at a $500 million deficit next year and other states who have applied for the waiver have estimated the costs to the state for compliance with the terms of the waiver at several hundred million or more.

California recently declined to apply for an NCLB waiver.  In an interview with Ed Week, Diane Ravitch explained,

One of the many problems with NCLB is that it came packaged with unrealistic, expensive and heavy-handed federal mandates. It put too much emphasis on testing and punishment for failure to reach impossible goals. The waivers now offered by the US Department of Education require the states to comply with other mandates, still tied to the NCLB-style accountability framework. The emphasis on testing under the waiver plan is as heavy-handed as it has been under NCLB. Many schools with high numbers of low-scoring students will be subject to firings and closings. They need help, not punishment. One of the lessons of NCLB is that the federal government does not know how to improve schools.

These costs include implementation of Common Core through: teacher training, textbooks materials and adopting English learner standards; fixing the low-performing schools, principal training and evaluations for all teachers. 

An projection of the costs for implementation of just the k-8 math curriculum and the data collection system provided by Laurie H. Rogers author of "Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about it"http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com put the cost at $2 million for the curriculum (support materials, teacher training, assessments) and $4 million for the data system. That's $6 million per district. Assuming some economies of scale for the data system implementation, the cost for Missouri's 557 districts is several billion dollars which DESE would be signing the state up for with no congressional budget approval. It is an understatement to say this is cause for concern.

California estimated their cost of compliance at between $2 and $2.7 billion. That almost begins to look reasonable.  Still, they have decided to roll the dice on NCLB since its requirements are on their way out, and not apply for a waiver. If many other states follow their lead, which is expected, the Dept of Ed's only enforcement tool, withholding federal dollars, may go away as well.  History has shown that when school districts decide they can get along without federal funding and all the strings attached, the Dept of Ed suddenly becomes much more willing to compromise.

DESE has called for comments on the waiver application by January 5th.  Go To Missouri's NCLB Waiver Page for details on the waiver and where to send comments.

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