Message to the U.S. Department of Education: Stop Walking Away From Your Responsibilities to Our Nation

Publication date: Nov 14, 2013

WASHINGTON (November 14, 2013) — Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust,  issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines released today, which allow states to renew their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers using an oversimplified process that does not take into consideration performance for all groups of students or fair access to highly effective teachers.

““In the waiver renewal guidelines it promulgated with great fanfare less than three months ago, the U.S. Department of Education signaled its intent to address the two glaring problems with its initial NCLB waiver process that had drawn widespread criticism from civil rights and disabilities advocates:  (1) the absence of any attention at all to the law’s requirement that low-income students and students of color not be taught disproportionately by unqualified teachers; and (2) the decision to allow -— indeed, encourage —- states to radically down-weight the importance of group performance in their school ratings systems, undercutting the central focus of the law on improving performance for all groups of children. Today, the Department entirely abandoned its plans to address those problems.

“This about face, substituting a rubber stamp renewal of states’ current NCLB waiver plans with no attention to these two pressing issues, is baffling -— and extremely disappointing. Through its actions today, the Department allows states to continue giving schools top ratings regardless of how student groups perform. And it also allows them to keep sweeping under the rug the gaps in teacher quality that contribute so heavily to long-standing achievement gaps.

“Let us be clear: We have no more interest than anybody else in a lengthy, bureaucratic waiver renewal process that imposes huge burdens on state officials and their staffs just to get a few extra ““i’’s”” dotted or ““t’’s” crossed. Such a process does nobody any good. But the law requires states to assure that their low-income students and students of color are not taught disproportionately by inexperienced, out-of-field or unqualified teachers, and it is high time for that provision to be enforced. It is also high time that we acknowledge that accountability systems approved under the waiver process violate not just the letter but the spirit of the law that all groups of children count, and that we get about the business of making the tweaks -— mostly quite minor -— necessary to fix that problem.

“Inaction on the matter of fair access to quality teaching is particularly disturbing. It has now been 12 years since Congress granted low-income children and children of color the right to their fair share of quality teachers. While those children have waited for the law to be enforced an entire generation of them worked their way from kindergarten through high school, taught by too many inexperienced, unqualified, and out-of-field teachers, and too few of the expert teachers who could have helped them soar. They, certainly, have paid a steep price. But so, too, has America.””

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