DES MOINES | The Iowa Department of Education has asked for a one-year freeze of escalating federal requirements in No Child Left Behind, a move Sioux City-area school officials say temporarily would alleviate pressure from unfair guidelines.
The request from Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass on Thursday comes a week after officials at the U.S. Department of Education said Iowa could not receive a waiver from No Child Left Behind under its current teacher evaluation system.
Waivers require the state to adopt a system under which teachers can be put into one of at least three categories: not effective, effective and highly effective.
An evaluation system was proposed in the last legislative session’s education reform package, but lawmakers opted, instead, to create a panel that would recommend an evaluation system to the Legislature for implementation at a later time. Glass said the move put up a road block that prevented Iowa from getting a waiver this year.
“We’re hopeful that through this new request we can temporarily halt the ratcheting up of unrealistic targets that are included in the blame-and-shame policies of No Child Left Behind,” Glass said in a news release announcing Wednesday’s request.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton school Superintendent Rod Earleywine said a freeze would provide temporary relief to Iowa schools already struggling to meet federal proficiency targets for math and reading.
The request made Wednesday, if approved, would allow the state’s schools to have about 20 percent of their students fall short of state standards but still be able to make what’s called adequate yearly progress.
If the request is not approved, school districts would have to have roughly 87 percent of their students meeting or exceeding state standards in order to avoid sanctions. Schools would also have to reach 100 percent proficiency in math and reading by 2014.
Earleywine said his district’s middle school failed to meet its federal target after the special education program did not show enough improvement in math.
“I think this (freeze) is a good move, but it’s a Band-Aid approach,” Earlywine said. “I must concur with Director Glass, this is just a stop-gap. It does not address the real problem.”
Department spokeswoman Staci Hupp said the department expects “a pretty short turnaround” from the U.S. Department of Education because specific adequate yearly progress targets are released in July.
Sioux City schools Superintendent Paul Gausman said the freeze could serve as a chance for U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to change the proficiency and assessment guidelines in No Child Left Behind. The modified language could be similar to guidelines proposed in Iowa’s rejected waiver.
“The freeze does not completely reinvent No Child Left Behind like the waiver did,” Gausman said. “It just hits the pause button."