Indiana earns 3 more years free from NCLB sanctions

The U.S. Department of Education notified Indiana today that it would have its waiver from consequences of the federal No Child Left Behind Law extended for three more years.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said the extension benefits the whole state, especially when it comes to how schools are allowed to use their federal funding.

“Because of this waiver, local schools throughout our state will continue to have more control over how they use precious federal resources,” Ritz said in a statement.

Although Indiana won’t have to submit a new waiver application for three more years, the state will continue to negotiate questions about testing and accountability with federal officials.

Ritz went to the Indiana State Board of Education in July and asked for support for her plan to shift the way the state calculates A-to-F school letter grades to soften the blow for some schools who have been adjusting to new, more rigorous tests and academic standards this year. Ritz said Indiana should expect to see lower test scores for most students, meaning school grades could drop.

But Ritz’s staff told the state board that any changes to letter grades would comply with federal regulations and would still allow the state to take action to overhaul failing schools. If A-to-F grades are adjusted, the U.S. Department of Education will need to sign off on it.

At the July meeting, board members said they wanted input from the state attorney general before they made a decision.

The No Child Left Behind law was signed in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush. It asked that states test kids every year in English and math, keep track of school progress and make that data public.

But the law also required that all children earn passing scores on state tests by 2014 or face sanctions, an idea which states said was simply unrealistic. So in 2012, President Barack Obama’s administration began offering schools waivers that released them from sanctions if they agreed to make changes to their testing and teacher evaluation systems.

Those sanctions could have included limitations on how schools can spend federal aid, and possibly even have forced drastic actions, such as firing school principals and other staff at low-scoring schools and requiring the district to publicly notify parents that schools are failing.

In exchange for the waiver, Indiana agreed it would adopt new academic standards that ensure students are ready for college and careers, get involved in making changes at schools that are consistently failing and use a new evaluation system to raise expectations for teachers.

To see more about the background of Indiana’s NCLB waiver and how we got here, check out our basics post.