The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 22, 2013

State granted No Child Left Behind waiver

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— Dr. Tommy Bice announced Friday the Alabama State Department of Education has been granted a waiver to be released from many of the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The waiver will allow ASLDE to use its Plan 2020 as the state’s method of measuring public school achievement. According to ASLDE, 37 other states have been granted similar waivers to use state-specific accountability methods.

The state superintendent of education said the original intent of NCLB, which was passed in 2001, was a good starting point for accountability, but the “all-or-nothing” expectations of NCLB’s Adequate Yearly Progress did not account for improvement shown by schools with poor AYP scores.

“PLAN 2020 is a rigorous and comprehensive Alabama-developed plan designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the quality of instruction,” said Bice in a public statement released Friday. “The waiver from NCLB is just one part of the overall PLAN 2020 approach. Ultimately, what will result is a system that uses the college and career-readiness of its graduates as its capstone measure of success.”

The 2020 plan establishes a 72 percent baseline graduation rate from 2012. The goal for 2013 is 73 percent, 76 in 2014 and 78 in 2015. The four-year target is 80 percent, and the goal by 2016 is to reach or exceed 90 percent.

As a system, Athens City Schools met 28 of its 29 AYP goals in the last round of scores released in August, with the only exception being 11.2 points below its goal in reading for special education students in grades 3-5.

Limestone County Schools, which had five of its six high schools in their first, second or third year of school improvement status during 2012-13, had every elementary school and Clements High School meet all of its AYP goals. As a system, Limestone did not meet its special education goals in grades 3-12 in reading and math, and missed the overall goal for reading by 2.26 points.

About 75 percent of Alabama schools met AYP for 2011-12, compared to nearly 73 percent in 2010-11.

New flexibility

Rhonda Stringham, executive director of curriculum for the Limestone school system, told The News Courier in February the state was in its final year of tracking AYP data. She said Bice told educators during a professional development conference in July 2012 to focus instead on energizing students and teaching fundamental lessons.

“I’m glad the hard work of the Alabama state education department has been recognized, and the new Plan 2020 is moving in the right direction,” said Limestone Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk on Friday. “Now that the state has been released from some of the provisions of No Child Left Behind, this will give us the flexibility to tailor the needs of Alabama schools because there are different needs in different communities.”