Tennessee is one of 10 states to be freed of the stringent education regulations of the federal No Child Left Behind law, the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration in November submitted an NCLB waiver application to the federal government, outlining a set of reform strategies that address student achievement and increased accountability in exchange for flexibility in applying the controversial Bush-era education law.
With increased standards under the law, half of Tennessee’s schools are failing NCLB standards. In Metro, 55 schools are considered “high priority” after failing to meet so-called “adequate yearly progress” under the law.
States, including Tennessee, are now shielded from a heavily scrutinized requirement that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Meeting that deadline came with severe penalties that are also eliminated.
States have replaced this requirement with their own performance targets, U.S. education department officials say.
Approval of Tennessee’s waiver request had been expected. For more than two years, President Barack Obama’s administration has discussed overhauling NCLB law, long criticized as burdensome mandates riddled with unfair regulations.
“After waiting far too long for congress to reform No Child Left Behind, my administration is giving states the opportunity to set higher, more honest standards in exchange for more flexibility,” Obama said in a statement.
Obama’s set of waiver approvals underscores how the law has quickly lost relevance.
Other states to receiver NCLB waivers are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oklahoma.
New Mexico is the only state to have its waiver application denied.
In Tennessee, the waiver approval has some of the most direct implications on the state’s newly formed Achievement School District, a statewide governance body overseeing the most low-performing schools across Tennessee.
The approval of Tennessee’s waiver applications authorizes the ASD to manage 85 schools across Tennessee, 10 of which are in Nashville. Memphis has 68 ASD schools, and Hamilton County has seven eligible schools.
The ASD, led by superintendent Chris Barbic, plans to hand some schools to outside charter school organizations and directly take over others.
By the 2012-13 school year, according to Tennessee’s NCLB waiver, the vision is for ASD to begin managing six schools, three via private charter operators and three through ASD-run operations. The ASD is already co-managing some Tennessee schools. Under the plan, ASD presence would increase each subsequent school year.
As denoted on the NCLB waiver, the 10 Metro schools under the ASD are: Bailey Middle; Brick Church Middle; Buena Vista Elementary Enhanced Option; Gra-Mar Middle; Jere Baxter Middle; John Early Paideia Middle Magnet; Napier Elementary Enhanced Option; Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary; Smithson-Craighead Middle, a charter school; and Nashville Diploma Plus.