NCLB Waivers Spawn Confusion About Worst Schools

Published January 30, 2014

The Obama administration’s waivers of the largest federal education law have lifted pressure to improve from thousands of failing schools and introduced confusion to school accountability, says a new report.

Sixty-five percent—or nearly 4,500—of schools required to undergo drastic improvements under No Child Left Behind in 16 states the report examined were no longer required to improve under the administration’s waivers.

“The untold story of waivers is that with little warning, hundreds of so-called ‘failing’ schools suddenly weren’t ‘failing’ anymore,” said Anne Hyslop, the report’s author and a policy analyst for the New America Foundation.

The report analyzes data from more than 20,000 schools as their 16 states shifted from following the 2002 law Congress passed to following the Obama administration’s reinterpretation of it, which differs for every state. NCLB required schools to undergo corrective measures if they failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress on annual tests. Federal waivers, by contrast, typically require a state to improve its worst 15 percent of schools, and allow the states to decide what constitutes poor performance.

Learn more:
“It’s All Relative: How NCLB Waivers Did—and Did Not—Transform School Accountability,” New America Foundation, December 2013:

—Staff Reports

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