February 10, 2012

Colorado among first in nation to be granted waivers from NCLB

Colorado got further affirmation today of its strong education reform system when the White House announced it was among a very select few states to earn waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The waiver now gives Colorado the authority to use the state’s accountability system in place of key federal accountability requirements. Colorado’s state accountability system will now meet many of the No Child Left Behind requirements, including the requisite to annually determine school and district progress in meeting performance targets.

“Clearly Colorado is a noted leader in the nation for making the right changes in our education system to better support student learning,” Colorado’s Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said. “Colorado’s comprehensive state accountability system has gained the U.S. Department of Education’s quality seal of approval and has become a model for other states.”

The Colorado Department of Education aggressively pursued the waiver and the flexibility it offered when the option was first announced by the U.S. Department of Education in September. State officials see the waiver as a solid support to the state’s education reform system aimed at getting students college- and career-ready upon graduation. For Colorado, an important aspect of the waiver flexibility was around holding schools accountable for student growth, especially with regard to historically disadvantaged subgroups of students such as English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are not yet proficient.

In the past, Colorado used two different accountability systems – a state system and a federal system. With the waiver granted, Colorado will now have one, unified accountability system which will better streamline schools’ improvement work and it will be much easier for parents and the public to fully understand.

“The waiver really supports our state system of continuous improvement and allows schools and districts to focus their energies on one accountability system designed to elevate student achievement,” Hammond added.

Colorado’s full waiver application is online at www.cde.state.co.us/Accountability/NCLBWaiver.asp.

The state department of education plans to exercise its waiver flexibility quickly. Work on implementation planning will begin immediately. However, because Colorado’s waiver application was based largely on its existing system, the current state accountability requirements as outlined in Colorado’s Educational Accountability Act will remain in effect, with some small changes.

Any changes in accountability determinations and sanctions will be in effect for the 2012-13 school year, based on the results of the 2011-12 assessments and the most recent postsecondary and workforce readiness measures. That begins in August 2012 when the federal Adequate Yearly Progress results are no longer calculated and consequences aren’t based on those results. Rather, school accountability will be based on the results of Colorado’s own accountability system.