A Short-term Fix: Further Analysis of Delaware’s ESEA waiver

March 1st, 2012

Category: News

Yesterday, Delaware (along with 25 other states and DC) submitted its application for a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). We’ve covered the development of principle II (accountability) of our waiver application extensively. So now that the application has been formally submitted, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting nuances and practical implications of the new policies:

  • Priority/Partnership Zone Schools: The application used Partnership Zone criteria to choose Priority schools. Federal guidance on the waiver required all Priority schools to be Title I, leaving eight PZ schools. The other two (Stanton Middle and Laurel Middle) will remain Partnership Zone schools, but will not be affected by any waiver policies relating to Priority schools.
  • Exiting Priority designation: New criteria have been established for schools to exit the Partnership Zone or Focus school designation. Partnership Zone schools can either meet statewide No Child Left Behind proficiency targets (Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP) for any year or meet their own established targets (determined the same ways as statewide AYP targets but using their own 2011 DCAS scores as a baseline).
  • Focus Schools: The Focus designation will specifically target schools with large gaps in achievement between subgroups. Interventions will have to address these gaps specifically, and parallel those required for PZ schools, except schools will select components of Partnership Zone supports instead of undergoing comprehensive reform.
  • Exiting Focus designation: Focus schools, will have to address their identified achievement gaps. The “high-gap” subgroups identified will be combined into a “super group;”  for example, a school designated Focus because of Hispanic and Low Income subgroups will have a “super group” of all Hispanic and all low income students. A baseline will be established in spring of this year (2012) and targets will represent a 50% decrease in not proficient by 2017. Schools meeting targets for two consecutive years will exit Focus designation.
  • New proficiency targets: We outlined the new proficiency target (AMO) proposals in our blog post last week—what’ll be interesting is how this will affect school ratings. When we covered our AMO reset, we predicted dramatic decreases in school ratings due to large “steps” required to meet 100% proficiency by 2014. While targets will stay roughly the same this year (67%), next year’s will be much lower—70%, compared to 83% under NCLB.
  • School ratings: Schools not designated Focus/Priority or Reward/Recognition will be given a 4-8 rating using cut scores based on state targets to create a normal distribution. Of note, schools will be evaluated based on a “super group” of African American, Hispanic, Low Income, Students with Disabilities, and English Learners. While there are no school-level implications of scores, district support will be based on school averages, so it is possible districts will encourage schools to focus more on these subgroups.

It’s important to note that the waivers are meant to be a short-term fix, and our application clearly illustrates that. Not only are there no targets past 2017 (except for ELL), but there doesn’t seem to be any indication of if and how “replacements” will be chosen for reward/recognition or focus/priority schools. It’s clear that Delaware recognizes this as a temporary stopgap as the nation waits for ESEA reauthorization—a proposition that seems less and less likely considering the current stalemate in Congress.

Has anyone else read the waiver application and found any other interesting points?

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Brian Yin




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