Delaware’s ESEA Waiver Approved
Earlier this week the US Department of Education (USED) announced the approval of Delaware’s ESEA waiver. Delaware’s Department of Education (DDOE) submitted its application for a waiver earlier in February (along with 26 others) and was one of eight applications that were approved, joining 11 applications approved in an earlier round.
Along with the approved request, USED also released notes from the peer evaluators (complete with summary letter), an approval letter from Secretary Duncan, and a document that detailed the highlights of Delaware’s request.
We’ve written about the implications of the waiver previously, and the bulk of the application remains the same as before. However, there were several modifications and clarifications that USED asked DDOE to make that may have significant policy implications:
- Guidance around Title I, Part A funding set aside to support Focus schools: Previously, the application allowed districts to set “up to 10%” of this funding for Focus Schools* and “up to 20%” of this funding for Partnership Zone (PZ) schools. The revised application clarifies that funding has already been set aside for PZ schools; if districts determine this funding is not sufficient they can request to set an additional 5-10 of their Title I, Part A funding to support intervention. For Focus schools, districts must set aside between 5 and 20% of this funding and outlines the process through which this set-aside will occur.
- Decreased “n” size cell counts: USED asked DDOE to decrease its “N” count from 40 to 30. The “N” count refers to how many students a school needs to have of a particular subgroup (e.g. Hispanic) to be counted for accountability. DDOE has stated that it will keep the current “N” count for the current school year and will use the lower “N” count for 2012-2013 forward. Their initial calculations have shown that this change significantly increases the number of students in subgroups who will be counted—over 10% more overall. In laymen’s terms, this essentially means more schools will be accountable for the performance and progress of the minority subgroup populations they serve.
- Revised Reward and Recognition Schools: Instead of 7 Reward schools, there will now be only two Reward schools: a “highest performing” reward school and a “high progress” reward school. Identification criteria for “Recognition” schools remained the same, except now the application states DDOE may recognize up to 15 schools (as opposed to 7 previously). According to the waiver, DDOE is still waiting on USED to approve its criteria for determining these schools.
- Updated Graduation Rate Calculations: DDOE updated its application to use the ESEA four-year adjusted graduation rates, amending its graduation rate targets to reflect these new figures. The goal remains to reduce “non-proficient” graduates in 6 years by 50%. Using the updated formula, Delaware had a graduation rate of 78.4% in 2011 and aims to have a graduation rate of 89.2% by 2017.
- Clarification of exit criteria for PZ and Focus schools: PZ schools will retain this designation for three full years. To exit, schools must either meet AYP at least once by the end of Year 3 (while not demonstrating major regressions in student performance) or meet the Exit Targets determined for each school. Schools that fail to meet either target will be required to implement a different turnaround model and additional interventions.
The waivers go in effect immediately, so the changes we discussed previously such as new school labels can be expected this summer (note that while AYP targets have changed pretty significantly overall, they remain largely the same for the 2011-2012 school year). DDOE will also begin implementing its newly redesigned system of tiered supports for districts based on need.
Congratulations to DDOE and all who provided input and feedback on the waiver application. It was a long process and a lot of work, but this will allow Delaware to continue the work we’re doing through Race to the Top and other initiatives as we reach towards having a world-class education system.
*Focus schools are in a sense the SIG schools of the past—low performing schools receiving an increased level of support and monitoring (but not as much as PZ). We’ve detailed selection criteria and support for Focus schools in a previous blog.
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