Delaware’s ESEA Waiver: What does it actually mean in practice?

February 23rd, 2012

Category: News

On February 28th, Delaware will join as many as 30 other states in seeking relief from provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A semi-final draft of the ESEA waiver application was posted online Tuesday, incorporating feedback gathered from stakeholders. All of the 11 states who submitted applications for the first round in November were granted waivers earlier this month.

While the waiver application is pretty comprehensive in its requirements, Delaware has already addressed most through its Race to the Top commitments. The one exception to this is Principle II—school accountability. The waiver completely changes the way we evaluate school performance, replacing proficiency targets and the current grading system (superior, commendable, academic watch):

  • New grading system: Instead of our current labels, schools and districts will now be graded on a 10 point scale. The highest (9-10) and lowest (2-3) scores will be assigned to roughly 20% of the state’s schools based on specific criteria (outlined below), while most schools will receive scores 4-8 based on a roughly normal distribution. Statewide test results will establish yearly cut points and district scores will be determined by averaging school scores.
  • Low-performing schools: PZ (renamed “Priority Schools”) will remain largely the same, while a new category of Focus Schools will be established based on subgroup performance or gaps. About 14 Focus Schools will receive increased targeted support to address the specific issues in their school.
  • Reward/Recognition schools: Two categories of reward/recognition schools will be established: high achieving and high progress. These schools will receive recognition and additional funding (either from Title I or Race to the Top).
  • Proficiency Targets: AYP will no longer be determined using NCLB’s target of 100% proficiency by 2014; instead, schools will now aim to reduce the number of students not proficient in each subgroup by 50% by 2017 (based on 2010-2011 DCAS scores). School progress towards these goals will determine a school’s grade, and low-performing schools will need to meet targets for two consecutive years to exit that category. [See charts below.]
  • Focus on districts: The application indicates the Delaware Department of Education’s (DDOE) shifting focus from support and monitoring of individual schools to school districts (charters will stay the same since they are not part of a district). District support will be divided into 4 levels: minimal, moderate, advanced, and intense; the level of support a district receives will be based on their district score.

It’s important to note that while the application is mostly final, DDOE is still asking for and incorporating feedback (this version already includes some significant changes from previous drafts). So while there are plenty of interesting pieces of information in the application (including preliminary identification of low-performing and reward schools), we’ll wait until the final submission occurs next week to provide more in-depth analysis.

For now, take a look at the application yourself and share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Brian Yin



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